Space maintainers are oral appliances used for children whose baby teeth have come out too early. This includes losing them naturally or as a result of injury or severe decay. Space maintainers ensure that there is enough space for the permanent tooth to come in. This helps with keeping the teeth aligned and ensuring proper development. Our dentists at Sierra Kids Dentistry can answer your questions about space maintainers and determine your child's need for them.
The Importance of Space Maintenance
Space maintainers are critical for ensuring proper development when your child has lost a baby tooth too soon. Without space maintainers, the surrounding teeth tend to drift together and fill the gap. This could lead to the permanent tooth coming in crooked later on. Crooked teeth not only cause aesthetic concerns, but they also affect how your child eats and speaks. They are also harder to clean, meaning that the likelihood of cavities and other dental conditions will be higher.
Types of Space Maintainers
Space maintainers are custom-made and can be either a metal or acrylic material. There are several types of space maintainers, including removable and fixed as well as unilateral and bilateral. Removable space maintainers are less common in children since they are less durable. These use artificial teeth or dental material to hold the space open. Fixed space maintainers are attached to the surrounding teeth with a dental cement. Unilateral maintainers are affixed on one side while bilateral maintainers are affixed on both sides. These can be used on both the upper and lower jaw.
In addition to these categories, there are several oral appliances used as space maintainers. These include band-and-loop devices, lingual holding arches, transpalatal arches, and distal shoe appliances. Band-and-loop devices are made of stainless steel wire. These are used in children who have lost one or more molars. These are held by orthodontic bands that let the permanent tooth erupt without blockage. Lingual holding arches are used for the lower back teeth on either side of the mouth. Transpalatal arches are fitted to the upper jaw and held in place by a wire that fastens around the surrounding teeth. These are used to save space on both sides of your child’s dental arch. Distal shoe appliances fit over the baby molar and save space for the permanent molar.
Every procedure is slightly different depending on the specific type of space maintainer used. Generally, these procedures start with our dentist making an impression of the teeth to send to a dental lab. The lab will produce a custom-fitted space maintainer. Once it arrives at our office, your child will be scheduled for the second appointment. Here, our dentist will place the space maintainer.
Our dentist can give more specific after-care instructions. Recovery is quite simple. Oral hygiene is a bit more demanding with a space maintainer. Sticky and hard foods should be avoided and your child will need to take extra care in brushing and flossing. Our dentist will also monitor the maintainer and dental development at routine appointments. For more information or to determine the need for a space maintainer, contact Sierra Kids Dentistry at (775) 473-1247 today.