Children’s Space Maintainers
What Are Space Maintainers?
In the event of tooth extraction or losing a baby tooth prematurely, your child’s dentist may recommend a space maintainer. A dental space maintainer is a device designed to hold the space in your child’s teeth so permanent teeth can erupt properly. Without a space maintainer, other teeth may move into the gap, eliminating space for permanent teeth to grow. This may lead to overcrowding in your child’s mouth. Our specialized pediatric dentists can equip your child with a space maintainer during an appointment.
Different Types of Space Maintainers
There are a few different types of dental space maintainers, and your dentist will discuss what they think is best for your child’s teeth. There are two main categories of space maintainers – fixed and removable – and different types to choose from within those two categories.
Fixed: Fixed space maintainers are semi-permanent appliances that help maintain the appropriate space needed for a permanent tooth to erupt. There are four types:
- Distal Shoe: These space maintainers are used to make space for first molars that have not yet erupted. It is inserted at the gum line and helps guide the permanent molar as it grows into the gap.
- Lingual: Lingual space maintainers use a wire and crown to maintain the space of several tooth gaps. In pediatric dentistry, these are typically used on children missing teeth due to a congenital defect.
- Crown and Loop: The crown and loop device includes a crown placed on a tooth with a stainless-steel loop. This device maintains the gap via the stainless-steel loop which presses against the tooth on the other side of the gap to hold it open. The crown is removed once the permanent tooth erupts.
- Unilateral: Unilateral space maintainers use a wire to maintain the gap, similar to a crown and loop. The difference with a unilateral device is it uses a wire wrapped around the tooth on each side of the gap.
Removable: Removable space maintainers are ideal for when a tooth is about to erupt. They are more temporary than fixed space maintainers and are similar to the ones used in orthodontic treatment for spacing. These spacers are typically made of acrylic material and fitted with a fake tooth to encourage continuing brushing and flossing as normal.
Why Children Need Space Maintainers
Space maintainers may be needed for a variety of dental health reasons to help your child grow into a healthy smile.
- Premature tooth loss or baby tooth extraction due to tooth decay: Tooth decay in baby teeth is a common cause of tooth loss and can cause a gap for longer than normal. It is imperative to take care of baby teeth, even though it’s normal for them to fall out.
- Over-retained baby teeth: Space maintainers can also serve as orthodontic treatment for over-retained baby teeth. Over-retained baby teeth are baby teeth that have loosened up but then tightened back into the gums. This prevents the eruption of permanent teeth and causes dental crowding.
- Premature tooth loss due to trauma or injury: When children experience dental trauma and/or tooth loss, space maintainers help retain the proper spacing for permanent teeth to grow in and reduce the risk of dental crowding.
How to Care for Space Maintainers
Your dentist will help care for your child and their space maintainer through regular dental cleanings, adjusting the space maintainer, and observing jaw growth. At home, your child will need to maintain their dental health routine, such as brushing twice a day and flossing between their teeth once a day.