Children Dentistry - Space Maintainers

What is a space maintainer and why would a child need one?

A primary function of baby teeth is to hold space for the permanent adult teeth that will eventually push them out. A child may need a space maintainer if they lose a tooth prematurely due to injury or dental decay. A space maintainer is an appliance that is custom-made by a dentist or orthodontist in acrylic or metal material. It can be either removable or fixed in a child’s mouth. The purpose of a space maintainer is to keep the space open to allow for permanent teeth to come in. It can also act as a preventative measure to help reduce the likelihood of the need for braces later.

What types of space maintainers are available?

There are two types of space maintainers for children, removable and fixed.

  1. Removable – space maintainers are similar to orthodontic appliances and often of acrylic. In some cases, an artificial tooth may be used to fill a space that must remain open for the adult tooth to come in.
  2. Fixed – there are four different kinds of fixed space maintainers: unilateral, crown and loop, distal shoe and lingual.

Your dentist will evaluate your child’s diagnosis to determine the best possible treatment option. Whether it is fixed or removable, your child’s space maintainer will be custom-made. The child will wear the space maintainer until the adult tooth underneath is ready to come in.

Are there any special precautions or maintenance requirements for space maintainers?

Once the space maintainer is made, it may take the child a few days to get accustomed to it. Your dentist will discuss the proper ways to clean the space maintainer and provide instructions for brushing and flossing. If the space maintainer is fixed, it is important to avoid gum or candy, which may loosen or get caught on the appliance. The child should continue to see the dentist on a regular basis to monitor the progress of treatment and to receive regular professional cleanings.