Dental Space Maintainer Guide – Spacers for teeth
There are big expectations of the baby teeth of children. They help these youngsters with biting and chewing, as well as speaking correctly until they become adolescents. This is why spacers for teeth and dental space maintainers play such a vital role in the healthy growth of a child’s mouth.
There’s something else expected of these baby teeth – they must ensure that the permanent teeth below receive the proper guidance to grow into the right position. This is probably the most important function of baby teeth. They are space holders and must remain in that position until the adult teeth are ready to erupt.
Both in theory and practice, that’s how everything ought to play out but certain situations may cause a baby to lose a tooth prematurely. This could be the result of a health condition or injury and can cause permanent teeth to lose their guidance and move into the space meant for another tooth. So, the teeth either become blocked or erupt out of position, thereby leading to crooked teeth or misaligned teeth.
According to this source, space maintainers aid in preventing undesirable tooth movements resulting in loss of arch length.
If your child has suffered a premature tooth loss, all hope is not lost. With the help of a space maintainer (a dental appliance designed to occupy the space meant for permanent teeth pending when they become ready to grow into it), your kid can still develop an amazing bite and rule out the possibility of using braces at some point in their life.
Keep in mind that not all tooth losses during the growing stage require the use of a space maintainer. It’s up to your child’s orthodontist or dentist to decide what’s best. Regular appointments with the dentist can help the specialist keep an eye on how your child’s teeth are developing.
However, in the case of individuals who have misaligned or crooked teeth, the most recommended solution is usually teeth braces. While you might know what braces do, did you know that their function can be enhanced using teeth spacers?
Teeth spacers are different from dental space maintainers. Knowing how they function can help you understand better how the procedure associated with installing braces works. So, first, let’s talk about spacers for teeth.
Teeth Spacers (Spacers for teeth)
Also known as separators, they help to make space in which the dental bands will be fitted. Most times, the dentist will use elastic spacers but more advanced orthodontic care might require the use of metal spacers.
Spacers for teeth are mostly used during the early treatment phase but may come in handy later on if some tooth alignment adjustments need to be made. With the help of teeth spacers, your dentist can carve out sufficient space so that your braces can fit perfectly and perform better and faster to get you that perfect smile.
How teeth spacers work
During a doctor’s visit, your oral health specialist will place the spacers between your teeth to prepare them for braces. Your dentist will take a dental floss piece on which small elastic rings have been threaded and slip them into place before taking the string out. Your teeth will start to move apart because of the pressure created by the spacers.
These teeth separators can also help in managing or treating other forms of oral health conditions. Dental health specialists also use them to make the molars more upright. It is up to your orthodontist to determine how best to use these temporary appliances.
When should you take the spacers off?
You have to wear your teeth spacers anywhere from 7 to 14 days before having the braces fitted. There may also be a need for you to wear them for as long as your treatment lasts. This depends on the orthodontist’s plans.
Once your orthodontist decides when to take them off, they will be slipped out and replaced by a metal band. The metal band is then cemented to serve as an anchor for your brace’s wires. Your orthodontist may also have to replace or adjust your teeth spacers if they will function as part of the treatment process which ensures that your teeth continue moving the right way.
Teeth spacers maintenance
It’s normal to feel some discomfort after your orthodontist places your spacers during the first two to three days. We recommend using pain relievers and eating soft foods mostly before bedtime. Cold drinks can also help to keep your gums and teeth numb. Here’s what to do to make sure your spacers are properly maintained –
- Steer clear of starch and sugar-rich foods to reduce plaque
- Avoid sticky foods
- Try not to use toothpicks or fingernails to pick out your dental spacers
- Maintain regular dental hygiene routine including flossing and brushing.
Dental Space Maintainers
Now that you know what teeth spacers are and how they work, let’s get back to our discussion about dental space maintainers.
As mentioned earlier, your child may lose their baby teeth due to different reasons such as metabolic disorders, blood diseases, severe tooth decay, injuries, falls, accidents, or a wide range of other probable causes.
In the event that a baby tooth falls out before the eruption of a permanent tooth, a space maintainer can come in handy.
This dental space maintainer appliance is also useful in cases where the permanent tooth is altogether missing. Space maintainers are simply designed to help in the correct development of your child’s teeth by preserving that space pending the development of the permanent tooth.
Types of Space Maintainers
Space maintainers come in different kinds and are created using either acrylic or stainless steel. They are available either in fixed or removable forms.
Removable space maintainers
Just like removable orthodontic appliances, these types of space maintainers function just the same way a fixed maintainer would. But there is a higher risk of getting them broken or losing them. A removable space maintainer is created using acrylic and is recommended for older kids that can carry out proper maintenance.
Fixed space maintainers
Orthodontists attach these types of space maintainers to the teeth just beside the gap using dental cement. Fixed space maintainers are available in two forms:
- Unilateral space maintainer
Dental specialists use unilateral space maintainers to fill up the space left behind by a tooth placing them on one part of the mouth. Some unilateral devices include a band and loop, a crown and loop, etc.
- Bilateral space maintainer
Bilateral space maintainers are commonly used to reserve enough space for permanent teeth that haven’t erupted, especially when more than one tooth is missing. Some bilateral devices include a Nance appliance, lingual space maintainer, etc.
Let’s talk about a few of these fixed unilateral and bilateral space maintainers below to see how they work:
Band and loop maintainer
This is very common in the world of dental space maintainers and it comes with wire made from stainless steel. It is a unilateral space maintainer. An orthodontic band just beside the open space or a crown on the tooth holds the wire in place. The orthodontist may recommend a band and loop space maintainer if the tooth loss occurs in just one dental arch. This eliminates the risk of crowding and gives the permanent tooth all the space it needs to erupt properly.
Upper Nance appliance
Also known as the Nance holding arch or Nance orthodontic appliance, this space maintainer comes in handy after the premature loss of the primary molar teeth on either section of the dental arch. It is used in the upper jaw and comes with bands that are meant to be wrapped around the molars. A Nance appliance also features a palatal archwire which is connected to an acrylic button. The connection is established in the premaxillary area of the mouth. With the help of this acrylic button, the length of the arch is held and the molars stay in place.
Lower lingual holding arch
This dental space maintainer is recommended if the child has teeth missing on their lower jaw. The lower lingual holding arch comes in handy, especially when the lower jaw has some teeth missing on either side. The lower lingual holding arch is equipped with a wire which is hidden from plain view by running it along the inner part of the bottom teeth. Then, orthodontic bands are used to anchor it down.
Caring for your dental space maintainer
The best way to lengthen the lifespan of the device is by sticking to a proper care routine. Good maintenance will also keep the dental space maintainer in the right condition to perform an adequate job.
Cleaning must be done at least twice daily during the flossing and brushing sessions of your child. You can take out the removable maintainers and clean them. Since fixed maintainers are held in place, it’s okay to brush them every morning and prior to your child’s bedtime.
Don’t make the mistake of neglecting the gums on which the orthodontist has placed the space maintainer. You want to do everything possible to ensure that the area remains in a healthy state. That’s because keeping the area clean reduces the risk of future dental health issues as the permanent tooth begins to erupt.
Do not skip an appointment with your dentist because regular checks help to ensure that the space maintainer is in the right shape. Contact your dentist if the maintainer becomes broken or lost.
Stick to the instructions of your dentist and keep in mind that not using these spacers for teeth like a space maintainer can lead to further oral health issues like misaligned teeth. Space maintainers are designed to aid the proper development of permanent teeth. If you have concerns about your child’s teeth, get in touch with your dentist immediately.
Kelly Hancock, RDH , Toothbrush Life
Kelly is a registered dental hygienist and oral health care provider. She is passionate about oral hygiene and encourages people to achieve optimal oral health. She has been working in the dental profession for 16 years and worked in many different roles in the dental industry. Kelly is currently a pediatric dental hygienist specializing in children’s dentistry. She is committed to helping others with their oral health care issues and helping others achieve a smile they love.