While baby teeth are not permanent and only last in a child’s mouth for a few years, they have an important role in the development of the jaw, muscles, and adult teeth. It is natural for baby teeth to fall out as the permanent teeth grow in to take their place. However, if a baby tooth is lost too soon, it can sometimes prevent proper development in the mouth. It may be necessary for your child to have a space maintainer put in to keep the space open until the permanent tooth comes in. This can save your child from extensive orthodontic work in the future.
Baby teeth can fall out early for a number of reasons. The most common causes are accidents resulting in tooth loss, or having to extract a baby tooth due to severe decay. Sometimes a baby tooth doesn’t even grow in at all. Whichever the case, an empty space in your child’s mouth can cause problems if the permanent tooth doesn’t grow in soon after. The teeth around the space can start to tilt and shift, resulting in insufficient space for the adult tooth to grow it.
A space maintainer can prevent improper development by keeping the space open until the permanent tooth grows in. There are several different types of space maintainers that can be used for treatment. Older children who are responsible in the care of their teeth might use a removable space maintainer. This appliance looks much like a retainer and is usually plastic. Other methods involve a fixed space maintainer, which is banded or cemented in place and is usually made of metal. Your dentist will help determine which type of space maintainer will work best for your child’s needs, and will make a custom appliance using impressions of your child’s teeth. The space maintainer is removed once the permanent tooth is ready to erupt.
If your child loses a tooth early, make an appointment with your dentist to discuss whether or not a space maintainer is necessary for development. While losing a baby tooth early does not always lead to complications, it is safe to have a professional’s opinion before letting it go too long. A space maintainer is a fairly simple solution to guiding teeth into place, and can prevent your child from having to endure a year or more of complicated orthodontic treatment.