There are several reasons a child could lose a tooth early and potentially need something called space maintenance. In some instances, a child could be born missing a tooth or a tooth has to be extracted due to decay or an accident.
In either instance, it is crucial to maintain the space to prevent future space loss and dental problems when permanent teeth begin to come in. Without a space maintainer, the teeth that surround the open space may shift, impeding the permanent tooth’s eruption. When that happens, the need for orthodontic treatment may become greater.
Types of Space Maintainers
Space maintainers are normally made of stainless steel and can be removable or fixed (cemented to the teeth).
A removable space maintainer looks much like a retainer with plastic blocks to fill in where the tooth is missing. If your child is older and can reliably follow directions, a removable space maintainer can be a good option.
Fixed space maintainers come in many forms.
A band-and-loop space maintainer is made of stainless steel wire and is held in place by a crown or band on the tooth adjacent to the empty space. The wire is attached to the crown or loop and rests against the side of the tooth on the other end of the space.
A lingual arch is used on the lower teeth when the back teeth on both sides of the jaw are lost. A wire is placed on the lingual (tongue) side of the arch and attached to the tooth in front of the open space on both sides. This prevents the front teeth from shifting backward into the gap.
Caring for Your Child’s Space Maintainer
There are four general rules for taking care of your child’s appliance.
- Your child should avoid sticky foods, including candy and chewing gum.
- Encourage your youngster not to push or tug on the space maintainer with the fingers or tongue.
- Keep your son or daughter’s space maintainer clean through effective brushing and flossing.
- Your child should continue to see Dr. Parker for regular dental visits.