Avoid crowding of teeth
A space maintainer is a device used to hold the spot left by a baby tooth that was lost due to decay or injury. This keeps the space available until the permanent tooth emerges. Without the space maintainer, nearby teeth can move into the space created by the loss of the baby tooth. A space maintainer is a passive device, meaning it does not move teeth, so there is no pain associated with it.
A variety of options
There are a number of options for space maintainers. Some are simple, and some contain many wires and bands. They can be fixed in place or removable. If the child is very young, a fixed space maintainer is preferable so the appliance is not accidentally removed, lost, or damaged. Space maintainers can be on one side of the mouth or cover both sides.
Typically a space maintainer consists of a metal band that is placed around a tooth, next to the open space, and a wire loop that is used to push against another tooth in order to keep the space open. Sometimes, instead of a band, an entire crown is placed over the adjacent tooth.
Alternatively, the space maintainer can consist of two metal bands (or crowns) that wrap around teeth on either side of the mouth. These bands are connected by a stiff arched wire that sits behind the front teeth. This way the molars are not allowed to move into the empty space created by the missing teeth. Some space maintainers also include fake baby teeth to help the patient chew and to have a more pleasing appearance.
Easy to keep clean
It’s important to keep the space maintainer clean so that plaque does not decay the tooth that it is attached to. Often a space maintainer may be in place for a number of years, so it is extremely important to keep it clean. Removable space maintainers can be taken out each evening and brushed with your regular toothbrush. Fixed space maintainers will require you and your child to carefully brush and floss it daily.
If your child has a space maintainer, it is important that he or she does not eat sticky candy or hard, crunchy foods that may pull it out.
Once the permanent tooth is ready to erupt, the orthodontist will remove the space maintainer, and the new tooth will take its place without crowding the teeth around it.