While your dentist will try to save your child's teeth from being extracted, it's not always possible with trauma or deep decay. The downside of extracting a baby tooth too early is that there might not be enough room for your child's incoming adult teeth to erupt. Your child's jaw may not have grown enough yet to support incoming teeth or his or her other baby teeth may crowd the area of incoming adult teeth. This can be a problem since it may cause pain from tooth impaction; if the tooth is able to erupt, then it may come in crooked. Thankfully, your orthodontist can prevent these types of issues with a space maintainer. Read on to learn more.
What Is a Space Maintainer?
A space maintainer is an orthodontic appliance that saves enough space for an erupting adult tooth. Typically, a metal band will be placed around one of your child's baby teeth. This band will have a wire loop that's soldered to it; the loop will extend over the gum line where the adult tooth should erupt. The wire will extend over the gum line to keep other baby teeth from shifting.
Which Type Does Your Child Need?
There are different types of space maintainers depending on your orthodontist's preferences and your child's needs. Your child could need a distal shoe maintainer if they need space for an adult molar. Distal shoe maintainers are a little more complex because one end of the wire loop is slightly embedded into the gum line.
If your child had to have multiple tooth extractions, then they may need a bilateral space maintainer.
If your child has decay in a baby tooth, then your dentist may place a crown-and-loop space maintainer, where the tooth is protected from further decay with a crown, and a wire loop is attached to it to maintain space for incoming teeth.
How Long Does Your Child Have to Wear It?
The length of treatment depends on your child's needs. Usually, your child will only need to wear the appliance until x-rays reveal that the incoming adult tooth is ready to erupt without compromising your child's bite.
How Do You Maintain the Appliance?
If your child is very young, you will want to help them brush and floss each night to make sure the bands and wires don't trap any food. Similar to braces, your child won't be able to have chewy or sticky foods since these can damage the appliance. You may also want to watch your child's sugar intake, as it can be harder to clean around the tooth with the band or crown.
Reach out to an orthodontist to learn more.