Children may need space maintainers if they lose a tooth early or have a baby (primary) tooth extracted due to dental decay. If either is the case, it is important to know the benefits of using a space maintainer and how it can help support your child’s dental health.
Why Your Child May Need A Space Maintainer
A space maintainer is an appliance that is custom-made by a dentist or orthodontist in acrylic or metal material. It can be either removable or cemented in a child’s mouth. Its purpose is to keep the space open to allow the permanent tooth to erupt and come into place. Baby teeth are important to the development of the teeth, jaw bones and muscles and help to guide permanent teeth into position when the baby teeth are lost. If a space is not maintained, then teeth can shift into the open space and orthodontic treatment may be required. Not every child who loses a baby tooth early or to dental decay requires a space maintainer; however, a professional consultation with your dentist or orthodontist should be conducted to determine if using a space maintainer is needed.
There are two types of space maintainers for children, removable and fixed.
- Removable – removable space maintainers are similar to orthodontic appliances and are usually made of acrylic. In some cases, an artificial tooth may be used to fill a space that must remain open for the unerupted tooth.
- Fixed – there are four different kinds of fixed space maintainers: unilateral, crown and loop, distal shoe and lingual.
Instruction for tooth brushing and flossing should be considered for improved oral hygiene.
If the space maintainer is fixed, it will be important to avoid chewy and sugary foods, and gum or candy, which may loosen or get caught on the appliance. Also, the space maintainer should not be pressed or pushed with the tongue or fingers because it could loosen or bend the appliance.
The child should be seen by the dentist or orthodontist on a regular basis to monitor the progress of treatment with the space maintainer and continue to receive a regular six-month professional cleaning appointment with your dental professional.
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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.