Preventative dentistry might seem like something that's reserved for adult teeth. After all, these teeth are supposed to last a lifetime, and preventative intervention can be required to halt damage before a tooth can become irreversibly compromised. Children who have prematurely lost a baby tooth may also require preventative dentistry to offset (or prevent) any issues that they might experience as their replacement adult tooth grows into place. When is this needed?

Space Maintainers

The objective of a dental space maintainer is to prevent the teeth on either side of an empty dental socket from crowding the space. Without the physical obstruction of the tooth, these neighboring teeth may begin to angle into the space created by the absent tooth. This angle can prevent the normal eruption of the adult tooth that will eventually emerge from the dental socket. A space maintainer enables this normal eruption.

Crown and Loop

The best form of space maintainer will depend on your child's age and the location of the lost tooth. Whether the tooth was prematurely lost due to decay or trauma doesn't play much of a role; however, when neighboring teeth have similarly become affected by decay, then additional preventative measures may be needed for these teeth. Your child's dentist might employ a crown and loop method, wherein the decayed tooth is capped with a stainless steel dental crown, which has a small loop bonded to its side. This loop extends over the empty dental socket, keeping the space free for the emergence of your child's adult tooth.

Unilateral Maintainer

When no decay or degradation is evident, an existing tooth on one side of the gap can act as an anchor for a unilateral space maintainer, which is when a metal loop is attached to the tooth and then rests against the tooth on the other side of the gap, preventing both teeth from angling into the space. The space maintainer will be removed when your child's adult tooth begins to erupt from the gum line. Your child might not necessarily have to live with a gap until that time either.

Pediatric Partials

Regardless of the type of space maintainer used, your dentist may recommend a pediatric partial, which is a prosthetic tooth that sits above the space maintainer, hiding the fact that the tooth was prematurely lost. This isn't always necessary, but it can be advisable when the gap would otherwise be present for some months (or longer). Remember that this is a cosmetic solution only, and any prosthetic tooth applied in conjunction with a space maintainer will not have the full functionality of a natural tooth. 

A prematurely lost baby tooth can create significant problems with the development of the replacement adult tooth, which is why preventative action in the form of a space maintainer can be essential.

To learn more, contact a resource that offers preventative dental care.