At New England Orthodontic Specialists, we specialize in a wide variety of orthodontic appliances. Many of these appliances are designed to prevent potential problems and improve your long-term oral health. For this reason, children and adolescents have the most to gain from orthodontic treatment.
If your child has recently lost a baby (primary) tooth due to trauma, injury, or any other unexpected reason, they may need an orthodontic appliance known as a space maintainer. It is ideal for children to have treatment sooner rather than later in-order for their adult teeth will have room to emerge. A space maintainer can potentially save space for your child’s permanent teeth to erupt and prevent the need for extraction of permanent teeth in the future.
The problem with premature tooth loss
Unexpected tooth loss is an unfortunate part of life for many children. Some children experience trauma or injury due to an accident, while others develop early childhood cavities that require a tooth extraction. Regardless of why, it is important to take action immediately following premature tooth loss.
When a primary tooth is lost prematurely, it can create some secondary complications later down the line. In many cases, the remaining baby teeth will shift out of the proper alignment into the open space created by premature tooth loss. This can lead to eruption issues with their permanent teeth and could result in permanent teeth being impacted.
When to consider a space maintainer
We typically recommend a space maintainer when a primary tooth has been lost early or extracted due to tooth decay. If a baby tooth is lost close to the eruption of your child’s permanent tooth, a space maintainer may not be necessary. If the baby tooth is lost long before its replacement permanent tooth is set to come in, then a space maintainer may be the ideal solution.
Space maintainers can also be useful if one or more of your child’s permanent teeth are missing due to genetics. It is possible that your child was born without some of his or her permanent teeth. This situation is more common than you may think. The ideal solution may be a dental implant when your child is fully grown. In the meantime, a space maintainer can help prevent your child’s permanent teeth from shifting out of their proper position.
Types of space maintainers
There are two major types of space maintainers: removable and fixed. During your child’s consultation appointment, our doctors will be able to determine if a space maintainer is indicated for your child. The type of space maintainer recommended will depend on the location of the missing tooth and how long your child will need it.
A removable space maintainer is similar to a conventional retainer, with one exception: the acrylic base is attached to one or more artificial teeth. This type of space maintainer is often used for missing anterior (front) teeth when aesthetics is a concern. This may be the ideal solution until dental implant treatment is a viable option.
A fixed space maintainer is attached to the teeth surrounding the open space. This type of space maintainer is typically most suitable for younger children missing posterior (back) primary teeth. In most cases, a fixed space maintainer is a metal appliance bonded to the teeth adjacent to the space with dental cement.
Talk with our doctors to learn more about your child’s options.