Expert Advice on Space Maintainers: Insights from Pediatric Dentists

A smiling young boy showing his newly-adjusted space maintainer braces depicting an ideal orthodontic treatment option for children in Jersey City, NJ.

As a pediatric dentist, I often see parents who are unaware of the importance of space maintainers in their child’s dental health. The truth is, losing baby teeth is a normal part of growing up, however, it can lead to serious dental problems if not properly addressed. In this article, I will share my insights on space maintainers and why they are crucial for your child’s dental health.

What Are Space Maintainers?

Space maintainers are devices used in pediatric dentistry to prevent the shifting or drifting of teeth after a primary tooth has been lost prematurely. These devices help preserve the space left by the missing tooth and guide permanent teeth into their proper position.

There are two types of space maintainers:

  1. Removable space maintainers – These devices can be easily taken out and cleaned by children or parents at home.
  2. Fixed space maintainers – These devices require placement by a dentist and cannot be removed until they have served their purpose.

When Do Children Need Space Maintainers?

Children may need space maintainers when they lose primary teeth prematurely due to decay, injury, or other reasons. If these spaces are left unfilled for an extended period, adjacent teeth may shift into the empty area causing crowding or misalignment issues that can lead to orthodontic problems later on in life.

Space maintenance is especially important when primary molars (back teeth) are lost because these serve as placeholders for permanent premolars that typically erupt between ages 10-12 years old. Without proper maintenance with a space maintainer device during this transition period, permanent molars may drift forward leading to crowding and malocclusion (misaligned bite).

Additionally, children who have congenitally missing (not present at birth) permanent teeth may require space maintainers to prevent the surrounding teeth from shifting into the empty spaces and causing malocclusion.

Benefits of Space Maintainers

Space maintainers offer several benefits for children’s dental health. Here are some:

  1. Prevent crowding – Preserving the space left by a missing tooth helps prevent adjacent teeth from shifting into that area, which can lead to overcrowding.
  2. Promote proper alignment – Fixed space maintainers guide permanent teeth into their proper position; preventing misalignment and malocclusion.
  3. Reduce the need for orthodontic treatment – Proper use of space maintainers during childhood may reduce the need for orthodontic treatment later on in life.
  4. Improve speech and chewing ability – Maintaining proper alignment of teeth with space maintainers can improve speech patterns and chewing ability in children.
  5. Boost self-esteem – A healthy smile is important for a child’s self-esteem and confidence –  having properly aligned teeth with proper spacing can help achieve this goal.

Types of Space Maintainers

As previously mentioned, there are two types of space maintainers- removable and fixed devices:

1) Removable Space Maintenance Devices:

Removable devices include acrylic partial dentures or retainers with artificial replacement tooth/teeth attached that fill  the gap left by  missing primary tooth/teeth.

These devices are easy to clean but require more cooperation from children as they have to remember to replace them after eating or playing sports.

Parents should supervise their children when these devices are being worn so they don’t accidentally lose or damage them while playing or sleeping.

2) Fixed Space Maintenance Devices:

Fixed appliances consist of metal bands cemented around adjacent primary molars with wires connecting them across empty spaces where primary teeth once were.

These cannot be removed until a dentist determines they have served their purpose;  therefore fixed appliances may be more difficult to clean and maintain good oral hygiene.

Fixed appliances are usually recommended when a child is at high risk of losing the space due to habits like thumb-sucking or tongue-thrusting.

Caring for Space Maintainers

Proper care of space maintainers is essential for their effectiveness and longevity. Here are some tips on how to care for your child’s space maintainer:

1.Encourage good oral hygiene – Remind your child to brush their teeth twice a day, floss daily, and rinse with an antimicrobial mouthwash.

2. Avoid sticky or hard foods – Foods like gum, candy, popcorn, etc., can damage or dislodge the device.

3. Regular dental visits – Schedule regular checkups with your pediatric dentist who will monitor the condition of the device and make necessary adjustments if needed.

4. Keep spare devices available – It is important to have spare removable devices in case one is lost or damaged.

5. Replace fixed appliances if necessary- If a fixed appliance becomes loose or damaged,  notify your dentist immediately so they can repair it before it causes any further problems.


In conclusion, as pediatric dentists we cannot stress enough that space maintainers are crucial in maintaining healthy teeth alignment during childhood development. They prevent unwanted shifting of teeth into vacant spaces created by premature tooth loss which often leads to more serious dental problems down the road. We recommend that if you suspect your child may be eligible for a spacer appointment then schedule a consultation with us at our Dentists For Kids in Jersey City NJ so that we may assess their individual needs and make recommendations accordingly as per best practice guidelines.

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