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As most parents are well aware, young children grow what are known as baby teeth, placeholders that will eventually fall out and give way to permanent adult teeth. While the precise ages at which this will happen vary between children, the general process is roughly the same in healthy child mouths.

At Salt Lake Pediatric Dentistry, we’re proud to offer a variety of responsive and preventive child dental services, including assisting children and parents alike with everything you may need regarding baby teeth and development. In some cases, children may lose baby teeth too early for a variety of reasons – this can lead to a few issues you’d be wise to consider as a parent, issues that may be solved by a temporary device known as a space maintainer. Here are some details on this entire area of child dental care.

Baby Teeth Purpose and Issues

As we noted above, a primary purpose of a baby tooth is to remain in place until a permanent tooth is ready to grow in, pushing it out. But there are several reasons why baby teeth may come out earlier than this – perhaps they were knocked out somehow, or perhaps a dental condition required them to be removed.

Problems With Missing Teeth

When this happens, and baby teeth are out of the mouth well before their corresponding adult teeth are ready to grow in, a couple issues are created. These baby teeth are important for jaw and muscle development in this area, which may lack if too many teeth are missing.

In particular, the teeth nearby the missing tooth area may begin to tilt or drift into the space left open. As adjusting teeth drift into this space, they limit the space available in the jaw for the permanent tooth to eventually grow in. When it comes time for this to happen, permanent teeth may grow in crooked, or could be crowded together in unhealthy ways. If this process isn’t headed off before it becomes too serious, significant orthodontic treatment is often required to correct these issues.

How Space Maintainers Help

A space maintainer is a simple metal or plastic appliance that can be created and custom fit to your child’s mouth. Space maintainers are small and virtually invisible to anyone else, and kids get used to them quickly.

As the name suggests, space maintainers hold open the empty space left when a baby tooth is lost early. They hold remaining teeth, preventing them from drifting into the space and helping the jaw retain its proper shape. Space maintainers are easy to use and much cheaper than extensive orthodontic treatments down the line.

Basic Care for Space Maintainers

Care for space maintainers is simple and easy:

  • Avoid sticky candies or chewing gum while wearing the maintainer.
  • Keep the maintainer clean with regular brushing and flossing.
  • Don’t tug or push on the maintainer with fingers or tongue.
  • Continue regular dental appointments to check on space maintainer quality.

For more on space maintainers, or to learn about any of our pediatric dental services, speak to the staff at Salt Lake Pediatric Dentistry today.