Just as every child is unique, so are their teeth! Every child’s teeth grow and develop at different rates, often outside of what is considered “average” for their age — and that is okay. If your child has lost a baby (primary) tooth earlier than expected, or if your child has had a tooth extraction as a result of decay, he or she may be eligible for a dental space maintainer. A space maintainer will aid in ensuring your child’s permanent adult teeth grow in properly. They are often used as part of larger orthodontic treatment plans for children.
When properly cared for, space maintainers should not cause any prolonged discomfort to your child as his or her other teeth continue to grow.
Types of Space Maintainers
Pediatric dental space maintainers simply maintain the space that is left behind after a baby tooth is prematurely lost so that the permanent tooth can grow in properly without other teeth shifting in the way and causing problems. Space maintainers for children are made of either acrylic or metal, and are specially customized by the orthodontist to fit your child’s mouth and oral needs. Dental space maintainers come in two categories — removable and fixed.
Removable space maintainers are generally acrylic and function somewhat like orthodontic appliances. They may include artificial teeth to fill in the space left from a prematurely lost baby tooth until the permanent tooth is ready to grow in.
Fixed space maintainers are available in more varieties. Crown and loop, and unilateral space maintainers each maintain space for a single tooth. Whereas the unilateral space maintainer connects to a metal loop while wrapping around the outside of the tooth, the crown and loop functions as a dental crown covering the tooth while attached to the loop. Another type of fixed space maintainer is a distal shoe, which is placed into the gumline for a molar. Finally, a lingual space maintainer is more often used when there are multiple missing teeth, and it functions bilaterally while cemented to the molars and connected via a wire placed inside the lower front teeth.
Getting Your Child Used to a Space Maintainer
While a space maintainer should cause no pain, your child may take a few days to become accustomed to wearing it. Minor discomfort can be expected in the first few days, but should last no longer. Contact your orthodontist or dentist, depending on who placed the space maintainer, if prolonged discomfort occurs. Your child may also initially experience a difference in speech if they have a removable space maintainer. This will pass as your child is able to adjust his or her speech while wearing the space maintainer.
Proper care of a space maintainer is essential to its effectiveness. Slacking on oral hygiene, mishandling the space maintainer, skipping orthodontist and dentist appointments, and not avoiding certain foods can all cause complications. Be sure to learn how to thoroughly clean your child’s space maintainer, and ensure that your child is properly brushing his or her teeth. Visit your child’s orthodontist and dentist every six months to track treatment progress and overall health. Sticky foods, hard handy, gum and other chewy, sugary foods should be avoided, as they can damage space maintainer wires. Finally, it is important to never press or push the space maintainer with the fingers or tongue — this can damage the maintainer.
Receive the Best Orthodontic Treatment
Whether you are in need of space maintainers for your child or other orthodontic treatment options, consider Wiewiora & Dunn Orthodontics for thorough, high-quality care from either of our Seminole County locations in Longwood or Lake Mary. See our smile gallery to view the wide variety of cases we have treated with great success, then contact us to schedule a consultation and learn more about treatment options for your child or yourself!