Space Maintainers

Kid missing teeth.Your child's baby teeth might be little, but they have some big responsibilities. Until the adolescent years, they will not only help your youngster bite and chew (i.e. get proper nutrition) and speak correctly, but also help guide the permanent teeth underneath into proper position. In fact, a major function of baby teeth is to hold space for the adult teeth that will eventually push them out. 

At least, that's how it's supposed to work. Unfortunately, sometimes injury or disease can cause a baby tooth to be lost prematurely. With no baby tooth to reserve space for the adult tooth, when this happens the permanent teeth that are coming in on either side can shift into the space. As a result, the adult tooth that was supposed to be there is either blocked entirely or forced to erupt out of position, leading to crowded or crooked teeth.

How to Save Space

If your child loses a tooth prematurely, there are dental appliances your DuPont pediatric dentist can use to hold a space open for the permanent tooth beneath until it grows in. These devices are called “space maintainers” or “space maintenance appliances.” Made of metal and/or plastic, Dr. Takenaka can provide your child with space maintainers that are fixed (cemented) or removable. Whichever you choose, their purpose remains the same: help your child develop the best bite possible and hopefully avoid the need for braces later on.

Types of Space Maintainers:

Fixed space maintenance appliances are cemented onto the teeth adjacent the space your child’s dentist is working to reserve. This is the preferred type of space maintainer for children because, unlike removable appliances, fixed appliances are less easy to fidget with, break, or misplace. Fixed space maintainers come in several different designs. One consists of a band that goes around a tooth and then a wire loop that extends out from the band to hold the open space. Another version features a loop attached to a stainless steel crown, which goes over a nearby tooth. In either case, the loop extends just to the point where it touches the next tooth. 

Removable appliances look like the type of retainer worn at the end of orthodontic treatment. Such an appliance can have a false tooth on it, which is particularly useful when the lost tooth was visible in the mouth. Older children can typically handle the responsibility of wearing for a removable appliance and caring for it properly.

Wearing a Space Maintainer

Whether fixed or removable, your child's space maintainer will be custom-made after our pediatric dentist takes impressions of his or her mouth. Your child will wear a space maintainer until x-rays reveal that the tooth underneath is ready to erupt naturally. It is very important that any patient that is wearing a space maintainer keeps up good oral hygiene at home and come in for regular professional dental cleanings in our DuPont office.

Dental Implants

Space maintainers are also useful when one or more permanent teeth are missing. In other words, they never existed at all because the patient wasn’t born with them. In cases like this, permanent dental implants are often recommended for adolescents or adults. However, timing is very important with dental implants; they can't be placed in the mouth of a growing child. Therefore, your dentist might use a space maintainer with a false tooth on it until jaw growth is complete, and then place an implant appropriately. This is a simple, non-invasive procedure that can help patients avoid developing malocclusions (bad bites).

Contact Us Today

If you have questions about space maintainers, dental implants, or any other aspect of your child’s dental/oral health, please don’t hesitate to contact us. The team at Children’s Dentistry of DuPont can’t wait to assist you!

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Baby Teeth - Dear Doctor Magazine

Early Loss of Baby Teeth If baby teeth are lost prematurely, other teeth can shift into the new space so that there is not enough room left for the permanent teeth to come in correctly; crowding or crooked teeth can result. Fortunately, a special oral appliance called a “space maintainer” has been designed to solve this problem... Read Article