Space Maintainers: What are They and Why Would Your Child Need One?

Space Maintainers: What are They and Why Would Your Child Need One?

A space maintainer is a dental apparatus that dentists use mainly with children. Sometimes a child will lose their baby teeth prematurely due to trauma, genetic conditions, or other reasons. When the child has lost a tooth too early, a dentist may recommend a space maintainer in order to preserve the space left by the missing tooth. Another way to think about it is as a space-holder – a space maintainer maintains the space until the child’s adult tooth grows in.

Here is some more information about space maintainers and why your child might be a candidate for one.

Types of space maintainers

A space maintainer is a contraption that holds open the space left by a baby tooth until your child’s adult tooth can grow in. They are usually made of metal or acrylic, and they can be fixed or removable. Sometimes a space maintainer is shaped like a tooth itself as it holds the space open for the growing tooth.

There are a few different kinds of fixed space maintainers:

  • Unilateral: This type is used for one tooth. One side wraps around the side of the tooth for security, and there’s a metal loop to maintain space in the mouth.
  • Distal shoe: This one is for a permanent adult molar that has not yet erupted. It’s a little more complicated because at times one end needs to be inserted into the gum line to ensure that the space doesn’t close.
  • Lingual: This device is used when a child has lost multiple teeth. The sides of the contraption will attach to the molars and it can be bilateral.
  • Crown and loop: This one is exactly what it sounds like – a crown used to cover the tooth and a loop next to it to maintain the space.

Reasons for getting a space maintainer

Usually, a child’s permanent teeth will erupt soon after their baby teeth fall out. These erupting adult teeth ensure that the teeth are all in the right position along the jawbone. If your child’s teeth do not erupt when they are supposed to, this may mean that their teeth will be in nonoptimal positions.

The best way to know if your child is a likely candidate for a space maintainer is to consult your dentist. If your child has suffered from premature tooth loss due to extenuating circumstances, you should consult with a dentist as soon as possible. If left untreated, your child might suffer from periodontal diseases. Most likely, the child will wear braces to straighten the adult teeth that finally erupted.

Wearing the space maintainer

It may take your child a few days to get used to their new addition. If your child feels pain due to their space maintainer, call your dentist immediately as this may be a sign of larger things gone wrong. Before you leave the dentist’s office, your dentist will instruct you on the correct way to care for your child’s teeth and their space maintainer. This will differ according to what type of maintainer the child has, and if it’s fixed or removable.

Maintenance of the maintainers

It is essential that your child has a proper oral hygiene routine in order to keep the space maintainer in tip-top shape as well as prevent decay in the teeth surrounding the maintainer.

You should also discourage your child from pressing on the space maintainer with their fingers or playing around with it too much with their tongue. Even the slightest change in its form can cause extreme results. If you can, keep your child’s hands out of their mouth in order to preserve the space maintainer.

Children with space maintainers should avoid hard or sticky foods like caramel, hard candy, or gum. There is a chance that these sticky foods will get caught in the device in your child’s mouth and cause decay. You will want to schedule regular appointments with your dentist to monitor any movement or discomfort in your child’s mouth.

For more information about space maintainers, or if you are concerned that your child might be a candidate for a space maintainer due to premature tooth loss, contact professionals like those at San Diego Children’s Dentistry. They will help you make informed decisions about your child’s oral health.


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