A dental space maintainer keeps teeth from shifting after a child has lost a tooth. Your child’s baby teeth are incredibly important. Not only do they help your child chew and digest nutritious foods, but they also help with speech and promote a functional bite.
It doesn’t take much to interfere with your child’s bite (or their occlusion). Something as simple as losing a baby tooth too early can cause major problems. Thankfully, with a dental space maintainer we can prevent this type of issue.
A child loses their baby teeth when the adult teeth are ready to come into the mouth (exfoliate). Unfortunately, sometimes a child will lose a primary tooth before the permanent one is ready to exfoliate. Whenever there’s a gap between teeth, the adjacent teeth will start shifting to fill in the space. Even the teeth below or above the missing tooth will shift upwards or downwards to fill in the gap.
When the adult tooth that’s supposed to be in that space is ready to come in, it will come in awkwardly, creating crookedness and crowding. Over time, the bite becomes totally misaligned, which puts pressure on the jaw joint (contributing to a painful condition called TMJ disorder), as well as the teeth. Over time, the teeth will begin to chip, crack, or fracture. In addition to needing orthodontic treatment, the person may need crowns and other restorative treatment.
Fortunately, we can avoid all of this with a space maintainer, a metal device that fits around the tooth that’s in front or behind the missing tooth. Extending from the loop that fits around the tooth is a metal bar that fits in the empty space and prevents the teeth from shifting.
There are two types of space maintainers.
Fixed: A fixed appliance is cemented (dental glue) to the adjacent tooth. One type of device is made up of a band with a wire loop that holds the space. Another type has the loop attached to a stainless-steel crown, which we would place over one of the adjacent teeth. Typically, fixed space maintainers are the ideal solution for younger children as they can’t be removed and misplaced (or accidentally thrown away). It’s harder for kids to fidget with these devices, which means they’re less likely to break, making them an ideal longer-term solution as well.
Removable: A space maintainer that’s removable resembles a retainer. Like the fixed option, this one is also custom-made. The appliance will either have a bar to maintain the space or it will have a false tooth. Parents and their child will be provided with home care and cleaning instructions because the device should be removed and cleaned daily.
Some people don’t automatically develop 32 adult teeth. Congenitally missing adult teeth can cause bite issues, too. To prevent adjacent teeth from shifting, a dentist can fabricate a space maintainer that has a fake tooth on it. Not only does the tooth fill in the gap but it can also give the person more confidence because they have a full, complete smile.
Someone with congenitally missing teeth may decide to fill the gap with a dental implant. For some people, though, a dental implant may be out of the question due to the cost. A space maintainer is an affordable option that can work as either a short- or long-term solution to a missing tooth.
Every child in our practice will receive a free orthodontic consultation when they turn seven years old. Dr. Derek Busciglio’s goal is always to catch dental problems early, whether he’s checking for decay or evaluating their bite.
Investing in early orthodontic treatment can correct minor problems before they have time to turn into harder-to-fix issues. Plus, it will provide your child with a beautiful smile they’ll be happy to share with the world.