Space maintainers help “hold space” for permanent teeth. Your child may need one if he or she loses a baby tooth prematurely, before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt. If a primary tooth is lost too early, adult teeth can erupt into the empty space instead of where they should be. When more adult teeth are ready to come into the mouth, there may not be enough room for them because of the lost space. To prevent this from happening, the dentist may recommend a space maintainer to hold open the space left by the missing tooth.
Not every tooth that is lost too early requires a space maintainer. If one of the four upper front teeth is lost early, the space will stay open on its own until the permanent tooth comes in.
If you do not take your child to the dentist regularly, a space maintainer can cause problems. This especially can occur if your child does not brush well. The gum tissue in the space can grow over the wire arm, increasing the risk of infection. If that happens, your child’s dentist may have to remove the gum tissue by surgery.
If the permanent tooth is about to erupt, the dentist may decide not to use a space maintainer unless your child needs braces and space is a critical issue.