What is a space maintainer?
A space maintainer is a small appliance that effectively preserves the gap created by a missing tooth, so that when the time comes for the adult tooth to erupt, it can do so without any problems.
Why does my child need space maintainers?
Your child’s baby teeth have some big responsibilities. Until the adolescent years, they will not only help your child to bite and chew (i.e. get proper nutrition), and speak correctly, but also help guide the permanent teeth underneath them into their proper position. In fact, a major function of baby teeth is to hold space for the adult teeth that will eventually push them out.
If your child loses a tooth due to injury, infection or because an extraction is required, the missing space between the teeth may lead to overcrowding or crooked teeth. This is because the teeth coming in on either side of the space will begin to drift into the empty space, meaning there is insufficient space for their adult teeth.
A space maintainer can prevent this from happening, by taking over the function of the lost tooth and preserving the gap between the teeth.
Tooth development in children
Your child’s development can be best described as a series of naturally occurring events that follow certain patterns. Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that can disrupt these patterns.
The process of tooth eruption is no different.
During the normal tooth eruption process, baby teeth are replaced by adult teeth. To put it simply, a child’s baby teeth usually stay in place until their permanent teeth below push them out and take their place. This process guarantees that something very important will happen:
The permanent teeth will gradually put mechanical pressure on the baby teeth and stimulate resorption (melting away of the roots of baby teeth). This process is gradual and creates a passage for permanent teeth; guiding them into their correct position within the jaw.
This natural eruption process heavily depends on the presence of baby teeth in the jaw, as it is these that provide stability in the arch and ensure your child's bite remains balanced.
Unfortunately, despite parents’ best efforts, children do sometimes lose a baby tooth too early. For example, a tooth may be lost accidentally, or removed by a paediatric dentist to due to decay.
The early loss of a baby tooth can result in the loss of space in the arch, which can lead to crooked or impacted permanent teeth.
Space maintainers at Happy Kids Dental
At Happy Kids Dental, we are experts in placing space maintainers to help children preserve the space between their teeth.
Made of metal and/or plastic, we offer fixed (cemented) or removable space maintainers. Whichever material we use, their purpose remains the same: to help your child develop the best bite possible and hopefully avoid the need for braces later on:
For most children, fixed space maintainers are the best way to go. This method sees us cement the space maintainer onto the teeth on either side of the space
Removable space maintainers are mostly used on young adults. These look just like a retainer, and are primarily for the purpose of cosmetic space filling
Whether fixed or removable, your child’s space maintainer will be custom-made by taking impressions of his/her mouth. Once a space maintainer has been installed, we recommend your child practices good oral hygiene at home and has regular professional dental cleanings. During your child’s regular dental check-ups with us, we will inspect the space maintainer and track the progress of the incoming permanent teeth. When the X-ray reveals that the tooth underneath is ready to erupt naturally, we will remove the space maintainer.
How much do children's space maintainers at Happy Kids Dental cost?
Space maintainer cost at Happy Kids Dental is £350
Space Maintainers - Q&A
Space maintainers are small, quick and easy to get used to – with most children adapting to them within a few days. Your dentist at Happy Kids Dental will provide you with special instructions regarding oral hygiene, cleaning and diet, to keep the space maintainer in top condition and prevent food and decay-causing plaque from building up around it.
- It is best to be careful when eating sticky or crunchy foods as these can break the seal that holds the appliance in place
- Don’t tug or push on the space maintainer with your fingers or tongue
- Keep in mind that a space maintainer will create a space in which food can become easily trapped. So, making sure your child brushes their teeth properly is very important, as food can cause gum irritation or decay
- If the appliance becomes loose and comes off, we recommend you store it in a safe place and come back to Happy Kids Dental to re-cement it within 48 hours. If more time passes, you child’s teeth may begin to shift, making it difficult (or impossible) to re-fit the existing appliance
Every child is unique, so we recommend you visit a paediatric dentist in the first instance, as they will be able to use their extensive knowledge of child development to assess your child’s specific needs. At Happy Kids Dental, we are able to assess the position of the permanent tooth within the bone by studying digital X-rays and then measuring the depth of bone through which the adult tooth will have to pierce before it is visible in the mouth.
It typically takes an erupting adult tooth between four and six months to penetrate 1mm of bone. This standardisation provides our paediatric dentist a basis for calculating the distance measurement, in consideration of the digital X-rays
Not all lost baby teeth create a need for the placement of a space maintainer. It simply depends on how long it will take the permanent tooth to erupt. If the dentist feels that the permanent tooth will come into place before any detrimental tooth shifting has had the chance to take place, then one won't be required.
Another clinical scenario in which there is no need to fit an appliance is with the loss of front teeth. While we appreciate that this can be unsettling for the parent and child involved, due to the anatomy of the bone in the frontal region, no space will be lost when this occurs.
Finally, if the X-ray confirms that half (or more) of the adult tooth is already formed and that the tooth is positioned close to the gum, space maintenance is not advisable.
A rule of thumb for this is that if your child’s baby molars have come out before the age of 8 ½, in most instances it is too early. During a timely development process, these teeth would not be expected to come out before the age of 9 or 10.
There are multiple studies that suggest that almost all cases of baby molar loss (1st or 2nd), result in some degree of space loss. Most of the space lost is sacrificed during the first 6 months following the loss of the baby tooth.
A space maintainer is a custom fit appliance made of metal.
Space maintainers are fixed to the surrounding teeth. The most common type of space maintainer is the band and loop. This method sees a band cemented around the tooth behind the vacant space. From there, the maintainer is looped around the gum, resting on the tooth in front of the space.
This procedure will keep that space and allow the new permanent tooth to grow into its proper place.
The best space maintainer is the natural tooth itself. Despite all of the benefits that placing a space maintainer offers, preserving the original natural tooth is still the optimal course.