Space Maintainers

What happens when a baby tooth is prematurely lost?

Even though baby teeth eventually fall out and are replaced by permanent ones, baby teeth play a crucial role in your child's growth and development. In addition to helping your child learn to speak, eat, and chew, baby teeth also serve as placeholders for the permanent teeth slated to follow.

When a baby tooth is lost prematurely due to extensive tooth decay or a traumatic injury, the permanent teeth already in place or in the process of erupting on either side of the space can begin to drift. As a result of this unplanned movement, these teeth may limit or block the space needed for an underlying permanent tooth.

Maintaining the space for a baby tooth's permanent successor

It may be necessary to fabricate an appliance known as a space maintainer to prevent any untoward drifting that might block the place for a yet-to-erupt permanent tooth. Just as the name implies, a space maintainer acts as a placeholder for the future permanent tooth.

While not every situation requires the placement of a space maintainer, many do. Based upon the location of the lost baby tooth, the development and expected eruption of the underlying permanent tooth, and other factors, our pediatric dentist will determine if a space maintainer is required.

What type of space maintainer will my child need?

The type of appliance our office recommends all depends upon the specific requirements of your child's smile. Space maintainers can get fabricated as either a fixed or removable appliance. While some space maintainers get cemented to a tooth adjacent to the space previously occupied by the baby tooth, others are removable. A removable space maintainer is one that can get taken in and out of the mouth. Whatever space maintainer is used, it will get removed once the permanent tooth erupts into place.

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