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Space Maintainers 

Space maintainers are small appliances that are worn to maintain a space between teeth.  A space maintainer may be necessary if a “baby tooth” or primary tooth is lost before the permanent replacement tooth is ready to come in.  Ordinarily, a permanent tooth uses the primary tooth as a guide for placement.  A space maintainer is used to keep the adjacent teeth in position to allow the permanent tooth to grow in correctly.  If a space maintainer is not used, the permanent tooth may move out of alignment or come in at an angle.

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Primary teeth may be lost too soon for several reasons.  They may be knocked out in a fall or injury.  They may need to be removed because of tooth decay, gum disease, or complications from some medical conditions, such as bone disease or diabetes.  Some people may not develop all of the primary teeth.  Further, permanent teeth may take additional time to come in.

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Your child’s dentist can determine if a space maintainer is necessary.  Your dentist will examine your child’s teeth and gums.  Dental X-rays are used to visualize permanent teeth that are beneath the gums.  If a permanent tooth is about to come in, a space maintainer may not be needed.

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Your child’s dentist or orthodontist will custom-make a space maintainer to fit your child’s mouth. Your dentist will make a mold of your child’s teeth and gums.  The mold is used as a model to create the space maintainer.  Space maintainers may be removable or permanent.  They should be carefully brushed and cleaned.

Your child’s dentist will monitor the progress of the incoming permanent tooth with regular office visits and X-rays.  The space maintainer is removed when the permanent tooth is about to come in.  If a permanent tooth fails to come in, a bridge or implant will be placed when your child is in his or her late teens.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit