One of the most common questions asked by parents is whether their child will need braces.
Braces are an important part of modern dental care in that they straighten teeth and can help bring the lips and jaws into proper alignment during growth and development. They also represent a considerable expense and require at least 2 years of treatment for the child. Often, it is the Pediatric Dentist who can have a big impact over a child’s orthodontic needs.
One treatment that may reduce or eliminate the need for braces in the future is a space maintainer.
A space maintainer is a device that saves room in the mouth for the adult teeth when the baby teeth come out too early.
Ideally, baby teeth should be preserved until the adult teeth push them out naturally. Baby teeth are important for a child to eat comfortably and also to save space for the adult teeth. When they must be removed due to extensive cavities or injury, a space maintainer is usually necessary.
Although there are many types of space maintainers, one commonly used is called the band and loop.
The procedure to make a band and loop space maintainer is relatively simple. The dentist takes a mold of the child’s mouth. A laboratory then makes the space maintainer, which consists of two parts. There is a band that fits around the tooth behind the missing one, and a loop or brace that goes over the gum where the missing tooth was and then rests against a tooth in front of it. When the band is cemented on the tooth, it prevents the teeth from moving into the space where the missing tooth was, and allows the adult tooth enough space to grow into the proper position. The space maintainer should then be evaluated by the dentist at every check-up appointment and should be removed when the adult teeth are visible and have poked through the gum.
Space maintainers are necessary when some baby teeth are lost prematurely, usually up until a year or so before the adult tooth comes in.