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Up close view of child smiling with a missing tooth

Whenever a child loses a tooth prematurely, a space maintainer may be needed to keep the space open so the permanent tooth can grow in correctly. Losing a baby tooth is a natural occurrence, but some baby teeth must be extracted due to dental decay. A space maintainer is a custom-made appliance that helps permanent teeth grow in correctly and prevent future oral health complications. If you are worried about the gap in between your child’s teeth, learn how a space maintainer can keep your child’s teeth straight and allow for proper tooth development!

 

Why Baby Teeth Fall Out Prematurely

Most children get their first full set of baby teeth by the age of 3, and these help them eat their food while serving as placeholders for their future permanent teeth. Occasionally, baby teeth are lost prematurely or permanent teeth erupt later than they should, so space maintainers have become a popular way to support the child’s mouth until the gaps are filled with permanent teeth. There are many reasons why children lose their baby teeth earlier than expected. For one, some experience trauma to the mouth, such as tripping or getting hit in the mouth with some object. Others lose teeth due to “baby bottle decay,” which occurs whenever a child falls asleep at either breast or bottle, or walks around with a bottle for large amounts of time. The sugar content in the milk causes enamel to decay and cavities to appear, which can lead to premature tooth loss. Genetic influences can also affect whether permanent teeth develop or not, which can leave gaps in the mouth. Although rare, some children suffer from oral infections that are severe enough to cause tooth loss, but this is not as common as an injury or baby bottle decay. Even though losing baby teeth prematurely is not inherently bad, the consequences of not having a tooth in the space where a permanent tooth will eventually erupt can cause some complications with malocclusion that will need orthodontic care later on. Space maintainers provide the mouth with the proper space for permanent teeth to erupt into while ensuring that other teeth do not crowd that area until the tooth develops.

 

How Space Maintainers Help

Space maintainers basically “hold space” for permanent teeth once a baby tooth has been lost prematurely. When adult teeth are ready to come into the mouth, there may not be enough room because of the lost space. For this reason, dentists recommend space maintainers to hold open any spaces left by the missing tooth. These devices are typically made of acrylic, with loops and bands made of steel wire to hold them in position. Space maintainers ensure that your child develops their permanent teeth in the right locations while giving support to the surrounding teeth. Teeth are notorious for moving or becoming loose without the support of surrounding teeth, so space maintainers also help other teeth stay in their proper places and not move into the gaps where the missing teeth were once located. Space maintainers aren’t for everyone, though. If your child loses a baby tooth shortly before a permanent tooth is expected to develop, a space maintainer isn’t necessary. For those patients whose permanent teeth won’t be developing for an extended amount of time, space maintainers come in handy to guide those teeth into proper alignment whenever they do erupt.

 

Type of AppliancesPicture of a partial denture with teeth in it

For those who choose space maintainers, they come in two different options: removable and fixed. Removable devices are made of acrylic and use artificial teeth to hold open the spaces. These are ideal for older children who are capable of removing and cleaning them on their own. For children with several missing teeth, partial dentures are another option to maintain the spaces in the mouth. Fixed maintainers are attached with dental cement to the teeth beside the gap. These are helpful for young children or those who have lost back teeth. Fixed retainers can be fitted on the upper or lower jaw to maintain space for front or back teeth. The device that your child will be given will depend upon the number and location of missing teeth in their mouth, but age is also considered, as well.

 

There are quite a few different options to choose from if your dentist recommends a fixed maintainer for your child. Some of the most popular options include:

 

  • Lingual holding arch: Used to maintain space for lower back teeth on both sides.
  • Band-and-loop device: Recommended when one or more baby molars are lost in one dental arch. Stainless steel wire that is held in place by orthodontic bands that allows the permanent tooth to erupt without blocking it.
  • Distal shoe appliance: Fitted over the baby first molar and maintains the space for the permanent molar once the tooth is lost.
  • Transpalatal arch: Fitted on the upper jaw to preserve space on both sides of the dental arch. Held in place by wire fastened around the surrounding teeth.

 

Each of these devices are custom-made to fit to your child’s mouth. The dentist will take impressions of your child’s teeth, then send that impression to the dental laboratory to create the appliance.

 

Advantages of Child Orthodontics

With the modern technology and tools that are available to dental patients, child orthodontics has become more popular and necessary to maintain the oral health of young kids. Especially if your child loses a baby tooth prematurely, visiting with an orthodontist early on can help detect hidden dental issues, observe the progress of incoming teeth, decrease the risk for permanent tooth extractions and guide incoming teeth into their ideal positions.

 

If your child is in need of a space maintainer or is having issues with crowded teeth, call Belmar Orthodontics at (303) 225-9016! Our team is dedicated to your oral health and is ready to help your family get the beautiful smile that they deserve!

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mother brushing her teeth with her daughter

If you teach a child good oral hygiene habits early on, odds are that they will have better oral hygiene habits when they are teens and adults. As soon as a toddler gets their first tooth, it’s essential to start brushing and flossing their teeth. Afterwards, you will need to teach them the basics of good oral hygiene practices, especially when it comes to wearing braces. Find out what those basics are and what you should be thinking about for your child’s oral health!

 

Teaching Good Oral Hygiene Early

Good oral hygiene habits are essential for a healthy mouth and especially during orthodontic care. Many children need early orthodontics, which is also known as “child orthodontics”. This is when bite and alignment issues are corrected around age 7 or 8 to avoid serious problems later on. However, we hope that every child has good oral hygiene habits established well before this visit. Otherwise, not only will a child be dealing with bite and alignment issues, but they will also be dealing with tooth decay.

 

As soon as your child gets their first tooth as a baby, you need to start brushing that tooth. Brush it morning and night with a rice-size amount of fluoride toothpaste. Also make sure to clean your baby’s gums with a wet cloth after feedings. Once they start to grow, begin teaching them how to brush their teeth properly. You will have to help brush your child’s teeth for the first couple of years until they have the dexterity in their hands to do it themselves. Flossing will come later as more teeth come in.

 

two small boys brushing their teeth

Learning to Brush

Brushing the teeth is one of the most important habits a child can have. Brushing long enough is key for a healthy mouth. Make sure you get a toothbrush that fits the size of your child’s mouth. There are brushes for infants, toddlers, children, teens and adults. All will be different sizes and some children brushes will come in fun shapes and colors to help children brush.

 

Children can’t always tell how long they have been brushing. Having them brush their teeth for a duration of a song or brushing your teeth alongside them to make sure they brush long enough. When they are old enough to have braces, brushing is even more important than before to avoid tooth decay. Food that gets stuck in brackets can cause rapid decay. Make sure they brush longer and at different angles to dislodge food. When children are first learning, brush with them as many days as it takes when first learning to brush their teeth. Do the same when they learn to brush with braces.

 

Flossing 101

Children won’t have to floss until they are toddlers. The baby teeth are spaced out until they all come in. Kids will have a total of 20 baby teeth that will start to come closer together as a baby ages. Until a child has the dexterity to use floss like an adult, it’s smart to invest in flossers. These are secure, hand-held flossing tools that children can put in between their teeth to easily dislodge food. Ask us about mouthwash and fluoride products to see if they should be part of your child’s oral hygiene routine as well.

 

See a Dentist and Orthodontist

Starting from an early age, children need to start visiting the dentist. By age 7, they should see us for an orthodontic exam as well. Dental visits themselves are so important that most dental insurances cover those twice-a-year visits. These biannual visits generally consist of comprehensive exams and dental cleanings. At first, children may be nervous about visiting a dentist. Offices can be large with busy equipment that children aren’t familiar with. Dental tools can also be loud, which can make children nervous. However, these visits are nothing to worry about whether it is a dentist or orthodontist.

 

To help your child get used to being in an office, make sure you go to a pediatric dentist instead of a general dentist while they are young. Pediatric offices (such as our orthodontic one) has staff that is trained to work well with children. Dr. Hardyl has experience with children on a daily basis. He was trained in both dentistry and orthodontics and can spot the signs of dental issues early-on. His staff knows what kids worry about and they know how to explain dental and orthodontic terms so a child can understand. An exam sounds serious, but it’s really just Dr. Hardy looking inside your child’s mouth for any bite, alignment or dental problems. If a child hasn’t seen Dr. Hardy by age 7, make sure to get them in for an examination!

 

A hygienist teaching a small girl how to brush teeth correctly

Good Habits for Life

Start children out young when teaching them good oral hygiene. If you make a habit of brushing and flossing, children will see that example and will follow it. When you help them learn good oral hygiene habits as soon as they can talk and understand, they can start keeping their mouth clean themselves. There are many resources online to help teach children specifics of brushing, flossing, and for learning about dental hygiene. We help children every day with brushing, flossing, caring for braces and establishing good oral hygiene. Call Belmar Orthodontics at (303) 225-9016 with any and all questions you have about your child’s oral health. Let us help you as you and your child learn to establish good oral hygiene habits together!