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. At Kirksville Dental Group, we make most space maintainers out of metal, (sometimes both metal and plastic), and custom-mold them 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.