Space Maintainers

A space maintainer is a dental appliance made of metal or acrylic. Its function is self-explanatory - it maintains the space that is created by a tooth that is lost while a child is waiting for the permanent tooth to grow in.

If a baby tooth is lost prematurely, or if it has been missing since the child was born, the muscles and bones in the child’s jaw may not develop correctly in order to properly admit the new, permanent tooth. In such instances, an orthodontist or dentist may recommend the use of a space maintainer.

How Do I Know If I Need It? What Are The Symptoms

If a primary baby tooth has to be removed early due to an abscess, or is knocked out in some kind of trauma, a space maintainer may be need to ensure that that space is open for the new tooth. Your child may not need a space maintainer if it’s the top front teeth, for example.

What Can Happen If I Don't Get It Fixed, Left Untreated?

If the space is not preserved, the other teeth may drift causing difficulty to treat crowding and orthodontic problems.

What Are My Options, If Any?

Removable and fixed are the two types of space maintainers for children. Removable space maintainers are much like orthodontic retainers, in which they are generally constructed of acrylic, and may employ the use of an artificial tooth.

There are four types of space maintainers that are fixed:

  • Distal Shoe Space Maintainer – This is usually recommended when a permanent molar is slow coming in.
  • Unilateral Space Maintainer – This is placed in the mouth, on one side, to keep space for one tooth open.
  • Crown And Loop Space Maintainer – This is similar to the unilateral space maintainer, but includes a crown that is connected to the loop, ensuring enough space for the tooth to come in.
  • Lingual Space Maintainer – This device connects to both sides of the mouth, on the lower teeth.

What Does The Procedure Look Like?

A metal band is placed around one of the teeth next to the space, and impressions are made for a fixed space maintainer. It sets into a gel around the teeth and is removed from the mouth to allow the laboratory to make a copy of the teeth to use in making the space maintainer. The laboratory also takes the band with the impressions and creates the space maintainer for your child. Your child’s dentist then cements it into place at a second office visit.

To make a removable space maintainer, the dentist makes impressions first and then sends them to a lab in order to create a removable appliance.

What Is The Recovery Time?

The space maintainer may feel different at first for the child, but after a few days, they will probably forget about it. The child may also experience speech issues when first using a removable space maintainer with replacement teeth, but they will become used to it after a while.

Your child's dentist will take additional x-rays during follow-up appointments to see the progress of the incoming permanent tooth. When the tooth is ready to come out of the gum line, the space maintainer is removed.

Am I A Candidate?

Schedule an appointment today with our office to determine if your child requires space maintainers.

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