Pediatric Dental Specialists of Atlanta

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Space Maintainer

Baby teeth play a crucial role beyond just helping your child chew and speak; they are also pivotal in guiding permanent teeth into their correct positions. Ideally, baby teeth remain until they’re naturally replaced by permanent teeth. However, if a baby tooth is lost too early due to injury or disease, it can lead to potential issues. The adjacent permanent teeth might drift into the space meant for another tooth, leading to misalignment or crowding.

In such cases, we can employ a dental device known as a “space maintainer” to keep the space open for the correct permanent tooth to emerge. These appliances, crafted from metal and/or plastic, can be either fixed to adjacent teeth or designed as removable devices, with their main goal being to support the development of a proper bite and reduce the likelihood of needing braces in the future.

Mother with child smiling

Fixed Space Maintainer

These are cemented onto teeth next to the gap and come in various designs. One common type includes a band that encircles a tooth, connected to a wire loop that extends into the space to prevent other teeth from moving into it. Another design uses a loop attached to a stainless steel crown placed over an adjacent tooth. Fixed maintainers are often recommended for younger children due to their durability and lower risk of being tampered with or lost.

Removable Space Maintainer

Similar to orthodontic retainers worn post-treatment, these can also include a false tooth to replace visible missing teeth. They are more suited to older children who can manage the responsibility of wearing and caring for the appliance.

Custom-made from impressions of your child’s mouth, a space maintainer is worn until x-rays show the underlying permanent tooth is ready to erupt. It’s crucial for the wearer to maintain excellent oral hygiene and attend regular dental check-ups.

Space maintainers are not only useful for prematurely lost baby teeth but also in cases where permanent teeth are congenitally absent. While dental implants are a common solution for missing permanent teeth, they cannot be placed until jaw growth is complete. Therefore, a space maintainer with a false tooth might be utilized as a temporary solution to prevent malocclusion until the appropriate time for implant placement. This proactive approach helps ensure a healthy and well-aligned bite through timely intervention.