Space Maintainers are special appliances that are meant to replace a premature loss baby tooth until the permanent one appears.
These are a very important part of dentistry, especially pedodontics. Space maintainers are used in cases when there is an empty space in the jaw without a tooth, and that space has to remain empty for a certain amount of time. After a tooth is lost, surrounding teeth tend to move. That applies to the ones in the opposite jaw and also to the neighboring ones. After a while, that space can be filled with the remaining teeth and lead to several problems. The ones from the opposite jaw tend to grow out of the alveolar cup and fill in space. The neighboring will move either mesially or laterally and leave more empty spaces in between and even rotate sometimes. That is why dentists find the need of using space maintainers.
There are numerous causes why a tooth can be lost. When it comes to baby teeth it can happen as a result of decay. Sometimes dentists simply have to remove a baby tooth out of the mouth. Other reasons can be a mechanical force. The same thing applies to permanent teeth, but space maintainers are rarely used in permanent dentition.
Space maintainers can be fixed or removable. The removable ones can be taken out of the mouth and placed back again. They are very similar to the mobile orthodontic appliances. These can be fabricated by the dentist and technician or bought and modified to the patient. In most cases, they are made by the dentist. The fixed ones stay in the mouth for a longer period of time. They are divided into several groups including crown, unilateral, lingual, distal shoe, and loop.
The unilateral, crown and loop are all meant to replace one tooth. They are located at one side of the mouth. They have different ways of attaching to the surrounding teeth. Some attach with special metal clasps, while the crown type is an actual crown. The distal shoe type is meant to save the space for a permanent first molar which is a very important tooth in the dentition. The lingual type is used bilaterally and helps with several missing teeth at the same time. This makes the process much simpler and easier. With all of these variations, dentists control the whole situation and oversee the progress.
If a baby tooth is missing, the dentist has to decide whether space should be filled with a space maintainer or not. It all depends on the age. These appliances are not painful, and only cause discomfort for a few days until the patient gets used to them. They can only improve the mastication, speaking, and other functions. It is very important for permanent teeth to appear at their designated spaces. Dentists will always schedule regular visits to control the situation. If the baby tooth is lost shortly before the permanent one is expected to erupt, there is no need for a space maintainer. Patients should practice great oral hygiene.