Space Maintainers: A Short-Term Solution May Prevent Long-Term Problems
Space maintainers are usually a simple and straightforward way to keep the space open for adult teeth to come in. In some cases, a simple space maintainer can prevent more expensive treatment, like braces, in the future.
Who doesn’t love seeing a little child laugh, showing off a huge grin complete with spaces from missing baby teeth? Or how about the excitement each child has when they lose a tooth and realize they get a visit from the tooth fairy?
But baby teeth do much more than let your little one chow down on dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. They serve as a placeholder for adult teeth, and if they come out too soon before the adult tooth is ready to come in, other teeth may shift into its place. This might leave little room for the adult tooth to come in causing bite issues or the need for orthodontics in the future.
If your child loses a tooth before they should, don’t ignore it, but there’s also no need to worry. Shifting doesn’t happen overnight, and a space maintainer can be used to hold the place of the missing tooth. Space maintainers are a commonly used appliance to make sure that gap stays ready and waiting for the adult tooth to come in.
Space Maintainers are either fixed, which are cemented into place, or removable and made from acrylic like a removable partial denture. Some removable space maintainers even have an artificial tooth to not only keep the space open but cosmetically improve your child's smile making them less self-conscious. Depending on your child’s age, maturity, and the location of the gap, your child’s dentist will decide which space maintainer is best.
If only one space needs to be held, your child’s dentist might make the space maintainer in-house during one appointment, but if multiple teeth have been lost too soon, their dentist might send detailed measurements, dental impressions, or scans of your child’s mouth to a lab for fabrication.
Keeping Your Child’s Space Maintainer Clean
It’s important that your child brush and floss around their fixed space maintainer after each meal to avoid plaque buildup and prevent decay from eating away surrounding teeth. Using a fluoridated mouthwash can also help keep bacteria at bay. Your child’s dentist may recommend orthodontic flossers to make the space maintainer easier to clean. If your child has a removable space maintainer, make sure they remove it when they brush, but make sure they brush it as well to prevent bacteria build up and odor from developing. You may need to help your child, even if they have been brushing on their own.
Follow-up and Removal
Generally speaking, a space maintainer doesn’t require regular follow-up appointments. When you notice the adult tooth or teeth starting to poke up through the gum, call your dentist to schedule an evaluation. They will help determine the best timeline to either remove the fixed space maintainer or to have your child stop wearing their appliance.
If your child has a removable appliance and you notice teeth shifting into the space, your child may not be wearing their maintainer as advised and may need a different type of treatment to make sure the area stays open.
Space maintainers are usually a simple and straightforward way to keep spaces open for adult teeth to come in. In some cases, a simple space maintainer can prevent more expensive treatment, like braces, in the future.