Primary teeth, also known as baby teeth, have more purpose than just milking the Tooth Fairy of her hard-earned money. In addition to aiding chewing and speaking, the presence of primary teeth helps guide the permanent teeth into place, as long as the timing is right.
In cases where the primary tooth falls out earlier than expected and the permanent tooth is not yet ready to take its place, there is a chance that spacing for it can shrink. The simple reason is that the neighboring primary teeth begin to shift inward to close up the space left by the missing tooth. Without enough space to grow up and into, the permanent tooth may come in at an angle.
How can this be prevented? The answer is simple: We keep the space open with an appliance called a space maintainer. These devices maintain the width of the space which was occupied by the primary tooth. A simple type of space maintainer is made of a fixed or removable metal band and wire. The band is attached to the base teeth, and the wire is extended between the two, thus preserving the space. There are several other variations of the space maintainer, and the complexity of the one used is often dictated by the location of the tooth, shape of the jaw and the patient’s age.
Not all cases of premature primary tooth loss require space maintainers. Usually, the four front top and bottom teeth will have enough space to grow in by themselves. Dr. Sjostrom can help make the call on whether or not a space maintainer is necessary.
Regular visits to our office are important for monitoring the space for incoming teeth and the health of the gum tissue around them. Be careful with assuming that your child’s permanent teeth will grow in correctly because they are “supposed to.” We can ensure that your child’s permanent teeth will come in properly so that he or she has a healthy smile.