Does Your Child Need a Space Maintainer?

Posted on 12/25/2015 by Dr. Lovrovich
A diagram of how a space maintainer works.

A space maintainer is sometimes used when a child experiences early tooth loss. These appliances are custom-made by a dentist to place in your child’s mouth, keeping a space open so that the permanent tooth will be able to erupt into place easily. If this space isn’t maintained, the rest of your child’s teeth may shift into the empty space, requiring future orthodontic treatments.

Your child could lose a tooth due to a variety of reasons, including extraction due to decay or trauma after an injury. However, not every child who loses a baby tooth too early will require a maintainer. Your best course of action is to consult with your child’s pediatric dentist to determine the best course of action.

Types of Space Maintainers

There are two main types of space maintainers: fixed and removable. Fixed maintainers will be permanently cemented into the mouth, and there are four different options:

  • Unilateral. This space maintainer will be placed on one side of your child’s mouth in order to hold a space for the permanent tooth. It will wrap around the outside of the tooth before connecting to a metal loop that will hold a space intact.
  • Crown and loop. This space maintainer is made out of stainless steel wire, and it is held in place via a crown on the tooth next to the space. A wire loop will hold the space open.
  • Lingual. These space maintainers use bands that are wrapped around the tooth behind the missing tooth. The wire that is connected to the band will run along the bottom teeth on the inside to maintain the open space.
  • Distal shoe. This space maintainer is typically used when the first permanent molar tooth is missing. It is the most complicated option because the metal end is typically inserted into the gum line to create an open space.

Removable maintainers are just that – removable. They will look similar to a retainer and will use either plastic blocks or artificial teeth in order to keep a space open. This option is usually selected when the space is extremely obvious to other people.

Creating the Maintainer

The procedure to make a space maintainer is fairly simple. A mold of your child’s mouth will be taken, and then a dental lab will make the appliance. After it has been created, it will be sent back to your dentist for evaluation, and at a follow up appointment, it will be fitted to ensure that it fits properly. After the maintainer has been put into place, your dentist will check it at each follow-up appointment, and when it is determined that the adult teeth are starting to poke through the gums and become visible, the maintainer will be removed for good.

When Your Child Has a Space Maintainer

Space maintainers will be made by your child’s pediatric or family dentist, and it is common for your child to need a few days to get used to wearing it, regardless of whether it was fixed or removable. You will be shown the proper ways to clean the maintainer so that you can keep the appliance free of plaque while improving the health of the gum tissue.

Fixed maintainers will require additional care since your child won’t be able to remove it easily in order to clean around it. For this reason, your child should avoid foods that are especially sugary or chewy, as these items could loosen the appliance. You should also discourage your child from placing objects or his fingers into his mouth, as aggravating the appliance could cause it to bend or loosen.

If you think that your child may need a space maintainer after losing a tooth, please contact us for more information.

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Seattle WA 98105-3941

Tel: (206) 525-7000
Fax: (206) 525-0479

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