3D rendering of orthodontic teeth spacers aka separators

Spacers for Teeth | What They Are, Do & Pain

All You Need To Know About Orthodontic Spacers For Braces

Spacers for teeth are orthodontic devices that are frequently used with braces. If you’re thinking about getting traditional braces treatment, there’s a chance that they will use orthodontic spacers in the earliest stage of your tooth movement.

Our Ottawa orthodontist may recommend spacers if you need to wear molar bands (metal loops that slip around back teeth) for an expander or other common appliance.

What Are Spacers for Braces?

If you were to see a tooth spacer sitting on the counter, it would look like a very small rubber band. But the material it’s made from is stiffer and doesn’t stretch as much, so they differ from the other types of bands you might wear during your orthodontic treatment. They’re just flexible enough to conform during installation, but rigid enough to stay in place once installed. 

Orthodontic spacers are small, donut-shaped devices but they’re not the same thing as orthodontic rubber bands that we place around brackets — like when you get to choose what colour you’re wearing that month — however, they may still have a colour to them to make it easier to distinguish their different sizes. Since the widths differ by a matter of millimetres, having them in different colours makes the selection process quite straightforward. 

They’re also different from the rubber bands you might wear temporarily during the day, which attach between your upper and lower arch. 

What Do Spacers Do to Your Teeth?

Teeth spacers help to gently open the “contacts” where your teeth touch side-by-side. A wider contact space may be necessary if you need some type of orthodontic band around a back tooth.

Dr. Charles Cohen uses spacers for braces when there isn’t enough space to install specific types of orthodontic appliances. For instance, if we need to attach what’s called “molar bands”, around specific teeth. But there has to be space between your teeth for those bands to slip into place. If they’re too tight together, teeth spacers create a small amount of room by widening the space between teeth, so that the band can then slip into the contact area.

Are Spacers Necessary?

All traditional braces patients will wear brackets and wires, but not all of them need orthodontic spacers. Teeth spacers are only necessary if you’re going to wear some type of fixed appliance in addition to your braces, but only if there’s not enough space in the contact area (between teeth) for the band that holds it in place. 

If you have plenty of space between your teeth, you won’t need spacers. For braces wearers with tight or crowded teeth, spacers are more common. 

It’s worth noting that spacers aren’t used between every single tooth. They serve to create an extremely small amount of space between specific teeth that need room for a band to fit around them. So, you might only get two spacers (one on either side of a tooth) on each side of your mouth, usually around one of your back teeth. 

Why Do My Teeth Hurt with Spacers?

Wearing orthodontic spacers usually doesn’t hurt, but it can make that area a little sore. Usually, it feels like there’s something stuck between your teeth. You might feel tempted to floss, but don’t! As long as it feels like there’s something caught in your contact area, you’ll know that the spacer is doing its job. 

Chances are you’ll forget that the spacer is even there after a day or two. The first day you’ll notice it the most. It may feel a little sore initially after we place it, but that minor irritation shouldn’t last long. The minimal pressure that it’s placing on your two teeth (pushing them apart from one another) is similar to the type of sensation you feel in other areas when you’re wearing braces. 

Whatever you do, don’t give in to the temptation to floss that contact area. Otherwise, it will pull the spacer out from between your teeth. We bet you never thought you would hear a dentist or orthodontist say not to floss, right? Fortunately, it’s just temporary. The spacers are taken out as soon as your appliance is installed. In the meantime, be sure to floss all of the other areas!

How Long Do Spacers Hurt?

Orthodontic spacers are only used for temporary purposes. They’re not something that’s installed and left for the duration of your time in braces. Rather, we might place them before or leading up to your orthodontic installation and then remove them at the next visit. 

A spacer is typically worn for only 1-2 weeks. At that point, the device is removed and the “contact” between your teeth is open. If you do notice any soreness, it likely won’t last for more than a few days after the spacer is placed. By that time, it may feel like the “something caught between your teeth” sensation has all but gone away. 

How are Spacers Installed?

Installing spacers between teeth is quite easy. Since the spacer is semi-stretchy like a rubber band, it can be pulled taught to make it thinner. Usually, we use strands of floss on either side of it to pull and stretch the spacer. Sometimes a special instrument is used to do the same thing. Then, we use a side-to-side sweeping motion to work the spacer down in between your teeth. Once it’s positioned the way we like it, we slide the floss out of place. The spacer stays there until it falls out or we remove it. 

Will I Need Spacers? 

Every smile is unique. During your orthodontic consultation at Braces Haven, Dr. Cohen will evaluate your bite to determine if additional aids or appliances need to be used in conjunction with traditional orthodontics. That way you’ll know what to expect before you start treatment. If you decide to move forward with getting braces, we may even place the spacers that same day. It’s simple and only takes a few seconds to slip them into place. 

To learn more about teeth spacers and braces in Ottawa, request a consultation at Braces Haven!

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