What Are Space Maintainers in Kids Dentistry?

The boy laughing with broken teeth at Flagstaff, AZ

In an ideal world, your baby teeth would fall out and then your permanent teeth would come right in right away. There is good science for why this is the best outcome. However, it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes, permanent teeth erupt well after the baby teeth have fallen out. This can create significant problems. To avoid these problems, Cottonwood dentists use dental space maintainers. In the rest of this article, we’ll discuss the science behind the space maintainers.

Why Are Space Maintainers Necessary?

Imagine a boat on the ocean. Now imagine three more boats lined up next to the first all in a row. If you leave these boats alone and watch what happens, you’ll notice that they drift apart from one another. While your gums are considerably more solid than water, your teeth will drift apart just like the boats in the ocean. But only if there are significant gaps in your teeth.

If you lose a permanent tooth, the same thing can happen. Your other teeth will drift apart to fill the cavity between teeth. This is bad for adults because it makes it easier for food to get stuck in their teeth. This is bad for children because the likelihood that their adult teeth will erupt properly is much lower once the baby teeth begin drifting.

For adults, we generally recommend dental implants because they permanently address the issue of the missing tooth. Children, however, have a whole new set of teeth ready to grow in. If the baby teeth drift apart during this period, it could cause the teeth to erupt in snaggled fashion.

To avoid this, dentists can use placeholders that will stay where the tooth was lost and allow the proper eruption of the permanent teeth. These are known as space maintainers.

Timeline for Teeth

Your baby teeth begin to fall out when you are about 6 years old. This process can continue up until 12. If your child’s teeth are beginning to fall out closer to the 6-year-old mark, it may be necessary to consult a dentist to ensure that the adult teeth come in properly. Space maintainers help prevent drift that can cause serious problems for adults later in life.

Types of Space Maintainers

There are two types of space maintainers: Fixed and removable. Your dentist will recommend which option is best for your child. High-end space maintainers actually have veneers that look like real teeth although these aren’t necessary for the space maintainer to do its job.

The maintainer remains in your child’s mouth until the permanent teeth begin to erupt and push the spacer out.

Talk to an Arizona Dentist About Space Maintainers Today

If you’re concerned that your child’s teeth have erupted too early, give us a call at Peak Family Dental Care in Cottonwood and we may be able to prevent considerable problems in adulthood.