Space Maintainers

Dental space maintenance is when your dentist makes sure that the space where a baby tooth used to be stays open for the permanent tooth to come in. This helps the permanent tooth come in straight and strong.

Sometimes, when a baby tooth falls out, the space it left behind can start to close up before the permanent tooth has a chance to come in.  Permanent teeth in the back (the most common place to use a space maintainer) may not be ready to come in until the child is 12 or 13.  In this case, if the space is left alone with no maintenance, this can cause the permanent tooth to come in crooked or not fit properly, or at all.

To keep the space open, your dentist can put in a special appliance called a space maintainer, which is generally glued in. . It's like a bridge that holds the space open for the permanent tooth. The space maintainer is custom-made just for you and fits in the gap where the baby tooth used to be.

Having a space maintainer is important because it helps make sure that your permanent teeth come in straight and healthy. This way, your child can have a beautiful smile for years to come.  In order to determine which space maintainer should be used, there are a few factors to consider, including how much time the space will be there, which permanent teeth are in, and how stable are one-sided appliances versus two-sided appliances.  As always, the age and cooperation of the child is always a consideration.

Band and Loop


Lower Lingual Holding Arch

Upper Nance Appliance

What's involved in getting a space maintainer made?

A space maintainer involves two different dental appointments from start to finish.  At the first appointment, the dental team uses a dental tray and a play-doh like material called alginate that is used to make a model of the teeth.  Depending on the number of teeth in the mouth, the dental team may also fit "bands", or metal rings around the back teeth to get the exact size of the rings that will be used.  This first appointment is where we "impress" the jaw, or create an impression of the jaw.  This appointment is generally 30 minutes long.

The next appointment is the delivery appointment.  The child is seated, and the "spacer" is tried in, to make sure the rings and wires fit in the mouth.  Small adjustments are possible, and done during this phase of the appointment.  Once the appliance fits satisfactorily, it is removed, cleaned up, and cement is applied so that the appliance can be cemented, or "delivered".  The bite is checked, and the child is free to go. This appointment is generally 10-20 minutes long. 

How is the maintenance for a space maintainer?  Do I have to get it checked every 6 months?

Once your child has a space maintainer, there is little to no maintenance needed on the part of your child.  Regular brushing and flossing is encouraged,  and can help keep the space maintainer from loosening up or falling out of the mouth.   At your child's regular checkups (every 6 months), we will check the space maintainer to make sure it has not loosened up.

If the space maintainer comes loose, call our office as soon as possible.  Please do NOT try to remove the spacer by pulling it out because the cement is strong and you could damage the spacer, or you could pull a tooth out.  Spacer emergencies are seen same day and the spacer will be removed and kept safe until our pediatric dental team can re-deliver the spacer and make sure it fits well.