A space maintainer is an oral appliance that is placed in a child’s mouth when they have prematurely lost a tooth. It maintains space in the mouth until the permanent tooth is due to erupt and then it is removed.
Space maintainers are made of stainless steel and can be fixed or removable. Their purpose is to hold open the space in the mouth where the previous tooth used to be. If your child has prematurely lost a deciduous tooth, contact us at Pediatric Dental World today to schedule a consultation.
Many parents may understandably think it’s no big deal if a child loses a baby tooth early because it was going to fall out anyway. However, this needs to happen naturally, at the appropriate age the tooth is supposed to fall out.
Your child’s baby teeth are important for a lot of reasons, namely because they help your child eat, speak, and maintain their smile. When a tooth falls out too soon, this is because of unnatural circumstances, such as tooth decay or dental trauma.
The health of your child's baby teeth can affect the health of their permanent teeth. Most importantly though, baby teeth maintain their teeth alignment. When a tooth is lost prematurely, there is no longer something preventing the surrounding teeth from shifting.
As a result, your child can develop orthodontic problems like crooked teeth or changes to their bite. The teeth can also lean into the space where the permanent tooth needs to erupt, which can block its path of eruption and cause impaction. A space maintainer needs to be placed when a tooth is lost too soon to prevent these issues.
Most young children are not good candidates for removable space maintainers because they are likely to remove them too often, which can impact the effectiveness of the restorative dental treatment. They are also at a higher risk of being lost, broken, or in some cases, accidentally swallowed.
This is why a fixed space maintainer is the preferred method of maintaining space in the mouth. The appliance is bonded to the teeth and can only be removed by a dentist. Common types of fixed space maintainers include the band and loop and crown and loop maintainers. They involve a stainless steel band being placed around the adjacent tooth and an arch wire extending into the space. In the case of a crown and loop maintainer, a crown is placed around the tooth.
A lower lingual arch maintainer is used to hold open space in bilaterally missing teeth. The band is placed around both teeth on either side of the mouth and connected through a metal wire that runs along the entire lower arch of teeth.
A transpalatal arch is similar to the previously mentioned space maintainer except it is placed in the upper arch of teeth. A band is placed on a tooth on both sides of the mouth and an arch wire in the shape of a loop runs across the lingual arch.
A nance is almost the same design as a transpalatal arch except that the metal wire is placed behind the upper teeth instead of straight across the lingual arch.
A removable space maintainer is not as common but may be preferred in older children, as long as they are willing to comply with wearing it. This space maintainer is not cemented to the teeth and can be taken out by the child at home. However, they must continue to wear it for as long as the dentist has advised.
Your child should practice good oral hygiene by brushing their teeth twice a day for 2-3 minutes with a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
They should make sure they brush along the gums where the space maintainer is placed. They should floss between their teeth and the space maintainer once a day. Regular dental cleanings and checkups should be attended every 6 months. Your dentist may also ask your child to come back for regular appointments every few weeks to check on their space maintainer depending on when the permanent tooth is due to erupt.
Make sure your child avoids eating sticky and hard foods that can get stuck in or dislodge the space maintainer. Foods that should be avoided include caramel, popcorn, gum, nuts, and hard candy. It is also important that your child knows to avoid eating for at least 30 minutes after the immediate placement of their space maintainer.
Contact us at our Highland Village dental office today to schedule a space maintainer appointment for your child.