Space Maintainers

Kid missing teeth.Your child's little baby teeth have some big responsibilities. Until the adolescent years, they will not only help your youngster bite and chew (i.e., get proper nutrition) and speak correctly but also help guide the permanent teeth underneath them into proper position. In fact, a major function of baby teeth is to hold space for the adult teeth that will eventually push them out.

At least that's how it's supposed to work; sometimes, however, injury or disease can cause a baby tooth to be lost prematurely. When that happens, the permanent teeth that are coming in on either side can actually drift into the space that was reserved for another tooth. This can cause teeth to erupt out of position or to be blocked entirely, and it may result in crowded or crooked teeth.

Fortunately, if your child loses a tooth prematurely, there's a dental appliance that can be used to hold the space open for the permanent tooth that is meant to fill it. The device is, not surprisingly, called a “space maintainer” or a “space maintenance appliance.” Made of metal and/or plastic, space maintainers can be fixed (cemented) or removable, but either way their purpose is the same: to help your child develop the best bite possible and hopefully avoid the need for braces later on.

Fixed appliances are cemented onto adjacent teeth. They are made in many different designs: One consists of a band that goes around a tooth and then a wire loop that extends out from the band to hold the space; another features a loop attached to a stainless steel crown, which goes over a nearby tooth. In either case, the loop extends just to the point where it touches the next tooth. Fixed space maintainers are often preferred with younger children, because they are less easy to fidget with, break, or misplace than appliances that can be removed.

Removable appliances look like the type of retainer that is worn at the end of orthodontic treatment. It can have a false tooth on it, which is particularly useful when the lost tooth was visible in the mouth. Older children can usually handle the responsibility of wearing this appliance and caring for it properly.

Whether fixed or removable, your child's space maintainer will be custom-made after we take impressions of his or her mouth. A child will wear a space maintainer until x-rays reveal that the tooth underneath is ready to erupt naturally. It is very important that anyone wearing a space maintainer keep up good oral hygiene at home and have regular professional dental cleanings.

Space maintainers are also useful when one or more permanent teeth are congenitally missing — in other words, they have never existed at all. In cases like this, which are not uncommon, permanent dental implant teeth are often recommended for adolescents or adults to replace a tooth they weren't born with. But timing is very important with dental implants — they can't be placed in a growing child. Therefore, it is very important to use a space maintainer with a false tooth on it until jaw growth is complete and an implant can be appropriately placed. It's a simple, non-invasive way we can avoid a malocclusion (bad bite) with some timely intervention.

Related Articles

Baby Teeth - Dear Doctor Magazine

Early Loss of Baby Teeth If baby teeth are lost prematurely, other teeth can shift into the new space so that there is not enough room left for the permanent teeth to come in correctly; crowding or crooked teeth can result. Fortunately, a special oral appliance called a “space maintainer” has been designed to solve this problem... Read Article

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Hagerstown, MD

 

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Frederick, MD

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Hagerstown, MD

Monday:

8:30 am-5:00 pm

Tuesday:

8:30 am-5:00 pm

Wednesday:

8:30 am-5:00 pm

Thursday:

8:30 am-5:00 pm

Friday:

Closed

Saturday:

Closed

Sunday:

Closed

  • "[Review for Frederick Pediatric Dentistry]
    Kate became nervous for her exam when she sat in the chair. Dr. Amigo changed her schedule and did an exam on my older daughter first. Because Kate saw Anna getting the exam she then agreed to go with the hygienist. The hygienist was so caring and gentle with Kate. I know their schedule got thrown off because of this but that change gave Kate the confidence to do the exam and I appreciate it greatly. Irma, the dental assistant even came out to give the girls prizes when we were about to leave which made their day. Thank you all for being flexible in order to provide a positive experience for my children."
    By Katherine Marshall on 09/23/2020
  • "[Review for Frederick Pediatric Dentistry]
    Felt very safe and comfortable with all the Covid-19 ins we waited in our car till they called us and told us to meet up at the door are temperatures were taken hand sanitizer was given no air tools were used one way in one way out they literally thought of everything they could to protect their staff and the kids. It was a very pleasant experience during very unpleasant times"
    By Shayla Leatherman on 08/19/2020
  • "[Review for Frederick Pediatric Dentistry]
    For being a pediatric practice, they really do make my 5 year old feel comfortable. They took all the proper COVID-19 safety measures, which made me comfortable as well. The staff is professional and friendly, and they truly do make coming to the dentist an enjoyable experience."
    By Aubrey Schemm on 07/22/2020
  • "[Review for Frederick Pediatric Dentistry of Hagerstown]
    great experience every time. My Kids had a great time.My son who was terrified of dentists did absolutely wonderful at this first visit!!! The dental hygienists are very professional and very good at their jobs. One can tell off the bat that they have great experience with kids! would recommend them every time. Keep up the great work!"
    By Anonymous on 09/22/2020
  • "[Review for Frederick Pediatric Dentistry of Hagerstown]
    I have always loved this dentistry! Very glad to still have them for a dentist for my youngest daughter, as her brother would only let Dr Joe look at and do anything to his teeth growing up. Then he's seen my middle child and she still continues to come here! I wish he or his office would see adults cause I'm SURE my son would definitely come back to see Dr Joe, as I would love for him to be my dentist as well. All the employees are so friendly and if need anything they are there to help out anyway they can! They make you as well as your children feel very comfortable."
    By Aaliyah Frisby on 08/26/2020
  • "[Review for Frederick Pediatric Dentistry of Hagerstown]
    definitely from arrival to departure, the attention is super good especially with the protocol for the Covid-19 100% recommended"
    By Karianys Santiago on 06/26/2020
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