Space maintainers are used when a child loses a tooth early, or has a baby tooth extracted because of dental decay. If either of these situations is the case, it is important to know the benefits of using a space maintainer and how it can help your child’s dental health.
A space maintainer is a dental appliance that is custom-made by a dentist or orthodontist. It can be cemented into a child’s mouth, or removable. The purpose of this appliance is to keep a space open to allow the adult teeth to erupt, and grow into place.
As much as you may think the opposite, baby teeth are very important to the development of the teeth, as well as jawbones and muscles. Baby teeth help guide the adult teeth into the right position once they fall out.
Types of Maintainers
Removable – Removable space maintainers are similar to orthodontic appliances, and are usually made of acrylic. Sometimes, an artificial tooth is put in place to fill the space that must remain open for when the adult tooth comes in.
Fixed- There are 4 types of fixed space maintainers – unilateral, crown and loop, distal shoe and lingual.
The unilateral and crown and loop maintainers are put on one side of the mouth to hold open a space. The unilateral wraps around the outside of the tooth and is connected to a metal loop holding the space. A crown and loop, is the same thing, but using a crown that covers the tooth.
The distal shoe space maintainer is often used for a molar tooth, when it has not erupted yet.
The lingual maintainer is bilateral, and can be cemented to molars. It is connected by a white on the inside of the lower front teeth. This type of space maintainer is used when more than one tooth is missing.
Wearing the Space Maintainer
It may take a little bit of time for your child to get used to wearing the appliance whether it is removable or fixed. Your dentist will go over the proper ways to clean the space maintainer in order to keep the surrounding gum tissue healthy.
Avoiding chewy and sugary foods during wear of the space maintainer is also important. It may loosen the appliance or get caught inside. Tell your child to try and avoid the temptation to press down on it with their tongue or fingers.