How Do Kids Space Maintainers Work?

Courtney Tomlinson - Tuesday, December 01, 2015

To learn more about kids space maintainers, visit our dental office or read our answers to frequently asked questions below.

What is the purpose of kids space maintainers?

People often don't realize the importance of baby teeth. Baby teeth are mainly in place to keep space available for a permanent tooth to grow in healthily. When baby teeth are lost, it paves a way for permanent teeth to grow in. Baby teeth act as a catalyst.

Sometimes baby teeth are lost prematurely which can result in the poor formation of permanent teeth. Premature loss can happen if an accident like a fall, sports injury, tooth abscess, or infection occurs. When baby teeth are lost prematurely, kids space maintainers are normally used to save the place for an adult tooth. If the space is not saved, the adjacent teeth may drift into an incorrect position, resulting in orthodontic issues, crowding, poor dental hygiene, and even discomfort.

How long will my child wear a kids space maintainer?

Kids space maintainers can be there for a long time, but they are never permanent. They are typically removed when the new, permanent tooth begins to a erupt or nearby abutment teeth become loose.

What do kids space maintainers look like?

Most kids space maintainers are made of stainless steel, but some are made of plastic. They will typically be silver in appearance unless otherwise arranged and anchored in place by another tooth. Kids space maintainers can be removable, but some are cemented onto the abutment teeth (teeth on either side of the space)— these are called fixed space maintainers.

A removable kids space maintainer can be similar in appearance to a retainer. An artificial tooth or plastic shaped block will be placed in the space to hold it for a permanent tooth. This type of kids space maintainer is normally only used in visible areas. It is not recommended for areas of high pressure like back molars. Removable space maintainers are normally only recommended for older, more responsible children.

Fixed kids space maintainers are more common. They are held in place in many different ways. One type is a band-and-loop maintainer that is made of stainless steel wire and is held securely by a crown on the tooth right by the space. Another type is a distal shoe appliance that is inserted under the gums. This type of maintainer is used when a baby tooth is lost in the place of a first permanent molar. Because no other molars have come in, there is no place for other types of kids space maintainers to be anchored.

The last type of fixed space maintainer is the lingual arch version. This is used when the back teeth are missing on both sides of the lower portion of the jaw. When this occurs, more space will need to be maintained, and the easiest way to do this is with a wire connected to the bands that are placed as an anchor. The wire runs on the inside of the bottom teeth where it cannot be seen from the front.

Kids space maintainers are not always necessary. Typically if the baby tooth that is lost is on the four upper front teeth, a kids space maintainer won't be needed. To learn more about how kids space maintainers work and if your child may need one to preserve a place for a permanent tooth, visit or call our office.