Usually, a child’s baby tooth remains in place until the adult tooth pushes it out.  However, a child’s baby tooth may come out prematurely due to injury or a cavity.  When this happens, it is very important to maintain the space that the baby tooth has left open. 

Why are space maintainers used?

If the tooth can be preserved, this is the more favorable decision to help maintain the space for adult teeth and be more comfortable for the child to eat.  If the tooth cannot be saved though, a space maintainer is put in place so that adjacent teeth do not move into the space.  If the teeth were to shift into the open space without the space maintainer, a child would require orthodontic work to move them back and allow room for the adult tooth to move into place.  The space maintainer can be either permanent or removable. 

What is a space maintainer?

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One of the most common space maintainers is the band and loop.  A mold will be made of the child’s mouth to make the space maintainer.  A band will fit around the tooth behind the open space, and a loop or brace will go over the space.  The band is placed against the tooth in front of it.  Cementing the band on the tooth is what helps prevent the neighboring teeth from moving into the space.  The space maintainer should be monitored by the dentist and can be removed when the adult tooth is starting to push out of the gum.