For adults, the presence of significant space between the teeth is generally not a desirable outcome, and teeth that are aligned properly fit together quite well. However, for children, especially those still transitioning from baby teeth to permanent adult teeth, there are many situations where a little space present isn’t a negative – and, in fact, situations where not enough space is present.
At Southridge Pediatric Dentistry, we’re happy to offer numerous children’s dentist services in South Jordan and other parts of Utah, from basic child dental cleanings and dental X-rays to various areas of restorative care, including space maintainers and other tools often used in cases where children are dealing with space issues in the mouth. Here’s a primer on why these tools are sometimes needed and why space is important in a developing child’s mouth.
Baby to Permanent Teeth
When a baby tooth is lost in a child, the space it leaves open is meant for the corresponding permanent, or adult, tooth to enter. However, for a couple different reasons, there may be cases where the space left over is not big enough – this may be because of initial development issues in some cases, but more commonly is because the baby tooth fell out prematurely due to accident, decay or disease, and neighboring teeth nearby “fall” into that space over a period of time.
In these situations, it’s very important for space to be opened up to allow adult teeth to grow in properly. If this is not done, several issues may take place as this process happens with improper spacing. The only exception here is for one of your child’s top four front teeth – when these are lost, research has shown the space remains open on its own without any assistance.
The primary tool for accomplishing this task of keeping space open in the child’s tooth space: A space maintainer, which refers to a small wire or similar device that attaches around the tooth that sits next to the open space. The device also extends over the space of the missing tooth, preventing the nearby teeth from invading it and preventing the space from closing up. The maintainer is left in place until the permanent tooth naturally erupts into the space, at which time it can be removed.
Types of Space Maintainers
There are a few space maintainer varieties out there, including those made from either metal or acrylic, and sometimes both together. Space maintainers may be of a fixed variety that remain in the mouth at all times, or they might be removable. Which of these options is chosen will depend on the location of the teeth, the age of the child and a few other factors.
For more on the importance of space in a child’s mouth and the role of a space maintainer, or to learn about any of our child dental services, speak to the staff at Southridge Pediatric Dentistry today.