A space maintainer is a dental tool that helps to keep nearby teeth developing in the correct location in the event that a tooth has fallen out or has needed to be removed. Space maintainers are usually used in children who lose a baby tooth ahead of schedule to keep the other teeth from crowding into the now open nearby space.
Types of Space Maintainers
Because of the nature of the device, space maintainers are custom made by a dentist or orthodontist in acrylic or metal material. They can be removable or may be a permanent fixture until neighboring teeth have reached an appropriate stage. Here’s a closer look at each type of device:
- Removable Space Maintainer – These removable space maintainers are usually made of acrylic and may even include an artificial tooth to fill the space left by the lost tooth.
- Fixed Space Maintainer – Dentists use one of four different types of fixed space maintainers; crown and loop, distal shoe, linguar and unilateral.
Unilateral and crown and loop space maintainers are placed on one side of a person’s mouth to hold space open for a missing tooth. A unilateral space maintainer wraps around the outside of the tooth and is connected to a metal loop that prevents the space from becoming infringed upon. As for the crown and loop, there is a crown that covers the tooth that is attached to a loop to maintain space for the emerging tooth.
Distal shoe space maintainers are primarily used to keep space for unerupted permanent molar teeth. It is a little more complex than other space maintainers because part of the piece is inserted into the gumline to keep the open space from closing. Bilateral space maintainers are usually cemented to molar teeth and connected by a wire on the inside of the lower front teeth, and is more commonly used when more than one tooth is missing. Regardless of what type of space maintainer you receive, your dentist will regularly inspect the device and your mouth to ensure the permanent teeth are developing as expected.
Wearing A Space Maintainer
It may take a few days to get used to the space maintainer, but wear it as instructed by your dentist or orthodontist. Your dentist will also walk you through cleaning instructions for both your mouth and the device. Continuing to have good oral hygiene is very important if you have a space maintainer.
Finally, you’ll also need to be cognizant of the foods you are eating if you have a fixed maintainer. Sugary or overly chewy foods should be avoided, as they can get stuck to the device and become difficult to clean. You should also avoid pressing on the device with your tongue or teeth, as this can damage the space maintainer and lead to irritation.
Similar to braces or a retainer, a space maintainer will take some getting used to, but know that it’s not a permanent device and that it is important in ensuring you have a healthy smile with your adult teeth. If you have concerns about your child’s teeth or how they can best use their space maintainer, be sure to reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.