Different Types Of Space Maintainers Used In Pediatric Dentistry And Why Your Dentist May Use Them

If your child lost a baby tooth early or his/her tooth needed to be pulled because it was so badly damaged or rotten, then your dentist may suggest using a space maintainer. These devices hold the position open for the adult tooth that will not erupt for several years to come, and they keep the other baby teeth from migrating into the space where the adult tooth will need to go. If your pediatric dentist suggests that your child get a space maintainer for any of these reasons, you should know that there are several types used and you might want to know how they are installed.

Unilateral Spacers

Unilateral spacers come in three forms. The first one involves a crown and attached metal loop. Usually the strongest tooth or molar closest to the area of the missing tooth is crowned with a special crown that has an attached loop. The loop circles the area of the missing tooth and pushes against the other tooth across the gap to prevent either tooth from drifting into the open spot. A similar spacer uses a "band" and a loop, which is essentially a loop and a crown minus the top part that covers the top surface area of the tooth.

The last unilateral spacer is a distal shoe type. The distal shoe utilizes the same crown as the crown and loop, except that the distal shoe uses an extended metal bar with a "foot" to reach over the gaps of a couple of missing teeth to the other side of the gap. Since a distal shoe is sometimes inserted in such a way as to bury the foot end in the gum tissue and brace it against the unerupted tooth on the far end, your child may complain of a lot of mouth pain after this device is installed, but he or she will have significantly less pain when the time comes to install braces.

Bilateral Spacers

As the name suggests, these spacers hold the positions of missing teeth on BOTH sides of the mouth. (Allowing a toddler to take a cup of juice to bed every night often causes enough tooth decay that the baby teeth need to be removed, and a bilateral spacer needs to be installed to hold all of these spaces open for the adult teeth.) A bilateral loop and band or loop and crown method is used in these situations and is connected by a wire that spans the roof of your child's mouth. They may also be used on your child's lower jaw, with the band resting underneath the tongue. 

Removable Spacers

Removable spacers is a fancy way of saying partial dentures. Partial denture are usually only prescribed in extreme cases and with older children, who are less likely to pop them out and break them. They work just like adult dentures or orthodontic retainers and need to be cleaned and cared for the same too.

Learn more by speaking to a local pediatric dentist.