Space Maintainers


A space maintainer holds the place of a prematurely lost primary tooth, also known as a baby tooth. By occupying the space, it prevents other teeth from crowding the newly opened space. That way, space is maintained for the permanent tooth to come.

Your child may need a space maintainer if they lose a tooth too early or have to have a primary tooth removed because of decay. 

Space maintainers are custom-made by a dentist or orthodontist. They can be made of either acrylic or metal. Some space maintainers are cemented into a child’s mouth, but others can be removed as needed. 

Removable space maintainers are a lot like orthodontic appliances and often they are acrylic. In some cases, an artificial tooth may be used to fill the space that must remain open for the permanent tooth yet to come.

There are four different kinds of fixed space maintainers: unilateral, crown and loop, distal shoe and lingual.

  • The unilateral space maintainer wraps around the outside of the tooth. It is connected to a metal loop that holds the needed space. 
  • The crown and loop is an actual crown that covers the tooth and is attached to a loop to ensure there is enough space.
  • The distal shoe space maintainer is commonly used for an unerupted permanent molar. It is a more complicated space maintainer and often needs to be monitored by a dentist as the teeth grow.
  • The lingual space maintainer is more permanently cemented to molar teeth and connected by a wire on the inside. This type of space maintainer is most commonly used when more than one tooth is missing.

Baby teeth help permanent teeth to position when they are lost. However, if space is not maintained, other teeth can move into the open space requiring more serious orthodontic treatment later. Not every child will need a space maintainer; check with your dentist to determine if your child needs one. 

Sometimes it takes children some time to become accustomed to wearing a space maintainer, whether it is fixed or removable. Not to worry, the dentist will talk with your child about how to properly care for the space maintainer. The child will see the dentist on a regular basis to monitor treatment with the space maintainer and keep up with regular professional cleanings and dental appointments.


Space Maintainers FAQ

Some children need space maintainers if a primary tooth is lost too soon or extracted early because of decay.

Space maintainers do not move teeth, therefore, they should not cause any pain or discomfort. If your child has pain or discomfort associated with their space maintainer, call your dentist.

Most dental insurance plans provide benefits for space maintainers, but some restrictions may apply. Check with your insurance provider to determine what may or may not be covered by your plan.

It can be tempting to help children with loose teeth, but you should not. Pulling a primary tooth too soon risks infection and injury if the root has not completely dissolved.

They are typically removed by the dentist when the new, permanent tooth starts to erupt.

Yes, when the permanent tooth begins to erupt, the dentist will remove the space maintainer to allow the permanent tooth space to come in.

The length of time your child needs to wear a spacer will depend on how long it takes for the permanent tooth to erupt. Until then, the spacer will need to maintain the space for the permanent tooth.

Children can eat normally with spacers, but many dentists recommend avoiding gum and other sticky foods like caramel or taffy, as these foods can cause your spacers to fall out prematurely.

Here are some tips: Don\'t pick at your spacers. Avoid foods that are sticky or chewy like taffy or caramel. Do NOT floss where space maintainers are present. If you feel “pressure” on your teeth, don’t be alarmed. That is normal. However, you can take Tylenol to help with the pain.

Space maintainers are made of acrylic or metal material.