Space Maintainers for Kids

Baby teeth are vital for your child’s oral development, and they act as placeholders for adult teeth. The early loss of baby teeth can cause problems for the permanent teeth coming through. One tool commonly used in child orthodontics is a dental space maintainer.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the world of space maintainers and give you some practical tips on care and maintenance.

What is a Space Maintainer?

Let’s start with the basics. A space maintainer is a specialised device designed for children who lose teeth early because of decay or injury. These devices are essential to preserve the proper spacing needed for your child’s permanent teeth. They come in various forms and play a vital role in preventing potential dental complications.

Space Maintainers for Kids

Baby teeth are vital for your child’s oral development, and they act as placeholders for adult teeth. The early loss of baby teeth can cause problems for the permanent teeth coming through. One tool commonly used in child orthodontics is a dental space maintainer.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the world of space maintainers and give you some practical tips on care and maintenance.

What is a Space Maintainer?

Let’s start with the basics. A space maintainer is a specialised device designed for children who lose teeth early because of decay or injury. These devices are essential to preserve the proper spacing needed for your child’s permanent teeth. They come in various forms and play a vital role in preventing potential dental complications.

Child looking in mirror at teeth

When are Space Maintainers needed?

Space maintainers are mainly used when a baby molar is extracted early. They stop adjacent teeth from moving into the spaces left by the missing tooth and keep the teeth aligned.

Brushing the teeth and good oral hygiene is important to avoid early extractions. In case of decay, dentists do their best to keep the baby molars as long as possible. If extraction becomes necessary, then a fixed space maintainer is always fitted after extraction. If no space maintainer is fitted, the neighbouring teeth will migrate to the gap and there will be no space for the permanent tooth to grow.

Types of Space Maintainers

A space maintainer usually involves a metal band around a tooth and a wire loop to maintain the open space. Space maintainers come in various shapes and sizes:

  • Removable options: These include devices like partial dentures that can be taken out for cleaning. Removable space maintainers provide a more flexible approach.
  • Fixed options: These include devices like bands and wires that are more permanent. They offer stability and are often recommended for younger children to prevent loss or damage.

Importance of Space Maintainers

Space maintainers can be used for a number of reasons.

  • Early loss of baby teeth: space maintainers are used to preserve the proper spacing required for permanent teeth.
  • Extraction due to decay or injury: here, a space maintainer ensures that the adjacent teeth do not crowd the gap.
  • Preserving natural alignment: orthodontists may use space maintainers as a proactive measure to maintain the natural alignment of teeth.

The space maintainer will be taken out once the permanent tooth starts to come in.

Benefits of Space Maintainers

The advantages of space maintainers for your child extend beyond orthodontic issues such as crowding and misalignment. They can also significantly reduce the likelihood of more extensive orthodontic treatments in the future, saving time, effort, and potential discomfort.

Care and Maintenance of Your Space Maintainer

Here are some practical tips to help care for your child’s space maintainer.

  • Clean regularly: Fixed space maintainers need to be brushed regularly, just like normal teeth. Removable space maintainers must be washed and rinsed daily to maintain optimal oral hygiene.
  • Avoid certain foods: Remind your child to avoid sticky or hard foods that might damage the device.
  • Regular orthodontist check-ups: Schedule routine check-ups to monitor the condition of the space maintainer and address any concerns promptly.
Dr-Christina-von-Massow-SmileDesigner-aligners
Child looking in mirror at teeth

FAQs

Some common questions parents have about space maintainers:

Q1: How long can a space maintainer stay in?

A1: A space maintainer is typically used until the adult teeth come through. This could be years, although the length can vary based on the individual. We will provide guidance tailored to your child’s specific needs.

Q2: What can you eat with a space maintainer?

A2: Your child can generally eat a normal diet. However, it’s best to avoid sticky or hard foods that could damage the device.

Q3: Does a space maintainer hurt?

A3: Space maintainers are not designed to move teeth around, so they should not cause pain. Initially, there might be an adjustment period, but contact us if your child experiences persistent discomfort.

Conclusion

To avoid extractions and a long, difficult and expensive orthodontic treatment, it’s always better to place a fixed space maintainer when a baby molar is extracted. As we’ve seen, space maintainers are a safe and common device to be worn until the permanent teeth come through. Always consult your orthodontist if your child’s teeth begin to come out earlier than expected.

If you are wondering if your child needs a space maintainer, please register here to make an appointment.