Without special attention to oral hygiene, orthodontic space maintainers can affect oral health, say the authors of a recent study published in the journal Medical Principles and Practice.
The Turkish study included 38 children, aged four to 10 years, each of whom was given a space maintainer.
A space maintainer is a device that is placed in a child’s mouth when the child has lost a baby molar too soon. It holds the space open so that the permanent tooth can come into the mouth in a normal position. The device is usually made of metal, although it sometimes includes plastic parts. A fixed space maintainer is cemented in the mouth for several months. A removable one can be taken out and put back in.
The children in the study were examined just before their space maintainers were put in, and after one, three and six months.
By the six-month visit, children with fixed space maintainers had poorer gum health around the space maintainer. The gums in that area were puffier and more likely to bleed when probed with a dental tool.
All of the children had more Candida yeast species in their mouths at the six-month visit, compared with before the space maintainer was put in. They also had more Enterococcus faecalis bacteria. This is a normal part of the human digestive system, but it can cause infection, including urinary tract infections, wound infections and bacterial meningitis.
The authors conclude that any patient given a space maintainer should be told that it can lead to increased bacteria and yeast in the mouth. These patients should give special attention to oral hygiene.