Space maintainers are appliances made to custom fit your child’s mouth to maintain the space intended for the permanent tooth when it decides to come in. They do this by “holding open” the empty space left by a lost tooth by preventing movement in the remaining teeth until the permanent tooth takes its natural position in the child’s mouth. This treatment is much more affordable and much easier on your child than to move them back later with orthodontic procedures. Think of space maintainers as insurance against braces.
Why are they important to children’s dental care?
Well, baby teeth usually stay in place until “pushed out” by a permanent tooth that takes its place. Unfortunately, some children lose baby teeth too early. A tooth may be knocked out accidentally or be removed due to severe disease. When this occurs, a space maintainer may be required to prevent future dental problems. Space maintainers encourage normal development of the jaw bones and muscles, and save space for the permanent teeth and help guide them into position.
How can losing a baby tooth too early cause problems for permanent teeth?
Well, teeth are strange in that regard. Teeth attempt to “fill” any space available to them. If your child loses a baby tooth to early, the remaining baby teeth may tilt, drift, or move up or down to fill the gap. When this happens, they fill the space intended for the permanent tooth, and the permanent tooth can come in crowded or crooked. And this condition, if left untreated, may require extensive (and expensive) orthodontic treatment (braces or even surgery).
Space maintainers require any special care?
Yes, they do, and you as a parent can help. Make sure your child avoids Hard/Sticky foods (suckers, caramels, gum, popcorn, etc.). Teeth should be brushed after each meal and clean the teeth with bands especially well. Once a day, a fluoride mouthwash should be used to help prevent decalcification of the teeth around the band and wire. Do not try to bend the wire for any reason with finger or tongue. Notify our office immediately if the bands come loose or the space maintainer is damaged in any way. If a tooth erupts under the wire this also needs to be checked.