orthodontic space maintainers

Orthodontic Space Maintainers: Everything You Need to Know

Orthodontic space maintainers sound more complicated than they are. If your orthodontist says your child needs an orthodontic space maintainer, it is likely needed to support your child’s dental health. So, what are orthodontic space maintainers and how do they benefit orthodontic care? Let’s take a closer look!

What Are Orthodontic Space Maintainers?

Some children lose a tooth early or may need a baby tooth extracted due to dental decay. When either of these happens, orthodontic space maintainers may be used to hold the original position of that tooth. A space maintainer is an orthodontic appliance that is custom-made of acrylic or metal material. Orthodontic space maintainers can be removable or cemented into the child’s mouth.

The purpose of these appliances is to keep the space open so your child’s permanent tooth can erupt and come into place. Believe it or not, baby teeth are of extreme importance to your child’s oral development. In addition to their permanent teeth coming in, baby teeth help with the development of the jaw bones and muscles. If a child loses their baby teeth prematurely, their remaining teeth may shift into the open space, causing a problem when it’s time for permanent teeth to come in.

Are There Different Types of Space Maintainers?

When it comes to orthodontic space maintainers for children, you have two options.

  • Removable space maintainers are generally made of acrylic. They are similar to orthodontic appliances and can even be made as an artificial tooth that is used to fill the space until the permanent teeth erupt.
  • Fixed space maintainers come in four different types-unilateral, crown and loop, distal shoe, and lingual.
    • Unilateral is placed on the side of the mouth to hold the space open for one tooth. It wraps around the outside of the tooth and is connected to a metal loop that holds the space.
    • Crown and loop are placed the same way as unilateral except the crown cover the tooth and is attached to a loop that ensures there is enough room for the new, permanent tooth to come through.
    • Distal shoe is used for unerupted first permanent molar teeth. These are inserted into the gum line to keep the space from closing. These are more complicated and require ongoing monitoring from your orthodontist.
    • Lingual is bilateral and cemented to the molar teeth. They are connected by a wire that rests on the inside of the lower front teeth. These are more commonly used for more than one missing tooth.

Space Maintainer Maintenance

Once your child’s orthodontist places the space maintainer, it may take a few days for your child to get used to the new appliance. Your child’s orthodontist will explain how to properly wear orthodontic space maintainers and how to clean them. You should closely monitor their oral hygiene routine as the teeth will need a little more attention to keep gums healthy and free from plaque buildup.

For children using fixed orthodontic space maintainers, most of the foods that should be avoided when a patient has braces should also be avoided. Sugary, chewy foods or gum and candy can loosen the appliance or get caught in the appliance, causing unnecessary problems.

Your child will need to schedule regular orthodontic appointments to monitor the progress of the orthodontic space maintainer. They should also continue their regular six-month checkups with their dentist to ensure their oral health is maintained. Although orthodontic space maintainers sound complicated, that’s really all there is to it! Talk to your orthodontist about which option will work best for your child. Once they get used to it, they will forget it’s even there!