If your little one's teeth have begun to fall out, and their permanent replacements appear to be lagging far behind, you may wish to consider a space maintainer to minimize future orthodontic work. Believe it or not, the absence of your child's teeth might seem cute now, but those tiny little gaps can cause deep gouges in your pocketbook as you watch them fill up with teeth that don't belong there. Space maintainers are simple to use, kids get along fine with them, and they have become the de-facto standard for protecting the cosmetic and functional aspects of your growing child's mouth.
Why Your Child Might Need a Space Maintainer
When a child's tooth is lost early due to trauma, tooth decay, or nature's insistence that it drop out before its permanent replacement is due, a space maintainer can be used to hold back the natural inclination of teeth to move forward. Without preventing this movement, teeth that should be in the rear of our mouths end up along the sides, and take up precious real estate destined for another tenant. The result is overcrowding, and in some cases impacted teeth. In the end, it's always easier to save the space now, then create it later.
How They Work
Space maintainers are very similar in purpose and design to an adult "bridge," but instead of placing artificial teeth over the gap, the space is kept open to accommodate its future resident. Most maintainers are made of metal, (sometimes both metal and plastic), and are custom-molded to the shape of your child's mouth. In most cases, the maintainer is made up of a metal band attached to a rectangular-shaped wire that butts up against the tooth across the gap. This acts to temporarily preserve the space where the baby tooth once was, so its replacement can erupt without obstruction. To some, the final product looks like an old Radio Flyer® snow sled, or a shoe horn you might use to maintain the shape of unworn shoes.
Does My Child Need One?
It's important to note that dental space maintainers are not required for all childhood tooth loss, and that your dentist isn't going to suggest you create a decade worth of space maintainers as each tooth falls out of your child's mouth. Our bodies are quite effective at saving space for the loss of our front teeth as well as our incisors - it's the teeth along the sides of our mouths that tend to cause the majority of complications. Of course, each mouth is different, and your dentist can suggest the best course of action for you and your child.
Using a space maintainer is an affordable and effective way to ensure your child's teeth come in where they are supposed to, and when they're ready. It can have a positive effect on your wallet, reduce the amount of time your child needs to wear braces, and control the cosmetic appearance of your child's teeth and mouth.