Why Does My Child Need the Space Maintainer?

Primary (baby) teeth serve important functions for your child’s dental health. They help your child to eat and speak, and they serve as space holders in your child’s mouth to ensure that permanent teeth grow in straight. They also are important for the jawbone and mouth muscles to develop normally.

Sometimes a child’s baby tooth comes out too soon. For example, it may be lost due to an injury or accident, or it may need to be removed due to decay. Problems can develop if the space from the missing tooth does not remain open. The neighboring teeth may crowd out space where the permanent tooth should come in, and other teeth may grow in crooked. To help prevent future problems and avoid expensive orthodontic treatment, we may place a space maintainer.

How is a space maintainer made?

A space maintainer is a dental appliance that fits into space where a primary tooth (particularly a molar) is missing. It may be made of metal, plastic, or resin materials, and it is created specifically for your child’s mouth.

In some types of space maintainers, a band or crown is fitted directly over one of the adjacent teeth. A wire loop or splint, braced against the adjacent tooth, is custom-crafted to hold the space open. In other types of space maintainers, a set of bands and wires are fitted into the arch of your child’s mouth.

Some types of space maintainers are removable, while others are bonded in place. Some leave a visible open space, while others may have a realistic-looking tooth to cover the space. We will discuss with you the available options that best fit your child’s dental situation.

It may take a couple of appointments to fit your child for a space maintainer. During the first visit, we take an impression of your child’s mouth. This is used to create a precise model so that the space maintainer can be created individually. During the next visit, we place the space maintainer and check that it fits properly.

How to care for your child’s space maintainer?

Space maintainers are very small and inconspicuous. Although your child may be conscious of the space maintainer at first, after a couple of days, the mouth should feel normal.

To protect the space maintainer, remind your child to:

  1. Avoid chewing gum, sticky foods, or hard foods and ice.
  2. Avoid pushing or pulling on the space maintainer with the tongue or fingers.
  3. Keep the area clean (just like the rest of the teeth) with regular brushing and flossing.

When your child comes in for regular checkups, we will examine the space maintainer to ensure that it still fits properly and that the area is clean. We will also monitor the emerging permanent tooth so that when the time comes, we can remove the space maintainer.

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