Why Your Child May Need Space MaintainersMany people think of space maintainers as a tool for orthodontists. While that is certainly the case, there are times when a pediatric dentist may need to use space maintainers on a child. Typically they’ll need them if a child loses a baby tooth early or if they need a tooth extracted because of dental decay. In either case, a space maintainer can be a crucial tool for your dentist. Learn exactly what a space maintainer is and how they can benefit your child’s dental health inside.
What is a Space Maintainer?A space maintainer is an appliance that is made to keep a space open after the loss of a baby tooth. This device allows for a permanent tooth to erupt and come into the correct position in your child’s mouth. Baby teeth are crucial for the development of permanent teeth, and in conjunction with the jaw bones and muscles help to guide your adult teeth into the correct position. When the baby tooth is lost early, your child’s other teeth will often shift into the open space and result in misaligned or crooked smiles. Not every child who loses a baby tooth early will require a space maintainer, however, it is important to check with your pediatric dentist to determine whether one is necessary.
Types of Space MaintainersIn general, space maintainers come in two general types: removable and fixed devices. In nearly every case, fixed space maintainers are recommended for children. They are much easier to maintain and are less likely to be damaged or lost compared to removable devices. Fixed space maintainers come in a variety of styles including:
- Unilateral and Crown and Loop – These space maintainers are placed on one side of the mouth to hold open space for a single tooth. The unilateral space maintainer wraps around the outside of the tooth and connects with a metal loop to hold the space intact. The crown and loop maintainer is a crown that covers the tooth and attaches to the loop to keep space open.
- Distal Shoe – This maintainer is generally used after the loss of a molar tooth. The metal loop is inserted into the gum line to keep the open space from closing. This is a more complex model and requires your dentist to monitor the progress of the erupting adult tooth.
- Lingual – This space maintainer is usually bilateral and is generally cemented to the molar tooth and connected by a wire on the inside of the lower front teeth. This model is often used when multiple baby teeth are missing.