What is a space maintainer?
Once your child has lost a tooth early due to injury or had a tooth extracted due to tooth decay, it leaves a space where the tooth used to be. To keep the adjacent teeth from working their way into the gap, which could cause future overcrowding, your kid’s dentist may recommend a space maintainer. These oral devices hold that space open until your child’s permanent teeth begin to erupt.
A space maintainer is a pediatric oral appliance that maintains the space in your child’s mouth after they experience premature baby tooth loss or tooth extraction. A space maintainer is vital in protecting your child’s mouth from future crowding of teeth.
When is a space maintainer necessary?
In most cases, your child’s baby teeth will stay in place until their adult teeth push them out, taking their place. But there are certain situations where children lose their baby teeth prematurely. The most common reasons for early tooth loss in kids include the following:
- Dental trauma from a sports injury or other type of accident.
- Gum disease that has weakened the gum tissue so that the surrounding bone can no longer support the teeth.
- Various medical conditions like hypophosphatasia or some forms of childhood cancer.
When the adjacent teeth drift into the empty spaces, it can cause a crowded space and permanent teeth will come in crooked. Without a space maintainer to hold the open space, your child may require extensive (and expensive) orthodontic treatment. In addition to these reasons for tooth loss, occasionally, kids need to have a tooth extracted because of extreme tooth decay, tooth overcrowding, a broken or fractured tooth that can’t be repaired, or to prepare for orthodontic treatment.
Space maintainers provide a variety of benefits.
Getting a space maintainer is a painless procedure. Though your child may experience some mild discomfort for a few days after the maintainer is placed, this discomfort is often easily mitigated with over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as ibuprofen. Most kids, and their parents, find the short-term discomfort to be well-worth the benefit. Your child can anticipate experiencing the following benefits from their oral space maintainer treatment:
- Keeping their adjacent teeth in the correct position
- Encouraging the proper eruption of adult teeth
- Minimizing the need for future orthodontic intervention
But what do all of those benefits really mean? Well, a straighter and more confident smile, of course!
Types of Space Maintainers
In most cases, your child’s pediatric dentist will recommend one of two primary kinds of space maintainers. The two primary types of space maintainers include the following.
Fixed Unilateral Appliance
This type of maintainer only maintains the space on one side of the mouth.
Fixed Bilateral Appliance
This type of maintainer is placed when your child has lost teeth on both sides of their mouth.
Space maintainers are easy to care for.
Parents are often reassured to find out that their child’s space maintainers don’t require much in the way of extra care. In fact, your best dentist at Spinnaker Pediatric Dentistry has just four easy-to-follow guidelines for space maintainer patients.
- Avoid sticky sweets or chewing gum, which should be enjoyed in moderation, as they aren’t very good for your teeth.
- Refrain from tugging on the space maintainer with the tongue or fingers.
- Brush your space maintainer with your toothbrush when you brush your teeth twice a day.
- Continue to see your favorite pediatric dentist every six months for a dental cleaning and oral examination.
Ask your child’s pediatric dentist about a space maintainer after tooth extraction.
If your child’s dentist has told you that they need to undergo a tooth extraction, be sure to ask about a space maintainer to hold the gap after the procedure. And if you live in or near Salem, Oregon, why not give Spinnaker Pediatric Dentistry a try? We view our patients as children, and not as little adults. We know that kids have unique needs and fears and so our focus is on making them feel comfortable and at ease.
Our goal is to make every dentist appointment a positive experience for your child. We’re professionals in working with children of all ages. We can help with dental anxiety by providing conscious sedation. And we have several tricks up our sleeves to help your child relax during their procedure!
Going to the dentist or undergoing a tooth extraction doesn’t have to be a scary experience. In fact, we take steps to make sure the tooth extraction is easy-peasy. So, request an appointment for your child today and see why so many other young patients view us as the best dentist in Salem.