Does Your Child Require Pediatric Space Maintainers?

Milk teeth should stay in place until the permanent teeth erupt from underneath and push them out. Unfortunately, children can lose their milk teeth prematurely due to injury, tooth decay, or congenital diseases. When this happens, the adjacent teeth grow into the space left behind by the missing tooth, causing future orthodontic problems. Space maintainers are dental appliances used to preserve the gap left by a lost tooth. Once the permanent tooth erupts, you can remove the spacers. Below are three things to assess before getting pediatric spacers for your child.

Location of Lost Teeth

Not all cases of premature tooth loss require the use of space maintainers. Depending on the location of the lost teeth, you may not need to use spacers to preserve the space. For example, if your child loses one or more of the four upper or lower front teeth, they don't typically require spacers. The gaps left behind will stay open until the permanent teeth emerge. However, if your child loses one or multiple primary molars, spacers may be necessary to prevent space loss and malocclusion.

Timeline for Permanent Teeth Eruption

Pediatric spacers are used to hold the space left behind by a lost tooth until the emergence of a permanent tooth. Space loss doesn't happen in a few days or weeks, it occurs over a long period of time. Thus, if your child loses a primary tooth shortly before the eruption of the primary teeth, you don't require spacers. However, you should note that permanent teeth don't erupt at the same time. 

For example, permanent molars usually erupt at age 13. Therefore, if your child loses a molar at age six, it may take another seven years for the permanent molar to erupt. By the time the child is 12, the adjacent teeth will have grown into the space, causing problems for the permanent molars. Therefore, you may need space maintainers to preserve the gap throughout the remaining time. 

Commitment to Oral Hygiene

Just like other oral appliances, space maintainers require proper care. Failure to observe proper dental care can cause issues down the road. For example, if you don't keep your child's spacer clean, food particles can stick between the metal and the adjacent tooth or gum. This will increase the risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and the loss of multiple teeth.

Below are some oral care practices you should commit to before getting spacers for your child.

  • Brush and floss after every meal
  • Avoid hard foods and sticky treats such as candy and gum
  • Encourage your child not to push or tug on the spacer with their tongue

You should visit your pediatric dentist regularly for checkups and dental cleanings as well. 

If your child isn't a candidate for spacers, you can consider other treatments, such as partial dentures. Contact a local pediatric dental clinic, such as New England Dental Specialists of Norwood, for further consultation.