Eruption Problems and Space Management

Some parents may believe that losing baby teeth early is not anything to be concerned about. Baby teeth, however, do serve other purposes beyond chewing. Baby teeth help in the development and the eruption of adult teeth. If baby teeth are lost prematurely, and depending on which teeth are lost, the adjacent teeth can drift into the open space or affect the length of the arch. If the jaws do not grow at the rate they are supposed to from birth, issues with spacing can occur and cause problems with the eruption of adult teeth and severe crowding. In cases where a tooth or teeth are lost early, orthodontists will use a space maintainer either in the area of the missing tooth, or in the upper or lower arch to prevent the jaw from decreasing in size. Intercepting the problem early with orthodontics can allow the doctor to catch these issues before they become more complex.

Issues That Can Cause Early Loss of Baby Teeth:

  • Decay—severe cases may call for the tooth to be removed earlier than it should. Enamel on baby teeth is less mineralized than adult teeth, so there can be a higher incidence of decay
  • Trauma—kids love to play, and sometimes this can result in a tooth that is injured or becomes knocked out
  • An abscess that cannot be remedied with antibiotics or removal of the pulp

Several Types of Space Maintainers:

  • Fixed space maintainers—unilateral or bilateral and cemented in place. Unilateral saves space for one tooth. Bilateral uses a wire on the lingual (tongue-side) of the teeth and maintains space on each side of the mouth
  • Removable space maintainers—these can be unilateral or bilateral as well. One caveat with the removable unilateral space maintainer is that they tend to be small and can become a choking hazard if worn by small children. Orthodontists prefer using fixed appliances, as the child will be wearing it full-time, and then they will not be lost and delay treatment

Please let your child’s dentist know if they have lost a tooth early due to any circumstance.

4540 Sand Point Way NE, Suite 140
Seattle WA 98105-3941

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

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