Space Maintainers in Spring Branch & Memorial, Houston, TX

What Are Space Maintainers Anyway?

In the dental context Space Maintainers are appliances which hold space for subsequent growth of permanent teeth in pediatric dental patients having milk teeth or mixed dentition.

Why Space Maintainers?

It is natural for materials, particularly biological materials, to expand out into any available vacant spaces. This happens with all human tissue including the teeth. Children grow two sets of teeth. Primary or milk teeth, and when they fall out, secondary or permanent teeth. Most permanent teeth will grow out of sockets left by the primary teeth. Permanent teeth start coming out soon after the milk teeth fall.

But nature makes exceptions. In some children, the eruption of permanent teeth may be delayed due to various biological factors. It is also possible for a child to lose some milk teeth prematurely. That can be caused by an accident, or due to untreated early childhood caries.  Whatever the reason, an empty space is eyed very keenly by the teeth adjacent to it. Invariably, theses surrounding teeth will tend to move inwards slightly to occupy the vacant space, thereby creating difficulties during the eruption of the corresponding permanent tooth.

How Does Movement of Adjacent Teeth Matter?

So, what if existing teeth move slightly to fill in the gap partially? That is harmful. Briefly, that can cause multiple problems with permanent teeth. At Lifeworks Dental, we recommend space maintainers for children in the following cases:

  • Prevent Eruption of Permanent Teeth– Yes, if space gets limited, the incumbent may never be able to erupt.
  • Delayed Eruption– If the permanent tooth does manage to erupt it may be delayed or slow, causing problems in eating.
  • Misaligned Teeth– Shifting in of adjacent teeth can reduce the space available for a tooth to grow in, and the new permanent tooth may be misaligned or crooked.
  • Uneven Gap– This condition can also result in an uneven gap between teeth.
  • Improper Bite– Such defects can result in an improper bite. An improper bite can cause difficulty in eating and speaking.
  • Marred Smile– Misaligned teeth detract severely from the smile of a person.

How Do Space Maintainers Work?

Space maintainers, in general work by exerting outwards pressures on teeth adjacent to a gap which is not expected to be filled the short time. The specific method of construction and functions of each type are different. The choice of space maintainer by our dentists depends upon the location as well as the number of missing teeth.

Types of Appliances

Dentistry for children at Lifeworks Dental offers in two types of space maintainers: Removable space maintainers, and fixed ones. The type of maintainer to be used will be selected by your dentist depending on the number and location of the missing teeth.

  • Removable space maintainers- These are made of acrylic material and employ artificial teeth or blocks of such material to keep open the spaces by preventing ingress of the adjacent teeth. These are normally suitable for older children, who are fit to remove the appliance for cleaning and reinsertion. Partial dentures can also work well as removable maintainers for children who have several teeth missing.
  • Fixed maintainers – These are permanently attached to teeth adjacent to the gap using dental cement. These are better suited for younger children who cannot take care of removable maintainers.  These are also used where a child has lost a back tooth. These can be fixed unilaterally or bilaterally. Fixed space maintainers include the following sub-types:
    • Band-and-loop space maintainers. These are used to maintain space for one or more baby molars. These are made of stainless steel wire and held in place by orthodontic bands.
    • Lingual holding arch. To maintain space for back teeth on both sides in the lower jaw.
    • Transpalatal arch– It is fitted on the upper jaw to retain spaces on both sides.
    • Distal shoe device. This fixed device is fitted over the space vacated by the primary molar to maintain space for the permanent molar.

Construction Process

Space maintainers are custom made for each child. Our dentists, Dr. Kini Tran and Dr. Kim Nguyen will make impressions of your child’s teeth, and send them to a dental laboratory for the manufacturing of the appliance. Once the prepared space maintainers are received back from the laboratory, they will be tried on to check their fit. The child and the parents will also be advised regarding the use and care of the space maintainer appliance.

Care for Space maintainers

The child takes time to adapt to wearing a maintainer. During this time, we will keep an eye on the oral hygiene, jaw development, and growth of the permanent teeth. The maintainers need adjustment periodically as the jaws develop. Damaged maintainers need immediate attention.

Daily brushing with a toothpaste recommended by the dentist is necessary. The child must be advised to avoid:

  • Chewing of gum
  • Biting into hard candy or hard fruit
  • Pushing or pulling at the device.

At Lifeworks Dental, we want your child to have an adorable smile and perfect dental health through our high quality pediatric dentistry services. Our dentists Drs. Tran and Nguyen are well known in the Memorial Area for their excellent clinical expertise, friendly nature and gentle dentistry. So, if you want your child to enjoy their dental check-up visit, you should take them to Lifeworks Dental.