Space Maintainers – A Tooth Loss Secret Weapon


When children lose their primary teeth prematurely, the consequences go far beyond the gaping space in their smile. Besides chewing, primary teeth act as space holders for the permanent teeth that eventually replace them. When teeth are lost too soon the natural guidance system for the adult tooth is affected. This means that surrounding teeth can drift into the path of the upcoming adult tooth or that same tooth can shift on its own and grow in the wrong position. As you can imagine, this can be very problematic for youngsters.


There are several reasons teeth can be lost or be missing. They include;


  • trauma to the tooth and surrounding tissues

  • advanced tooth decay that requires extraction

  • missing teeth as a birth defect

  • various diseases and conditions that cause tooth loss


So how can drifting teeth and crowding be fended off until adult teeth are ready to take their place in your mouth? Thanks to simple and effective devices known as space maintainers.


What are Space Maintainers?


Fans of things that are appropriately named will be happy to know that dental space maintainers are exactly what their name implies; oral health appliances that maintain the room required for adult teeth to erupt and grow in good health and position.


space maintainer

Two Examples of Space Maintainers


The long-term planning of growth and spacing can ensure your young ones avoid unnecessary orthodontic treatment as well as potentially painful tooth crowding. These benefits are obviously very wallet friendly as well.


Discussing Space Maintainers With Your Dental Professionals


In order for space maintainers to serve their purpose, it is critical that your dental professional develops and discusses a long term growth and space management plan with you. There are various types of space maintainers and using them to ensure that a child’s jaw and teeth grow into adulthood optimally is extremely important.


Space maintainers can be as small as the length of two teeth or involve an entire appliance structure that is worn on half of the mouth. The most common of all devices is the band and loop style space maintainer. This involves a band that fitted and cemented to a neighbouring tooth along with a wire loop that leans against the tooth on the other side of the space to be maintained. A common and more secure substitute for bands are crowns that are fitted over the tooth. Each band and loop have to be custom measured and fitted to ensure a perfect fit. By cementing the maintainer to the tooth, the dentist and parents can take comfort in knowing that it will not present a choking hazard down the line.


Other common styles of space maintainers are bilateral ones that maintain spaces on both sides of the mouth simultaneously. Such appliances have plastic plates that rest against the palate of the mouth. These devices obviously require custom fitting and measurement to ensure the proper guidance of teeth.


Bilateral Space Maintainer

Bilateral Space Maintainer


Beyond the obvious long-term benefits, space maintainers are a cost effective means of preventing discomfort, embarrassment and the prevention of unnecessary treatment. Feel free to discuss options with your dental professional should your child suffer a prematurely lost tooth.


Source and Photos: Atlas of Pediatric Dentistry, University of Toronto

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