What is a space maintainer? It’s a temporary dental appliance that helps hold the proper spacing for an adult tooth that hasn’t erupted yet. But they’re only used when a primary (baby) tooth is lost prematurely. Space maintainers are essential for proper oral development whenever a tooth gets knocked out or extracted for therapeutic purposes. It also cuts down on your child’s risk of complications later on.
How Does a Space Maintainer Work?
A dental space maintainer is sometimes called a “band and loop,” depending on the type of space maintainer that Dr. Houri is placing. One side is a wide band that wraps around the remaining adjacent tooth, and the thin loop that extends off the side of it goes over the gums, across the space where your child’s missing or extracted tooth was previously.
A space maintainer is a semi-permanent appliance that stays in place until the permanent (adult) tooth erupts into that space. It essentially acts as a placeholder so that the adjacent teeth don’t tilt into that space and block the other tooth from erupting properly.
After the adult tooth starts to erupt and take the place of the missing one, Dr. Houri loosens and removes the space maintainer.
Risks of Not Using a Space Maintainer
Any time a tooth gets knocked out or needs to be removed for emergency purposes, the teeth around it automatically start to fill in that space. For a child, this can be a significant issue because of the developing teeth that haven’t erupted yet.
Without a space maintainer, the permanent tooth doesn’t have a placeholder or tooth to guide it into the proper position. It’s only a matter of time before the teeth on either side tilt inward, blocking off the adult tooth and causing it to become impacted.
This perfect storm can lead to numerous orofacial development issues and increased treatment needs, including:
• Orthodontic complications
• Lengthier orthodontic treatment
• Increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease
• TMJ disorder
• Irregular biting patterns and premature tooth wear
You can think of a space maintainer as a preemptive orthodontic solution before teeth even become misaligned. The non-invasive appliance potentially saves months in braces and hundreds or thousands of dollars in avoidable dental treatments. Even though it may be challenging to understand the “why” and “how” of it right now, the payoff when it comes to your child’s future smile is priceless.
Just one missing tooth can start a chain reaction in your child’s mouth. From the shape of their jaw to their speech development to self-esteem issues, early tooth loss is more serious than most parents ever realize. Fortunately, space maintainers are a viable solution.
A Quick Fix
Placing a space maintainer only takes a few minutes and your child does not need their mouth to be numb during the installation process. Dr. Houri will fit it in place with temporary or semi-permanent cement that we can easily remove later on.
To make sure the space maintainer doesn’t come loose, discourage your child from eating anything too sticky or hard on that side of their mouth. But if they do accidentally pull it off, keep the appliance in a zip-top bag and bring it to our Vista pediatric dentist to have it reattached.
Monitoring Your Child’s Progress
At each of your child’s six-month checkups, Dr. Houri will evaluate their tooth eruption patterns. We can easily pinpoint when the adult tooth is starting to “come in” and remove the space maintainer when appropriate. Keeping the space maintainer in place will help the underlying tooth erupt into the correct position.
If your child needs a tooth removed because of aggressive infection, decay, or pain, Dr. Houri will recommend getting a space maintainer as soon as possible. The risks of not using a space maintainer are too common to go without one.
To learn more about our pediatric space maintainers in Vista, contact All Smiles Children’s Dentistry today. We’ll be happy to answer any questions that you have!