Most parents have been in this type of situation: your child may need some dental care, yet you wonder if it’s the best choice for your child, their future – and your wallet. It’s completely normal to have these concerns, especially with something like space maintainers. We don’t exactly hear about them every day! In this article, we’ll help you understand the benefits they provide, the different types offered and what to expect.
Space Maintainers Help With a Perfect Smile
What’s their purpose?
Your child’s primary (baby) teeth generally fall out around when their permanent (adult) teeth are ready to come in. This close timing helps provide a proper path for the erupting permanent tooth, ensuring your child’s tooth comes in correctly and that their bite is aligned.
Yet, when one or more of your child’s primary teeth fall out early from injury or other causes, there’s a resulting gap between their teeth. And that can cause problems - if left untreated. Natural forces like pressure from chewing and biting can move the surrounding teeth out of position and create issues for the permanent tooth that will erupt in the missing spot.
Enter space maintainers. These helpful dental devices help maintain the space (get the name now?) where your child’s primary tooth was lost early. This ensures that the surrounding teeth are not affected and can keep proper distance and alignment, giving the erupting tooth the best chance to grow properly.
Types of space maintainers
There are various types of space maintainers available. Your dental professional will recommend the appropriate one for your child depending on their age, tooth location and your budget, according to Orthodontics Australia.
The design of space maintainers ranges from simple – to having multiple bands and wires. They can be placed on your child’s teeth or the arch of your child’s mouth. Regardless of the design, space maintainers are either attached to one side of the mouth (unilateral) or both (bilateral). Below, we’ll outline the essential details of both fixed and removable space maintainers.
Typically, fixed appliances are cemented onto your child’s teeth, making them non-removable. This helps ensure your child doesn’t take them out so they can do their job.
Types of fixed space maintainers include:
- Band and loop: Consists of metal bands attached to surrounding teeth and connected via wire.
- Transpalatal arch: Consists of a stiff metal band attached to surrounding teeth on both sides of your child’s mouth.
- Distal shoe: Consists of a band placed on the adjacent primary tooth with a metal extension which is placed into the gum tissue to help guide the growth of the permanent tooth behind the space.
- Lingual holding arch: Consists of metal bands fitted around the permanent surrounding teeth on both sides of your child’s mouth and a wire bent into an arch.
Removable appliances are not fixed to your child’s teeth or mouth. You can remove them easily for cleaning or other purposes without the help of a dental professional. It’s more common for dental professionals to recommend the fixed variety, though, as children can easily lose or forget to wear the removable type.
Common maintainer FAQs
Are space maintainers uncomfortable?
A space maintainer may cause some slight discomfort for your child. However, this will be far less than the potential discomfort from permanent teeth that grow incorrectly – and with the resulting treatment required.
Are space maintainers expensive?
Cost is, of course, a common concern of parents when it comes to treating their child’s dental problems. Rest assured that your dental professional is equipped to help you navigate these concerns and offer the best solutions for your budget.
Can space maintainers help save money?
It’s worth considering that a small cost upfront for a space maintainer is far better than more significant dental issues ahead - that may be far more costly to treat.
Maintaining good oral hygiene to prevent oral health problems is you and your child’s best bet when it comes to keeping oral health. Teach your child the importance of oral hygiene – and how to practice it. And if your child has a space maintainer, you or they will need to perform extra cleaning measures.
Fixed space maintainers can make it difficult to clean around and between the affected teeth, so you must give special attention to these areas. Removable space maintainers can be taken out of your child’s mouth. You can gently rinse and clean them twice daily when they brush their teeth, following your dental professional’s instructions.
To care for your child’s teeth and space maintainer during this time, they should:
- Practice proper oral hygiene
- Consume a healthy, balanced diet that limits sugary and acidic items
- Visit their dental professional regularly (your dentist will advise the frequency) to stay ahead of potential problems
The period when your child receives their space maintainer can be a tremendous opportunity to establish healthy habits. With any luck, these habits could last through young adulthood and for the rest of their life. Good oral hygiene habits could save them from the debilitating discomfort of dental issues and protect you from the awful pain of forever reaching for your wallet.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.