If your child loses a tooth early, for whatever reason, they may need a space maintainer. It is important to understand the benefits of a space maintainer and how they can help to support your child’s oral health.
What is a space maintainer?
A space maintainer is an oral appliance custom-made by orthodontists or dentists made of metal or acrylic. Similar to a retainer, a space maintainer helps to keep the surrounding teeth from moving and preserves the space for the permanent tooth to grow and develop properly. Not all children who lose their baby teeth early will require a space maintainer, but it is recommended that you seek a professional opinion to determine if treatment is needed.
Why are they important to my child’s oral health?
A space maintainer is important because they help to keep your child’s teeth in the right positions. When you lose a tooth, the surrounding teeth may shift towards the empty space. If this happens before your child’s permanent tooth erupts, it can cause issues with your child’s oral development and may lead to future orthodontic treatment.
Space maintainers can be removable (similar to retainers) or they can be fixed and cemented to your child’s mouth. There are four kinds of fixed space maintainers:
Unilateral – Unilateral space maintainers are often used to maintain the space of a single tooth. One side is wrapped around the tooth to secure it from shifting and the other side has a metal loop to maintain the necessary space.
Crown and loop – The crown and loop space maintainers are similar to unilateral ones, except the metal loop is affixed onto a crown to ensure there is enough space for new teeth.
Distal shoe – A distal shoe space maintainer is made of metal and often used for slow-growing molars. This maintainer is more complex and often inserted into the gum line to hold the space.
Lingual – Lingual space maintainers are often used when multiple teeth are missing, especially in the front of the mouth. This device is fixed to both sides of the mouth and attached to the molars.
Your child may experience some discomfort during the beginning of the treatment period as it may take a while for your child to adjust to the space maintainer. Once inserted, your dentist will explain how to care for your space maintainer as well as foods you should avoid. Similar to other orthodontic appliances, sticky, chewy goods can loosen or become stuck on your space maintainer and should be avoided.
It is important that children maintain good oral hygiene practices even with a space maintainer. Regular check-ups will be scheduled to monitor the progress of treatment, but your child should also continue to visit the dentist every six months for professional cleanings and routine examinations of their oral health.
For more information on space maintainers or schedule an appointment, please contact Dr. L’Tanya Joy Bailey, DDS today.