When baby (primary) teeth are lost before the permanent teeth erupt, the space may need to be filled with a space maintainer (spacer). Not only are primary teeth used for chewing and speech development, they guide permanent teeth into the spaces where they belong without shifting, and protect the mouth from crowding and future orthodontic problems. Spacers are removed when the new tooth erupts.
Not every space needs to be filled:
- The four upper front teeth spaces will stay open on their own.
- If a permanent tooth is ready to erupt, your child may not need a spacer.
- But if space is already a problem, a spacer may be necessary.
Space maintainers are made of stainless steel or plastic, and come in two forms:
- Fixed – cemented onto the teeth on either side of the space
- Removable – looks like a retainer, used primarily for cosmetic space filling