Your child’s baby teeth are natural space maintainers, meaning that they are placeholders for permanent teeth. When these teeth naturally fall out, the space serves as a guide for the permanent tooth to know where to erupt.
Baby teeth play this important role and also help your child speak, eat, and smile. However, sometimes teeth are lost prematurely due to decay, oral trauma, breakage, or a tooth that needs to be extracted.
The problem with losing a baby tooth is that there will no longer be a barrier to prevent the other teeth from shifting and leaning into this empty space. This will cause orthodontic problems and cause impaction of the permanent tooth because no space will be left open for it to come through.
The solution is to place a stainless steel appliance called a space maintainer which hooks onto an abutment tooth with a band and extends a wire bar into the empty space to keep it open until it’s time for the permanent tooth to naturally erupt. Contact us at Tiny Tooth Pediatric Dentistry to schedule a consultation.
There are four different types of space maintainers.
Dr. Kim will examine your child’s teeth to rule out oral health problems. After assessing your child’s age, teething schedule, location of the missing tooth, and how prematurely their tooth was lost, she can help determine if a space maintainer is necessary. She will also determine what type of space maintainer is needed.
Your child may need a cleaning before they get a space maintainer placed. We will create the oral appliance from impressions that are taken of your child’s teeth and sent to a dental lab that uses them to construct a band and loop device or a similar metal appliance that will fit over the measurements of your child’s tooth and empty space.
Once the appliance has been created and we have it at our office, we will call your child back so we can check if it fits properly over the abutment tooth and holds the necessary amount of space open. This will be cemented in place. Space maintainers can be removable but this is usually not recommended for young children.
Wearing this appliance is only temporary. It can be removed once the permanent tooth is ready to erupt.
Some missing baby teeth don’t require a space maintainer.
A few different factors determine if your child will need a space maintainer. Typically, if a baby tooth is lost prematurely, it will require a space maintainer. However, this is more important for some teeth compared to others.
The space where your front teeth are, for example, will remain open with or without a space maintainer. The second primary molars are also more affected by tooth loss than the first primary molars. Your dentist will examine your child’s teeth and let you know if a space maintainer is necessary.
Your child should be old enough or cooperative enough to sit for the placement of a space maintainer and they will need to care for it by cleaning their teeth and avoiding eating hard and sticky foods.
Missing permanent teeth don’t require a space maintainer. Instead, they should be replaced with a restoration like a bridge or partial denture.