Space maintainers hold the space for an unerupted adult tooth necessitated by the early loss of a baby tooth. Space maintainers are orthodontic appliances made of non-allergic stainless steel that are custom fitted and cemented to the adjacent tooth. If a baby tooth is lost early (due to infection, decay or trauma) the teeth on either side can tilt or drift thereby closing the space for the unerupted adult tooth. Failure to hold the space open may result in crowding or crooked teeth that may then warrant extensive orthodontic treatment. Some children require orthodontic treatment anyway but maintaining the space will decrease the severity of the problems. Once the permanent tooth begins to grow in the space where the baby tooth is missing the space maintainer is removed.
Children readily adapt to space maintainers. Whilst a space maintainer is in place care should be taken to avoid sticky chewy food as this can loosen/distort the spacers and disintegrate the glue used to hold the spacer. Patients are also asked not to push on their spacer with their tongue of fingers. The spacer has to be kept clean with good brushing. Regular dental visits are recommended to monitor the eruption of the adult tooth also to ensure that the glue/cement holding the spacer has not disintegrated as this can then cause cavities to develop.
If the spacer becomes loose it is important that you arrange an appointment for your child to the dentist immediately so that the spacer can be reglued.