A space maintainer is a dental appliance that is used to maintain space in the mouth for the permanent teeth to come in. Space maintainers are not painful, and they allow the teeth to grow into the correct positions. There are a couple scenarios that prompt the need for a space maintainer. They include:
1. Premature loss of a primary (baby) tooth
If a child loses a baby tooth before the adult tooth is fully developed and ready to emerge, the surrounding primary teeth may move into the space where the baby tooth has been lost. This causes a blockage which hinders the ability for the permanent tooth to push through the gums.
Teeth can fall out prematurely when a child is exposed to trauma, or when a child suffers from a disease. Certain conditions such as periodontal disease and diabetes during childhood can prompt premature tooth loss.
2. Dental decay
When a primary tooth becomes so decayed that it needs to be removed, there is always a risk that the adult tooth is not going to be ready to push through the gums any time soon. In that case, a space maintainer is needed to protect that space from being closed in by other teeth.
Different types of space maintainers are required depending on the case. Some may be removable while others are permanent. Your child’s pediatric dentist may recommend:
1. Removable – Involves an acrylic appliance which can be taken out.
2. Fixed (Permanent) – Made out of metal & can only be removed by a dentist. There are four subcategories of fixed space maintainers, including:
• Distal Shoe
o Used for unerupted molar teeth, a portion of the appliance is inserted below the gum line to keep the space open.
• Crown and loop
o Placed on one side of the mouth and attaches to a crown placed over one of the teeth.
o Cemented to molar teeth and connected via a wire placed on the inside of the lower front teeth.
o Placed on one side of the mouth and wraps around the tooth.
Your child’s pediatric dentist will instruct your child on how to keep their mouth free of plaque that can form on and around their space maintainer. It is especially important to keep up with hygiene when it comes to space maintainers because food can easily become trapped in the appliance, making it a magnet for bacteria. If your child’s appliance is fixed, it is best to monitor them to make sure they stay away from sticky and chewy foods that can get stuck on the metal.
Advanced Children’s Dentistry is a state-of-the-art pediatric dental office in Garden City, NY that provides little patients with an educational and fun experience. Schedule a pediatric dental appointment with Dr. Sybil at 516-758-KIDS!
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