Sometimes, baby teeth need to be taken out prematurely due to large dental cavities, infections or other dental related issues. As a result, the space that baby tooth use to occupy will need to be preserved for the permanent tooth underneath. The permanent tooth underneath the baby tooth that was taken out prematurely may not be due to erupt into that space for several years. If a space maintainer is not used to preserve this space, then that space can be lost (teeth next to that space will move into that space) blocking the permanent tooth underneath from coming in when it needs to. This will result in the need for braces to correct this spacing issue. Even if your child will need braces in the future, placing a space maintainer will help prevent your child’s orthodontic treatment (braces) from becoming more costly and complicated.
What are some of the reasons why children lose their baby teeth before they are supposed to?
Usually, a baby tooth remains in place until the permanent tooth (which develops underneath the baby tooth) has developed and pushes the baby tooth out and takes its place. Sometimes a baby tooth is knocked out or is lost prematurely due to dental disease.
What is a space maintainer and how does it work?
A space maintainer is a metal ring that has a metal bar soldered onto it. It serves to maintain the space of a tooth or teeth that were lost prematurely. The metal ring or rings are cemented onto a tooth or teeth inside your child’s mouth, and will remain there until the permanent tooth or teeth erupt into the mouth. There are different kinds of space maintainers, and the type that is chosen is dependent upon which tooth or teeth are missing. Your child’s pediatric dentist will review the different types of space maintainers with you, and help choose the right space maintainer for your child.
Any special care instructions with space maintainers?
Unfortunately, space maintainers can break or fall off of the tooth or teeth that they are cemented to. Your child must avoid sticky and crunchy foods/snacks (e.g., hard candy, fruit roll-ups, gum, Butterfingers, etc.) as these food choices may break or cause the space maintainer to come out or become loose. These food choices may also cause the space maintainer to move and cause tissue irritation as a result. If the space maintainer becomes too loose, you must be careful that your child does not swallow the space maintainer. If any of these issues arise, then take your child to see their pediatric dentist immediately.
Why shouldn’t we just take teeth out with holes… aren’t they going to fall out anyways?
Baby teeth do a lot more than help your child chew their food. They help with normal development of the jaw structures and they save space for permanent teeth and help guide them into the appropriate space. Remember, some baby teeth are not replaced by permanent teeth until a child is closer to 12 years of age (sometimes older). If a baby tooth is lost before it is supposed to, a space maintainer may be needed so that the teeth surrounding that space do not move into that space. If that space is lost before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt into the mouth, then that permanent tooth may not have enough space to come in and become blocked as a result. This will cause severe bite problems for your child as they grow older, which can only be corrected by braces. Even if your child needs braces, it is best not to allow any space loss to occur as this may make your child’s orthodontic treatment even more complicated, take longer, and cost you more money.