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Space Maintainers

Dental space maintainers can help keep the space for an adult tooth open if the baby tooth has been lost too early.


A space maintainer is an appliance that is custom-made by a dentist or orthodontist in acrylic or metal material.
It can be either removable or cemented in a child's mouth.
Its purpose is to keep the space open to allow the permanent tooth to erupt and come into place.

When to Consider Space Maintainers


Regardless of why a child has missing primary teeth, it's important to consider space maintainers to ensure he or she develops permanent teeth in correct locations.
If one primary tooth is missing for more than a short period, the child risks other teeth becoming loose because they aren't properly supported.
When this happens, the loose teeth can move into the spaces intended for other teeth.
This affects permanent teeth when they erupt by guiding them into incorrect positions.
If your child loses primary teeth to make way shortly for permanent ones, it might not be necessary to fit maintainers.
If permanent teeth are some time away, however, consult with your dentist to determine whether maintainers are a suitable option.


Types of Appliances


Space maintainers come in two types: removable and fixed.
Removable devices are made of acrylic and use artificial teeth or blocks of dental material to hold open the spaces.
This device works better in an older child, who can remove the appliance to clean and care for it. Partial dentures are suitable removable maintainers for children with several missing teeth.
Fixed maintainers are attached with dental cement to teeth beside the gap.
These are more suitable for young children or those who have lost a back tooth.
Unilateral maintainers are fixed on one side, while bilateral appliances are fixed on both sides.
They can be fitted on the upper or lower jaw to maintain space for front or back teeth.
The device your dentist recommends depends on the number and location of missing teeth.
These appliances are custom-made to fit each child.
In most instances, the dentist takes impressions of the patient's mouth, which are sent to a dental laboratory to manufacture the device.
Space maintainers are typically made from acrylic, with loops or bands made from stainless steel wires to hold them in position.


Oral Care for Appliances


It takes time for a child to adapt to wearing a device.
During this time the dentist keeps an eye on oral hygiene, jaw growth and progression of the permanent teeth.
The maintainer needs adjustment periodically and requires immediate attention if it gets damaged.
The child will have to brush daily with a fluoride-based toothpaste.
The child will need to avoid chewing gum, biting hard candy and fruits, and pushing or pulling the device with fingers or other objects.


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