Space Maintainers are small appliances placed in a child’s mouth when baby teeth are lost prematurely. Their primary function is to prevent unwanted movement of the remaining baby and/or permanent teeth that occur when deciduous teeth are lost earlier than expected.
One of the best ways to understand a space maintainer is with a photo:
This child lost one of her baby tooth molars on her lower right due to a large cavity and subsequent dental abscess. The offending tooth was removed by us and we placed a space maintainer. By doing so, we prevented significant orthodontic problems down the road.
Why Space Maintainers are Needed
Deciduous teeth (most commonly called baby teeth) serve multiple functions. The obvious functions include chewing, esthetics, proper speech development, and many others. But one overlooked function is critical: baby teeth help maintain the proper space needed for the adult teeth to erupt into the proper position.
Premature loss of baby teeth can then lead to:
- Severe crowding of adult teeth when they erupt.
- Tilting or significant leaning of adult teeth.
- Decay and/or gum problems in the adult teeth.
In nearly all cases, if a space maintainer is not used, significant and lengthy orthodontic treatment becomes inevitable.
Are Space Maintainers Always Needed?
No. Spacers are not always necessary. For example, when upper front teeth are lost, spacers are not needed. There are several factors that determine this, including
- Age of the child.
- Location of tooth loss.
- Number of tooth/teeth missing or about to be extracted.
- Size of the jaw.
- And other factors.
We always evaluate our pediatric patients and advise the parents if space maintainers are needed. Contact us if you would like more information or call us at (203) 799 – 2929.