Fixed or removable appliances designed to preserve the space created by the premature loss of a tooth are referred to as space maintainers. Particularly used in children, space maintainers prevent adjacent teeth from shifting when a baby tooth is lost well before the permanent tooth erupts.
The space maintainer can consist of a metal band separating the two teeth, or of a temporary crown attached to a tooth beside the empty space. The dentist will remove the space maintainer once the permanent tooth has begun to erupt.
Not every tooth that is lost too early requires a space maintainer. If one of the four upper front teeth is lost early, the space will be maintained on its own until the permanent tooth comes in.
It is also possible to use a removable space maintainer consisting of an artificial tooth. Removable space maintainers, ideal for filling highly visible gaps, should only be used by older children who can properly care for them.
Following the application of a space maintainer, the child must visit his or her dentist every six months to check the condition of the device. The child should also avoid sticky foods, such as candy, gum or popcorn. He or she should also make sure that the wires around the empty space are cleaned properly every night.
Space maintainers can also be helpful for adults waiting for teeth to erupt.
Last updated: 16-Jun-05