Losing a baby tooth too early may cause a child to suffer long-term oral health problems. Fortunately, space maintainers are available that can make it easier for kids to keep the space previously occupied by a baby tooth open and ensure a permanent tooth is able to develop properly.
Here’s a closer look at what a space maintainer does, and why your child may need one.
Understanding the True Value of a Space Maintainer
Baby teeth commonly serve as placeholders until a child’s permanent teeth are ready to develop. In total, a child will develop 20 baby teeth by the age of 3, and these teeth typically fall out in the order in which they erupted.
Usually, a child will lose his or her first baby tooth between the ages of 4 and 7. At this point, a child’s baby tooth will loosen and fall out to make way for a permanent tooth.
But what happens if any of your child’s baby teeth come out before the age of 4? In this situation, you’ll want to consult with a pediatric dentist to guarantee that your child’s permanent teeth are erupting correctly.
However, it also is important to note that baby teeth may fall out earlier than expected for many reasons, including:
- Baby teeth were knocked out in an accident or fall.
- Severe tooth decay forces a pediatric dentist to remove the affected teeth.
- Blood diseases, metabolic disorders or other diseases or conditions lead to early tooth loss.
A space maintainer, meanwhile, offer a viable option if any of your child’s baby teeth are lost before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt or if a permanent tooth is missing altogether. In fact, a space maintainer will ensure your child’s teeth will develop correctly by keeping a space open until a permanent tooth fully develops.
How Can a Space Maintainer Help Your Child?
There are several types of space maintainers, all of which may help your child enjoy a picture-perfect smile for years to come.
A band-and-loop maintainer serves as one of the most common types of space maintainers. This space maintainer consists of stainless steel wire that is held in place by a crown on the tooth or orthodontic-type band adjacent to the open space. Thus, it offers ample space for the permanent tooth to erupt without crowding.
A lingual holding arch (LHA) is an excellent device to use when either multiple teeth are missing early or there is additional concerns for lack of space for permanent teeth eruption. This appliance alone may prevent the need to extract permanent teeth if used correctly and timely.
Also, a distal shoe appliance is available that functions as a fixed-space maintainer. Designed to help children who lose their first permanent molar (the “6-year molar”), this appliance is inserted under the gums and keeps the open space from closing.
If your child loses several teeth, he or she may benefit from a partial denture instead of a space maintainer. In this scenario, the partial denture serves as a removable option that a child can use to replace the missing teeth until adulthood. After a child becomes an adult, he or she can continue to use the partial denture or receive dental implants or a bridge to replace the missing teeth.
Does your child require a space maintainer? Remember, every child is different. But if you consult with a pediatric dentist, you’ll be able to determine whether your child needs a space maintainer and how it could help your son or daughter.