Tooth spacer for child: What are they and do they hurt?

A tooth spacer, also known as a space maintainer, is a dental appliance used to hold the space left behind by a missing baby tooth until the permanent tooth erupts.

This is important because if the space is left empty, the surrounding teeth can drift or tilt into the gap, making it difficult for the permanent tooth to come in properly.

Types of Tooth spacers

There are two main types of tooth spacers: fixed and removable.

1. Fixed spacers.

The most common type of spacer used for young children. They are attached to the teeth and cannot be removed by the child. They are typically made of metal or acrylic.

2. Removable spacers.

They are like retainers and can be taken out by the child for cleaning or eating. They are usually made of plastic or acrylic and are a good option for older children who can cooperate with wearing the appliance.

Benefits of using a tooth spacer for Child

Sure, here are some of the benefits of using a tooth spacer for a child:

1. Prevents crowding and misalignment.

When a baby tooth is lost prematurely, the surrounding teeth can drift towards the empty space, leading to crowding and misalignment of the permanent teeth.

A spacer fills the gap and prevents this from happening, ensuring there’s enough space for the permanent tooth to erupt properly.

2. Promotes proper eruption of permanent teeth.

By holding the space open, a spacer guides the permanent tooth into the correct position during eruption. This can help prevent future orthodontic problems like crooked teeth, impacted teeth, and bite issues.

3. Preserve facial aesthetics.

A gap left by a missing baby tooth can affect the appearance of a child’s smile. A tooth spacer fills the gap, maintaining a more aesthetically pleasing smile while the permanent tooth develops.

4. Reduces the need for future orthodontic treatment.

By preventing crowding and misalignment, tooth spacers can potentially minimize the need for braces or other orthodontic treatments in the future. This can save time, money, and potential discomfort for your child.

5. Minimizes speech impediments.

In some cases, a gap left by a missing tooth can affect a child’s speech pronunciation. A tooth spacer can help prevent this by maintaining proper spacing between the teeth, ensuring normal speech development.

Overall, tooth spacers offer a range of benefits for children who have lost baby teeth prematurely. They can help ensure proper oral development, prevent future dental problems, and maintain a healthy, confident smile.

Related: Orthodontic Spacers: What Are They, Benefits and Cost

Does a tooth spacer hurt a child?

Having a tooth spacer shouldn’t hurt your child, but it’s normal for them to feel some discomfort or unfamiliar sensations afterward. Here’s what a child can feel during and after the placement:

During placement:

  1. The dentist will gently clean and dry the teeth around the gap. This might feel a bit ticklish or cool.
  2. The spacer itself is usually small and smooth, and placement is quick and painless.
  3. Some children might feel a slight pressure or tightness as the spacer is secured.

After placement:

  1. Your child’s teeth might feel a bit strange or “off” for a few days as they adjust to the spacer. They might also notice some increased saliva production.
  2. Some minor soreness or tenderness around the teeth is also common, especially when eating or brushing. This should go within a few days.

If your child experiences any significant pain, difficulty eating, or swelling that doesn’t improve within a few days, be sure to contact your dentist. They can check the spacer and address any concerns you might have.

How long does a child need to wear a tooth spacer?

The amount of time a child needs to wear a tooth spacer can vary depending on several factors, including:

  1. Type of tooth spacer: Fixed spacers typically need to be worn for a longer period than removable ones, as they need to be cemented in place and removed by a dentist. Removable spacers can be taken out for cleaning or eating, which can shorten the overall wear time.
  2. Reason for tooth loss: If the baby tooth was lost due to decay or trauma, the permanent tooth may take longer to erupt, requiring the spacer to be worn for a longer period.
  3. Age of the child: Younger children may need to wear the spacer for a longer time as their permanent teeth are still developing.
  4. Location of the missing tooth: The location of the missing tooth can also affect the wear time. For example, spacers for front teeth may need to be worn for a shorter period than those for back teeth, as front teeth erupt earlier.

In general, most children wear tooth spacers for 6 to 18 months, but some may need to wear them for up to 3 years.

It’s important to get regular checkups with your child’s dentist to monitor the progress of the permanent tooth and determine when the spacer can be removed.

How to Care for A Dental Spacer?

Taking care of your child’s dental spacer is crucial to ensure its effectiveness and prevent any discomfort. Here is what you can do:

1. Maintain good oral hygiene.

  • Brushing: Brush twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Angle the brush at 45 degrees towards the gum line and gently brush around the spacer and teeth. You can use a spacer brush or proxabrush to clean under the bands or wires.
  • Flossing: Floss daily, using a floss threader or a water flosser to clean between the teeth and under the spacer. Be gentle and avoid pulling or snapping the floss.

2. Avoid certain foods.

  • Sticky foods: Steer clear of sticky candies, gum, taffy, caramel, and other chewy treats that can get stuck in the spacer and dislodge it.
  • Hard foods: Avoid hard foods like nuts, ice, and candy that can damage the spacer or crack the teeth.
  • Crunchy foods: Crunchy foods like carrots, apples, and popcorn can be eaten with caution, but cut them into smaller pieces to prevent them from breaking the spacer.

3. Be mindful of habits.

  • Picking or playing: Discourage your child from picking or playing with the spacer, as this can loosen it or cause damage.
  • Contact sports: If your child participates in contact sports, consider wearing a mouthguard to protect the spacer.

4. Regular dental checkups.

  • Schedule regular dental checkups for your child to monitor the spacer’s condition and ensure the permanent tooth is erupting properly. The dentist will check for any signs of loosening, damage, or inflammation.

Additional tips

If the spacer becomes loose or dislodges, don’t try to fix it yourself. Contact your dentist immediately for proper reattachment.

Remember, it’s always best to consult your dentist for specific instructions on caring for your child’s dental spacer.

How much do tooth spacers cost?

These are separate appliances and their cost can range from $200 to $400 per space.

They are covered by dental insurance as preventative care.

The Bottom line

A tooth spacer plays a crucial role in children’s dental health by holding space for permanent teeth after premature baby tooth loss. Wearing a spacer typically lasts several months to a few years, depending on the missing tooth type and individual factors.

While it might cause initial discomfort, proper care and attending dental checkups ensures optimal effectiveness.

Remember, consulting your dentist is key to a healthy smile journey!

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