What Are Space Maintainers?

Tooth Character

One of the first questions most parents ask after being told their child may need a space maintainer is, “What is a space maintainer, and why it is necessary?”

Sometimes a baby tooth may be lost too early due to accident, decay or medical conditions. When a tooth is lost too early, in most cases it is important to maintain that space so the other teeth do not drift in to this space and block the new adult tooth from coming in later.  Your kids’ dentist will help you determine how early is too early and whether a lost baby tooth will require a space maintainer.  A space maintainer is a small metal band that goes around one of the teeth on either side of the space where the missing tooth is, which has loop wire that crosses over the space where a tooth is missing and touches the other tooth.  This holds the space open for the growing adult tooth.  It is important to note that baby teeth that are lost naturally usually do not require a space maintainer, as the permanent tooth is not far behind.  However, it is always best to check with your dentist to see if it is necessary.

Each tooth in your child’s mouth serves several purposes:

  • aids in digestion by biting or chewing food
  • aids in speech
  • holds the posture of the jaw
  • guides permanent teeth into the correct position.

Losing a baby tooth can affect numerous aspects of your child’s life, including comfort when eating, enunciation, health and comfort of the jaw, and the alignment of the permanent teeth. Misaligned permanent teeth can cause jaw pain and discomfort, decay where teeth are crowded, and poor self-esteem in a child.

Space maintainers have been developed to address the position in which permanent teeth come in. By maintaining the space that the lost baby tooth occupied, it allows room for the permanent tooth to come in naturally and correctly. Failing to maintain the space can cause more than misalignment; if teeth move forward into the position of the lost tooth and a permanent tooth starts to erupt, it can cause damage to the roots of other permanent teeth, resulting in significant expense, inconvenience, or even loss of healthy teeth.

Parents of children who have lost baby teeth due to accident, decay or medical conditions should seek the opinion of a qualified kids’ dentist to determine if their child needs space maintainers. Be sure to explain your child’s history thoroughly and honestly and ask any questions you may have during your time with the dentist. Playtime Dental would love to visit with you today to create a proactive treatment plan for your child.