Does Everyone Who Gets Braces Need Space Maintainers?
Space maintainers are simple and non-invasive tools used to combat issues that arise when a child prematurely loses a baby tooth and their teeth begin to shift before their new adult tooth emerges. While tooth shifting does not happen overnight, it is important to monitor the issue with your orthodontist to ensure that your child's adult tooth can grow into the spot vacated by the baby tooth.
Not everyone who gets braces will require space maintainers. However, it is important to have a conversation with an orthodontist to determine whether spacers are needed.
How space maintainers work
These prevent teeth from shifting when a baby tooth is lost prematurely. There are two types of spacers, and the orthodontist will be able to decide which is best for the child based on a variety of factors, including the child's age and the location of the gap. The first type is a fixed maintainer, which is cemented in place and cannot be easily removed or adjusted within the child's mouth. The second type is a removable maintainer, which is typically made from acrylic material and can be removed easily from the mouth and adjusted based on your orthodontist's recommendations.
There are benefits to each type, and your orthodontist can guide parents toward the best one for their child's issue. Space maintainers are low maintenance and do not require regular check-ups. They are typically removed when the child can begin to feel their new adult tooth poking through the gum. At that point, the orthodontist will advise the next best steps to ensure that the child's maintainer is removed at the proper time.
Spacers and braces
Not everyone who gets braces will need a space maintainer, and the orthodontist will be able to prescribe the best plan of action for the child. Spacers are often needed when shifting is happening in the mouth, creating issues that braces cannot fix or that will require additional time in braces or surgery.
Spacers also ensure that the child is ready for braces once their adult teeth have grown in. When creating the child's treatment plan, the orthodontist will take X-rays to determine if maintainers are needed and will incorporate them into the treatment plan as needed. The spacer will be removed when the orthodontist determines that the child is ready for braces or that their straightening program can continue.
The following are commonly asked questions about space maintainers.
Why are space maintainers important?
The permanent tooth eventually erupts through the gums and replaces the baby tooth. Unfortunately, sometimes a baby tooth is lost before it is developmentally ready to come out. This situation often occurs when a child's baby teeth must be removed due to advanced dental decay that cannot be remedied even by endodontics (root canal therapy).
When a baby tooth is lost, the gap will remain until the permanent tooth is ready to come in. Eventually, the teeth on either side will migrate or tilt into the vacant spot. When the permanent tooth finally erupts, there will be little to no room for it. Permanent teeth can get crowded or become locked in the jaw as a result. The child will need extensive orthodontic or surgical correction when they are older.
To prevent this situation, if a baby tooth is lost too soon, a space maintainer can be used to fill the gap. The space maintainer will be removed when the adult tooth has fully emerged.
Do space maintainers need adjusting?
Metal or plastic space maintainers are custom made to suit the child's mouth perfectly. They are small, blend seamlessly with the rest of the teeth, and are inconspicuous. Most kids get used to them right away.
What kind of maintenance do space maintainers need?
Space maintainers require the patient to avoid sticky snacks like gum and candy. They should not use their fingers or tongue to pull or push on the space maintainer. Also, they need to maintain good oral care by brushing and flossing regularly. If the space maintainer is shaking or moving, the patient should visit the dentist immediately. Regular dental checkups are also important.
While not everyone who requires braces will need a space maintainer, it is an important conversation to have with the orthodontist to ensure that your child's experience with braces is part of the best possible treatment plan for their teeth and the identified growth pattern. Adding a spacer to your child's treatment plan can help ensure that shifting due to the loss of baby teeth will not negatively impact your child's future smile.
Request an appointment here: https://www.coltsnecknjsmiles.com or call Colts Neck Center for Orthodontics & Invisalign at (732) 795-6097 for an appointment in our Colts Neck office.
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