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Space Maintainers


At Choonara Orthodontics, we do our best to put your child or teen in the best position for successful and efficient orthodontic treatment. Sometimes, they may require early intervention, which uses orthodontic appliances to position the teeth in the correct position before they get braces or Invisalign.

Most children get their full set of primary (baby) teeth by the time they reach the age of three. These first teeth help them bite and chew solid foods and serve as space savers for permanent (adult) teeth. If your child loses a baby tooth before the adult tooth underneath is ready to erupt, that adult tooth can shift to the wrong position in the mouth. Nearby teeth can also shift or tilt inward, taking up the space meant for the adult tooth that’s still under the gums. A space maintainer is an ideal appliance for combating these problems associated with premature tooth loss. 

Why Space Maintainers are Needed 

Dr. Choonara may recommend space maintainers for children if he/she loses a baby tooth early or if a baby tooth has been extracted due to dental decay. The purpose of this appliance is to keep the space open to allow the permanent tooth to properly erupt through the gums. If this space is not maintained with a space maintainer, the permanent teeth around the open space can shift into that open gap, resulting in teeth that are crowded or crooked. 

Space maintainers, which are usually made of metal or acrylic, come in different configurations. Some are simple in design while others consist of many wires and bands. All space maintainers are custom-made from impressions of the teeth and are designed to be worn until X-rays show that the missing tooth has fully emerged from the gums.  

Types of Space Maintainers 

The two main types of space maintainers are fixed and removable.  

  1. Fixed space maintainers: If the child is very young, Dr. Choonara will likely use a fixed space maintainer that cannot be taken out, lost, or damaged. This type of space maintainer is cemented onto adjacent teeth. One of the most commonly used fixed space maintainer features a band that goes around a tooth with a wire loop that extends out from the band to hold the space. Another common type features a loop attached to a stainless steel crown that fits over a nearby tooth. 

  2. Removable space maintainers: For older children, Dr. Choonara prefers using removable space maintainers that look like retainers worn at the end of orthodontic treatment. A removable space maintainer may come with a false tooth attached to it if the lost tooth was visible in the mouth. 

Sometimes children have what’s called congenitally-missing permanent teeth or in other words, permanent teeth that never existed. In this type of case, a space maintainer with a false tooth attached can be used to prevent the development of a malocclusion (bad bite) until the child is old enough to have a dental implant put in. 

Getting Used To and Caring for a Space Maintainer 

Most children get used to wearing both fixed and removable space maintainers in a few days.  Since a space maintainer plays an important role in a child’s current and future dental health, it’s essential to take good care of the appliance by: 

  • Brushing & flossing – To keep the teeth and space maintainer clean. Your child should be brushing after every meal and before bedtime and flossing at least once per day. 

  • Keeping the tongue and fingers away from the appliance –  It’s important to keep the tongue and fingers away from the space maintainer so it doesn’t loosen, bend or break.  

  • Avoiding chewy and sticky foods – These types of foods can stick to the appliance and even loosen it. 

Contact You Local Johannesburg Orthodontist 

If you have any questions about space maintainers, please feel free to contact us and we’ll give you the answers you need. Simply call our office at (011) 678-8090 or request an appointment today. We’re to service patients throughout South Africa, including Johannesburg, Randburg, Sandton, Midrand and other surrounding areas. We hope to hear from you soon!

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Baby Teeth - Dear Doctor Magazine

Early Loss of Baby Teeth If baby teeth are lost prematurely, other teeth can shift into the new space so that there is not enough room left for the permanent teeth to come in correctly; crowding or crooked teeth can result. Fortunately, a special oral appliance called a “space maintainer” has been designed to solve this problem... Read Article

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