Baby teeth aren’t just for chewing. Each one also acts as a guide for the eruption of the permanent tooth that replaces it. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent tooth loses its guide. It can drift or erupt into the wrong position in the mouth. Neighboring teeth also can move or tilt into the space. This means that there may not be enough space for the permanent tooth to come in. To prevent this from happening, the dentist may recommend a space maintainer to hold open the space left by the missing tooth.
There are many different types of space maintainers. The more commonly used ones are named as follows:
- Band and Loop
- Lower lingual holding arch
Are space maintainers always necessary?
Not every tooth that is lost too early requires a space maintainer. If one of the four upper or lower front teeth is lost early, the space will stay open on its own until the permanent tooth comes in.
Also, if the permanent tooth is about to erupt soon, the dentist may decide that a space maintainer is not needed unless your child requires braces and space is a critical issue.
Some children may not be able to cooperate during the process of making the space maintainer. Others may be at risk of injury if the space maintainer comes loose or breaks. These include children with diseases that affect how they breathe or swallow, and children who are very young. The ability to cooperate with the dentist is more important than a child’s age. Fortunately, most young children can cooperate for the placement of space maintainers, if needed.