A baby tooth normally stays in place until a permanent tooth comes up underneath it, pushes it out and replaces it.

If a tooth is lost earlier than usual, the surrounding teeth can shift into the empty space and prevent or block the permanent tooth from erupting.

To prevent future space loss and orthodontic problems, Dr. Oh may recommend a space maintainer.

A space maintainer will hold open the empty space left by a lost tooth. It will hold the remaining teeth in place and prevent movement until the permanent tooth erupts into its proper position. It is easier keeping the teeth in their correct place now with a space maintainer than trying to move them back into place with orthodontic treatment in the future.

These appliances serve one of the most important functions in orthodontics. Maintaining space for permanent teeth to naturally come into the mouth at their own pace is imperative to proper tooth alignment. Without appropriate space maintenance, early loss of a primary tooth may result in a collapse of the arch, or over crowding.