If your child loses a tooth too early or has one extracted due to tooth decay, they may need a space maintainer. If you find yourself in such situations, you need to understand how this process works.
What are Space Maintainers?
A space maintainer is a custom-made oral appliance meant to keep a space open so that the permanent tooth can emerge and settle into place. These devices consist of either metal or acrylic material.
Baby teeth have a crucial role to play in helping teeth, jawbones, and muscles develop properly. They also guide permanent teeth into place. If a space is not maintained properly, adjacent teeth can move into it and your child may need orthodontic intervention. Space maintainers aren't needed for every kid who loses baby teeth early or due to tooth decay, however. Dr. Victoria or Dr. Rodriguez will examine your child to see if they need one.
What Types of Space Maintainers are Available?
The two types of space maintainers for children are fixed and removable. Fixed space maintainers come in four different types, namely, distal shoe, lingual, crown and loop, and unilateral.
Fixed Space Maintainers
We generally use the distal shoe space maintainer for unerupted permanent first molars. This model is more complicated because the end of the metal is often inserted into the gumline to keep the space open. Dr. Victoria or Dr. Rodriguez will track the progress of the molar as it comes in to ensure it erupts properly.
Lingual space maintainers are generally bilateral and are used in cases where more than one tooth is missing. We can cement it to molar teeth and connect it using a wire on the inside of the child's lower front teeth.
The crown and loop and unilateral space maintainers are similar in that they are inserted on one side of the mouth to create space for one tooth. The crown and loop model covers the tooth with a crown and is attached to the loop to make sure there's space for the emerging tooth. Unilateral space maintainers surround the tooth's exterior and are connected to a metal loop that holds the space open.
Removable Space Maintainers
Removable space maintainers resemble orthodontic appliances and are usually made from acrylic. We also use artificial teeth to fill a space that needs to remain open for an unerupted tooth in certain cases.
In cases where children are missing teeth due to congenital diseases, we may need to use a partial denture instead of a space maintainer. Whatever the case, Dr. Victoria or Dr. Rodriguez will work with you to determine what the best option for your child is.
Wearing a Space Maintainer
Once we've made the space maintainer, the child may need a few days to get used to it, whether it's removable or fixed. Dr. Victoria or Dr. Rodriguez will explain how to clean the space maintainer, as well as how to brush and floss properly. She will need to see your child once every 6 months to examine the treatment process and to give professional cleanings.
If your child gets a fixed space maintainer, they will need to avoid candy, gum, and foods that are sugary or chewy, as they can get stuck in the appliance or cause it to loosen. The child must not press on the appliance with their tongue or fingers, as this can bend or loosen it.
For more information, please contact our office at 256-712-4080.
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