Does Your Child Need a Space Maintainer?

Does Your Child Need A space maintainer

Did you know what happens if your child loses a baby tooth due to decay, extraction, or dental trauma? If the affected tooth was already loose due to an erupting permanent tooth, chances are your child’s pediatric dentist will recommend leaving the tooth alone. However, if your child loses a baby tooth before the permanent teeth start to erupt, then their dentist may recommend something called a space maintainer. 

What is a space maintainer?

A space maintainer is a metal or acrylic appliance that is placed in the space left by the missing tooth in order to “maintain” that space for the later eruption of a permanent tooth. Space maintainers can be either removable or fixed, but they are always customized to fit perfectly in your child’s mouth. Removable space maintainers resemble acrylic orthodontic appliances and may contain an artificial tooth. Fixed space maintainers are cemented into the mouth and cannot be removed. 

There are four different types of fixed space maintainers, including: 

Unilateral space maintainers wrap around the outside of an existing tooth and have a metal loop used to preserve the space necessary for an erupting permanent tooth. This type of space maintainer only fits on one side of the mouth. 

Crown and Loop space maintainers are similar to the unilateral maintainers, however they are composed of an actual dental crown that fits over an existing tooth. Like its name suggests, this crown is then attached to a loop used to preserve the necessary amount of space. 

Lingual space maintainers are cemented to the inside of the molars and are connected  to the lower front teeth using a metal wire. This type of space maintainer is generally used when there are multiple missing baby teeth. 

Distal shoe space maintainers are used when the erupting tooth is the first permanent molar. This type of space maintainer is actually inserted into the gum line to maintain the necessary amount of space. As the molar erupts, your child’s pediatric dentist will need to closely monitor the affected tooth. 

Why does my child need a space retainer?

Although your child will eventually lose their baby teeth, these teeth are still important during the early years of their life. When a child loses one or more baby teeth too early, this can cause a number of problems, such as: 

crooked teeth
  • A lack of space for the proper eruption of permanent teeth
  • Overcrowding/crooked permanent teeth 
  • Speech impediments
  • Malocclusion (misaligned bite)
  • Increased need for orthodontic treatment

How do I care for my child’s space maintainer?

To care for your child’s space maintainer, you will need to make sure they are brushing their teeth twice a day and flossing daily. Depending on your child’s type of space maintainer, their dentist will show you if any special brushing or flossing techniques are needed. Removable space maintainers will need to be thoroughly cleaned by rinsing with lukewarm water and washing with mild dish soap. 

For fixed space maintainers, you will also need to prevent your child from eating chewy, sticky, and excessively sugary foods, such as gum or candy. This is because these foods can easily get stuck on the appliance and can increase the risk of tooth decay. You will also need to watch your child to make sure they are not using their fingers or tongue to “play” with the appliance. Other than that, you will simply need to schedule regular dental appointments with your child’s dentist so they can evaluate your child’s teeth, bite, and space maintainer. 

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