How Space Maintainers Work

Posted on: November 15, 2016

Space MaintainersWe can provide your child with space maintainers during an orthodontic visit. Most parents are not aware of how these devices work since the devices are not visible and rarely discussed. However, space maintainers are incredibly useful as a preventative measure.

Space maintainers are typically made of metal, though sometimes they are made of acrylic instead. Space maintainers are custom-made for your child’s mouth since it needs to fit securely in place and be comfortable. We use them to preserve or create space for your child’s permanent teeth. For example, if your child loses one of their baby teeth early because they had an infection and needed an extraction, this will leave an open space where the tooth once was.

Similarly, if your child has an accident and their baby teeth are knocked out, it will leave a hole where it once was; this is problematic because the mouth adjusts to the current circumstances. When a tooth is no longer there, the teeth surrounding it will begin to encroach on its position. Essentially, the space that the baby tooth was preserving for a permanent adult tooth will no longer be available. As a result, when it is time for the adult tooth to grow in, it will have nowhere to go and either have to come in crooked, in front or behind other teeth.

Space Maintainers

A space maintainer works to prevent this by keeping the space open for your child’s adult tooth.  There are versions of space maintainers that we cement into your child’s mouth. Whit this version, your child will not need to worry about taking the space maintainers out. Typically, young children are not responsible enough to be concerned with doing so. However, if your child is slightly older, a removable space maintainer with an acrylic tooth can be created to restore the appearance of their smile.

There are three main types of space maintainers:

  • Lingual. Bilateral in nature, a lingual space maintainer is typically cemented to molar teeth and connected with a wire. We typically recommend this type if several teeth are missing.
  • Crown and loop. This is a common type of space maintainer . We wrap it around the outside of the tooth. A metal loop is then connected to it in order to keep the space open.
  • Distal shoe.  This is a complicated type of maintainer because they use it for a permanent molar that has not yet erupted. The end of the metal needs to be inserted into the gum line so sometimes this is placed surgically.

These are basic explanations of the types of space maintainers and how they work. We will go over them with you in greater detail when you bring your child in for an examination. We need to conduct a physical examination and may also want to take X-rays before making a recommendation. Our objective will be to preserve the space that needs to exist for their permanent adult tooth. As a result, the chance of them needing to wear braces for a prolonged period of time will be reduced.


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