If your little one's teeth have begun to fall out, and their permanent replacements appear to be lagging far behind, you may wish to consider a space maintainer to minimize future orthodontic work. Believe it or not, the absence of your child's teeth might seem cute now, but those tiny little gaps can cause deep gouges in your pocketbook as you watch them fill up with teeth that don't belong there. Space maintainers are simple to use, kids get along fine with them, and they have become the standard for protecting the cosmetic and functional aspects of your growing child's mouth.
Why Your Child Might Need a Space Maintainer
When a child's tooth is lost early due to trauma, tooth decay, or nature's insistence that it drop out before its permanent replacement is due, a space maintainer can be used to hold back the natural inclination of teeth to move forward. Without preventing this movement, teeth that should be in the rear of our mouths end up along the sides, and take up precious real estate destined for another tenant. The result is overcrowding, and in some cases impacted teeth. In the end, it's always easier to save the space now, then create it later.
How They Work
Space maintainers are very similar in purpose and design to an adult "bridge," but instead of placing artificial teeth over the gap, the space is kept open to accommodate its future resident. At All Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, we make most space maintainers out of metal, and custom-mold them to the shape of your child's mouth. In most cases, the maintainer is made up of a metal band attached to a rectangular-shaped wire that butts up against the tooth across the gap. This acts to temporarily preserve the space where the baby tooth once was, so its replacement can erupt without obstruction.
Does My Child Need One?
It's important to note that dental space maintainers are not required for all childhood tooth loss, and that we’re not going to suggest you create a decade worth of space maintainers as each tooth falls out of your child's mouth. Our bodies are quite effective at saving space for the loss of our front teeth as well as our incisors - it's the teeth along the sides of our mouths that tend to cause the majority of complications. Of course, each mouth is different, so be sure to discuss with us the best course of action for you and your child. If your child has recently lost a tooth, or several teeth, and it’ll be awhile before they’re scheduled to see Dr. Allen Job, give us a call to see if you should come in a little earlier. You can reach us by clicking here.
Using a space maintainer is an affordable and effective way to ensure your child's teeth come in where they are supposed to, and when they're ready. It can have a positive effect on your wallet, reduce the amount of time your child needs to wear braces, and control the cosmetic appearance of your child's teeth and mouth.
Dr. Allen Job, DDS, MS, MPH, MS is a board certified pediatric dentist who practices in San Diego, California, where he specializes in prevention. He is also an assistant professor at Loma Linda University Department of Pediatric Dentistry.