How space maintainers are used to prepare for adult teeth 

If your child loses their teeth prematurely, a space maintainer might be needed to keep the space open until the permanent tooth erupts. Although baby teeth fall out naturally some may be extracted (due to dental decay) or lost (due to dental trauma). 

A space maintainer is a small appliance that effectively preserves the gap. Not only do they hold space for the adult teeth to grow, but they also prevent other baby teeth from moving into the open space. 

It is important to consult with a paediatric dentist about using a space maintainer anytime your child loses their baby teeth early. Especially in the back of the mouth where there is often less room for permanent teeth to develop and erupt.


Your child’s baby teeth play an integral role in their development – not only do they help your child to eat (get proper nutrition), they also help children to speak correctly, and guide their permanent teeth into their proper position. 

If your child loses a tooth due to injury, infection or because an extraction is required, the missing space between the teeth may lead to overcrowding. This can cause some complications with malocclusion (where teeth aren’t aligned properly) that may need orthodontic intervention.

Space maintainers aren’t for everyone though. If your child loses a baby tooth shortly before a permanent tooth is expected to develop, a space maintainer isn’t necessary. A space maintainer is only required if a permanent tooth is not expected to erupt for some time. 


Space maintainers are generally fixed in the mouth and your paediatric dentist will be able to show you what these look like during your consultation appointment. 

Fixed space maintainers 

Fixed space maintainers are attached with dental cement to the teeth beside the gap. These are helpful for young children or those who have lost back teeth. Fixed retainers can be fitted on the upper or lower jaw to maintain space for front or back teeth. If your child has lost one of their teeth at the front of their mouth, you can request to have a false tooth attached to fill the space. Your child’s age and ability to cooperate are important factors in deciding whether a space maintainer is suitable or not. 

Different types of commonly used space maintainers 

Some of the most popular options include:

  • Lingual holding arch: Used to maintain space for lower back teeth on both sides.
  • Band-and-loop device: Recommended when one or more baby molars are lost in one dental arch. This consists of a stainless steel wire that is held in place by orthodontic bands that allows the permanent tooth to erupt without blocking it.
  • Distal shoe appliance: Fitted over the child’s first molar and maintains the space for the permanent molar once the tooth is lost.
  • Transpalatal arch: Fitted on the upper jaw to preserve space on both sides of the dental arch. Held in place by wire fastened around the surrounding teeth.


Space maintainers are not meant to move or shift any teeth, so there is usually no pain associated with them. It may feel a little strange to begin with but your child will get used to them quickly.


It is best to avoid certain foods that could disturb your child’s space maintainer, such as sticky candy, hard fruit and chewing gum. Caring for a space maintainer is similar to how you would care for braces. 

As always, it is important to practice proper dental hygiene, flossing once a day and brushing twice, morning and night. In addition, if your child does have a space maintainer it is vital that you continue biannual visits to MPD so that their paediatric dentist can ensure the space maintainer is doing its job correctly. 

Lastly, encourage your child to not push on the device with their fingers or tongue as this could impact its effectiveness. 


The most important thing is to consult MPD if your child’s primary teeth begin to fall out earlier than expected.

If you’re unsure about the next steps then please get in touch with the team at MPD and we will be happy to help. 

If your child is overdue for their next appointment give us a call on (02) 9188-0202 or book online here. 

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics and to help begin the conversation with your children’s dentist. It should not be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health care professional prior to incorporating this as part of your child’s diet or health regimen.


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