Your child's baby teeth are needed for biting and chewing, but they serve another important function, as well. They act as guides for your child's permanent teeth. When a baby tooth falls out, the permanent tooth underneath moves into the gap that is left behind. Sometimes, baby teeth are lost too early, before the permanent teeth are ready to come in. If this happens, your child may need a dental space maintainer. Here's what you need to know about these useful devices.
What is a dental space maintainer?
A dental space maintainer is a device (pictured here) that prevents your child's teeth from shifting positions when a baby teeth falls out too early. If the other teeth shift and block this gap, the permanent tooth won't be able to come in when it is ready. If there is no room for the tooth to come in, other teeth may need to be extracted, or painful orthodontic treatments may be required. The goal of the space maintainer is to avoid these painful treatments.
Are dental space maintainers removable?
There are different types of dental space maintainers. Some are easily removable, like retainers, which allows your child to remove their space maintainer when they brush and floss their teeth. Others are cemented onto the adjacent teeth and can only be removed by the dentist. The latter type is usually preferred by dentists since it is easy for children to damage or lose a removable device, though it's harder for children to clean their teeth.
Are these devices always necessary?
Dental space maintainers are not always necessary, but this isn't a determination that you can make by yourself. If your child loses a baby tooth too soon, take your child to the dentist for an examination. The dentist will take x-rays of your child's mouth and determine how soon the permanent tooth will come in, or if the permanent tooth is present at all. If the permanent tooth is missing or won't come in for a while, a space maintainer may be necessary.
How many appointments are required?
A dental space maintainer can't be fitted in one appointment because the device will be custom-fitted to your child's mouth. First, you will need to have molds of your child's teeth taken. Once the molds are done, the dentist will use them to create the space maintainer. Once the device is ready, your child will return to the dentist to have the device fitted. Periodic checkups will be required once the device is fitted to ensure that it's still working properly. It will be removed once the permanent tooth starts to come in.
How much do dental space maintainers cost?
The cost of a dental space maintainer will vary depending on a few factors, including the type of appliance (fixed or removable), your dentist, and your location. You can expect to spend between $223 and $366 on a fixed space maintainer, and about $353 on a removable one. Ask your dentist for a precise quote before your child gets the device. This may seem expensive, but it is less expensive than the orthodontic treatments (like braces) that may be required later if your child doesn't get the dental space maintainer.
If your child has lost one of their baby teeth too early, take them to the dentist right away. A missing baby tooth can lead to a permanent tooth not coming in properly, which can lead to expensive and painful dental problems down the road. A dental space maintainer from a site like http://www.drheimann.com will leave the gap open and allow the permanent teeth to grow into the correct place.