Space Maintainers

As the name suggests, a ‘space maintainer’ will maintain the space required in the oral cavity. This space is created by the early exfoliation (fall) of milk teeth. And this space has to be maintained for the proper eruption of its permanent successor (permanent tooth which will replace its respective milk tooth).

These SM are given to prevent closure of space. You have to think of a SM when there is early exfoliation of milk teeth especially the posterior teeth (back teeth). Early means when? That is within 10 - 11 years of age, as the permanent teeth which will be replacing this space will erupt around 12 years of age.

The SM will maintain the space which was previously occupied by the milk tooth. It will prevent the drifting (migration) of other teeth which are present adjacent to this space. If the space is not maintained there will be drifting of teeth adjacent to the space, followed by space closure. Further there will be difficulty in the eruption of permanent successor, which will lead to the improper eruption of the permanent teeth.

These SMs are area specific and also depends on following

  • What is the age of the child?
  • How many teeth are missing?
  • Are the missing teeth from the upper arch or lower arch?
  • Are they missing on one side or both sides?
  • What is the condition of the teeth present adjacent to the space?

The above factors will dictate which space maintainer has to be selected.

As we already know, there will be difficulty in the eruption of permanent teeth without an SM, as the teeth will not erupt in a straight path, and will deviate from its path instead. This will create a malalignment of the teeth in future. When this is established the treatment will also become aggressive in later days and patient may experience psychological trauma.

So it advisable that in children between the age of 3 - 10 years, if any milk tooth or teeth are exfoliated or removed due to caries (tooth decay), the child should visit the dentist for a space maintainer to prevent further complications.

These SMs are of two types - Fixed (fixed on to the tooth) and Removable. Maintenance of oral hygiene is easy with the Removable type. When a Fixed appliance (SM) is given, one should concentrate on a proper oral hygiene method. Every meal or eating any sort of food should be followed by a thorough rinsing of mouth to make sure that no food is stuck in the SM. Also brushing and flossing twice daily will further help to maintain good oral hygiene.

The answer is definitely yes. One who is opting for an SM should follow regular appointments described by their dentists. And the dentist will decide, depending on the age and condition of the permanent successor, whether the SM has to be continued or not.

  • If your visits are not regular and the permanent successor is about to erupt, this SM can act has a hindrance for the eruption. Further, it creates a different complication.
  • If the oral hygiene is not maintained properly it may cause tooth decay.
  • And also if you feel the SM is missing in the mouth, you should visit your dentist as early as possible. There are possibilities that SM cementation (glue) has failed and the child might have swallowed it.

Last updated on 29 November, 2018.

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