5 Reasons Why Your Child Needs a Space Maintainer
Filling the Gap After Losing a Baby Tooth with a Space Maintainer
Baby teeth are meant to fall out, but losing a baby tooth too early can actually be problematic for your child’s smile.
The natural shedding cycle of your child’s primary teeth coincides with the arrival of their secondary teeth. This means that by the time your child naturally loses a baby tooth, it won’t be very long before their adult tooth begins to erupt. However, if a baby tooth is lost prematurely, the extended period of time the gap is left open could lead to trouble.
Thankfully, pediatric dentists offer a solution to this fairly common predicament.
If your child loses a baby tooth too early, perhaps from an impact to the mouth or the extraction of a severely decayed tooth, a dental appliance called a space maintainer can be placed.
What is a dental space maintainer?
A dental space maintainer, simply called a space maintainer, is a small oral appliance specifically used for kids who’ve lost a baby tooth earlier than expected. It’s a metal device that’s similar to a dental bridge, minus the prosthetic tooth. They may be made of acrylic or metal and can be fixed or removable. A typical maintainer is made of metal and is fixed with dental cement, which keeps it in place until it is removed by a dentist.
Space maintainers also come in different designs, depending on the location of the lost baby tooth or teeth. For a single lost baby tooth, a “band and loop,” or distal shoe appliance, is typically used. Both designs have a metal band around a tooth neighboring the gap, and a small arm or a looped steel wire that bridges the gap, preventing the neighboring teeth from shifting.
Though less common, if a child has lost both molars prematurely, often due to severe decay, a lingual or transpalatal arch space maintainer will be used to hold the teeth in place.
When are space maintainers used?
Space maintainers are generally recommended by pediatric dentists if a child has lost a baby tooth earlier than expected and X-rays show that the adult tooth won’t be erupting within a reasonable amount of time.
Your child will likely need a space maintainer after:
- An accident leads to a knocked-out baby tooth.
- A cavity or other dental issue leads to a necessary extraction.
- A child is naturally missing a baby tooth due to hypodontia (missing teeth).
A pediatric dentist will take a few factors into account before recommending a space maintainer, such as the child’s age, their current smile development, and the valuable diagnostic information from X-rays.
Why are space maintainers used?
You now know that a space maintainer does exactly what its name suggests—it maintains a space between teeth. But as a curious parent, you’re probably wondering why space maintainers are so important.
Here are the 5 reasons why pediatric dentists recommend space maintainers.
1. To Maintain a Proper Gap Between Baby or Adult Teeth
The gap left from the loss of a baby tooth is designed for an erupting adult tooth. A space maintainer will ensure that the gap is preserved so the future adult tooth will be able to emerge as it naturally would.
2. To Prevent Teeth from Shifting, Twisting, or Tilting
By creating a firm bridge between the neighboring teeth, a space maintainer is going to stop these teeth and their neighbors from shifting, twisting in position, or tilting inward toward the gap.
3. To Prevent Teeth from Becoming Crowded or Gapped
If teeth begin to shift around, it can easily cause teeth to become crowded or have the opposite effect and create a gappy appearance. This can be quite a big issue in a child’s developing smile, especially if they have a mix of baby and adult teeth already in place.
4. To Encourage the Proper Alignment and Arrival of Adult Teeth
Keeping the gap open means adult teeth will be able to erupt without complications. This ensures that the permanent tooth can emerge in proper alignment with the rest of your child’s smile.
5. To Prevent Future Orthodontic Care or Reduce Treatment Time
Space maintainers help keep teeth in alignment and encourage future adult teeth to arrive properly. By keeping teeth in alignment, space maintainers also reduce the chances of your child needing orthodontic care. In the event orthodontic care is needed for other reasons, space maintainers will reduce overall treatment time by reducing the severity of a misaligned bite.
Can we just wait until my child’s adult tooth comes in?
A great pediatric dentist will never recommend any form of treatment unless your child will benefit. In the case of a space maintainer, your child’s pediatric dentist would only recommend it if the estimated timeframe of the adult tooth’s arrival is too far away to warrant the risks of waiting.
If you choose to opt out or wait, there is a significant risk that your child’s teeth may shift, become misaligned, or their future adult tooth may become impacted. Discussing the pros and cons with your child’s pediatric dentist is the best way to make an informed decision.
For outstanding dental care for your entire family, River Walk Dental of Flower Mound, TX, is the place to go. We offer complete pediatric dentistry for our young patients, including space maintainers! To book a visit, call our office or use this online form.