A baby tooth usually stays in until a permanent tooth underneath pushes it out to take its place. Unfortunately, some children lose a baby tooth too soon. A tooth might be knocked out by trauma or removed due to dental disease. When a tooth is lost too early, we may recommend a space maintainer to prevent future space loss problems.
Why all the fuss? Baby teeth fall out eventually on their own?
Baby teeth are important to your child’s present and future dental health! They encourage normal development of the jaw bones and muscles. They save space for permanent teeth and guide them into position. Remember some baby teeth are not replaced with adult teeth until a child is 12 or 14 years old!
What are space maintainers?
Space maintainers hold open the empty space left by a lost tooth. They steady the remaining teeth and prevent movement until the permanent tooth takes its position in the jaw.
It is more affordable – and easier on your child – to keep the normal positions with a space maintainer than to later move them back in place by orthodontic treatment.
How does a lost baby tooth cause problems for permanent teeth?
If a baby tooth is lost too soon, the teeth beside it may drift or tilt into the empty space. Teeth in the other jaw may move up or down to also fill the gap. When adjacent teeth shift into the empty space, there is no room for the future permanent tooth to erupt into. If left untreated, the condition may require extensive orthodontic treatment.
What special care do space maintainers need?
Dr. Keels has four rules for space maintainer care:
- Avoid sticky candy,
- Do not tug or push on the space maintainer with your fingers or tongue,