Space Maintainers

A lot of people believe that baby teeth aren’t very important. They’re going to fall out eventually, so why should you care about what happens to them?

Man, woman, and child smiling outsideWhile it’s true that baby teeth play a smaller role than permanent “adult” teeth, they still serve a useful purpose. And if a child loses a baby tooth too early in life, they may require help from a dentist to prevent the other teeth from shifting out of place.

Fortunately, there is a dental appliance for kids that stops dental problems caused by a missing tooth. A space maintainer is small band & loop, usually made from metal or plastic acrylics, that fits around a few teeth to keep them in place. It typically takes a few weeks for a child to adjust to wearing one & they may be worn for as long as a few years, since permanent teeth can take awhile to emerge in the mouth. There are two types of space maintainers: fixed & removable.

Fixed Space Maintainers

Fixed space maintainers are stuck to the teeth with a special dental adhesive. Dentists may recommend this type over a removable one because it’s less likely that they will fall out or get lost, & the child doesn’t have to think about putting them on or taking them off. A fixed space maintainer can still become loose, so make sure your child doesn’t use their fingers or tongue to fiddle around with it.

Removable Space Maintainers

Removable space maintainers function the same their fixed counterparts, but they can also be removed for meals & at-home oral hygiene. Dentists usually only give them to kids who are old enough to handle the responsibility of remembering to wear their space maintainer as much as possible.

Things to Avoid With Space Maintainers

Avoid feeding a child wearing a space maintainer any hard, sticky or very chewy foods that could dislodge or break the appliance. If this happens, please call us immediately so we can replace it. Without space maintenance, teeth can quickly shift out of alignment.

What Problems Do Space Maintainers Prevent?

As a child develops, their baby teeth help the permanent teeth prepare for entry into the mouth. Baby teeth ensure that a new tooth emerges in the correct spot: A permanent tooth pushes out the old baby tooth it that erupts directly underneath or above, but the baby teeth on either side also prevent it from moving into spaces occupied by nearby teeth.

But if a child loses a baby tooth before it’s time to be replaced, this entire process is disrupted. Without anything to force them to stay in place, the baby teeth on either side of the missing tooth can slowly shift into the newly formed gap. Obviously, this causes all sorts of problems for the way the alignment of the permanent teeth.

Premature baby tooth loss happens for a number of reasons. These include being knocked out, tooth loss from a non-dental disease or severe tooth decay. Whatever the reason for early tooth loss in a child, you should see a dentist as soon after this happens as possible. When discovered early by a dentist, premature tooth loss can be mitigated by a space maintainer until the permanent tooth grows in.

Failure to treat premature tooth loss can have serious consequences for your child’s oral health. If other teeth move into the gap created by a lost tooth, your child will likely need braces treatment. In extreme cases, very crooked teeth may need to be removed entirely before your child can start wearing braces. Shifting teeth can also start to crowd together & create hard-to-clean spaces that are a breeding ground for the nasty bacteria that causes tooth decay.

Never underestimate the impact of a lost baby tooth on your child’s appearance, dental health & bite functionality. Call us today if you suspect your child needs a space maintainer for premature baby tooth loss.

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