Why are Space Maintainers Necessary?
Baby teeth are important for a number of reasons. They help children eat properly so they can benefit from a nutritionally balanced diet and each baby tooth acts as a guide for the adult tooth underneath it. If a baby tooth is lost too soon then the remaining teeth may drift out of position, into the empty space, increasing the likelihood that the adult tooth will have insufficient space to erupt normally.
Baby or primary teeth can be lost due to a variety of reasons. Some will become so badly decayed teeth or infected they need to be extracted, while others may be knocked out in an accident. Occasionally a baby tooth will have been missing since birth. When a baby tooth isn’t present, we may suggest fitting your child with a space maintainer. This is a dental appliance which helps keep open the correct amount of space so the adult tooth has sufficient room to come through normally. The space maintainer is used until the adult tooth comes in.
Different Types of Space Maintainers
Space maintainers can be removable or are cemented onto the remaining baby teeth. The exact choice of appliance can depend on the age of the child and whether they will be able to cope with a removable device. Particularly young children are more likely to be fitted with a fixed device while older children who are able to follow instructions may be fitted with a removable device which must be taken out regularly for cleaning.
Removable Space Maintainers
Removable space maintainers look a little like retainers used after orthodontic treatment. They consist of stainless steel and may have plastic teeth or plastic blocks to fill in the gaps left by primary teeth. These types of space maintainers work well for children who are a little older and whose missing teeth may be visible.
Fixed Space Maintainers
There are several different types of fixed space maintainers. Band and loop maintainers consist of a stainless steel band which is cemented to the adjacent tooth. It is attached to a loop which extends across the gap, just touching the tooth on the other side so this space is kept open.
Another type consists of a metal wire called a lingual arch and which is fitted against the inner side of the teeth. The wire is attached to bands which are fitted over the teeth either side of the mouth, immediately behind the missing teeth, holding open the space.
Children who have several missing teeth can be fitted with a partial denture instead of a space maintainer. We may choose to use this solution where the teeth are congenitally missing. The denture is used until adulthood until the missing teeth can be replaced in a more permanent way with either dental implants or a bridge.
We will not always choose to use a space maintainer when primary teeth are lost too soon. Sometimes the adult tooth will be due to come through very shortly and a space maintainer may be unnecessary. Other times, a child may be unwilling to cooperate or might be at risk of injury from wearing a space maintainer. Each space maintainer is custom-made to ensure it fits securely and is comfortable to wear.
Dl510 Space Maintainer, Fixed Unilateral
Dl515 Space Maintainer, Fixed Bilateral
Dl550 Space Maintainer, Recementation
Dl555 Removal of Fixed Space Maintainer