Orthodontic treatments have come a long way in recent years, offering people the opportunity to achieve a perfect smile through a variety of techniques.
One common aspect of orthodontic treatment is the use of spacers before getting braces to create space for molar bands to be fitted.
In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about spacers, including their purpose, how they work, the procedure for placing them, and how to care for them.
- What are Spacers?
- Types of spacers
- How do Spacers Work?
- The Procedure of Placing Spacers
- How long do you usually need spacers for?
- Discomfort and pain management
- Caring for Your Spacers
- Dealing with discomfort and pain
- What to do if a spacer falls out
- Transitioning from Spacers to Braces
- Frequently Asked Questions
What are Spacers?
Spacers, also known as separators, are small orthodontic devices used to create space between teeth before the placement of molar bands.
They are typically made of rubber or metal and are designed to gently push teeth apart, creating the necessary room for the bands to be placed around the molars.
These bands are often used when fitting certain types of braces, such as traditional metal braces or lingual braces.
Types of spacers
Rubber separators are the most common type of spacers used in orthodontic treatments.
They are small, elastic bands made of latex or silicone material that are inserted between the teeth using a special instrument called a separator placer.
Rubber spacers are usually blue or grey and can be easily removed once the desired space has been created.
Metal separators, also known as brass wire separators or spring separators, are less commonly used but may be recommended in specific situations.
They are made of a thin, flexible metal wire that is twisted into a figure-eight shape and placed between the teeth.
Metal spacers are typically more durable than rubber separators and may be used when greater force is required to create space between teeth.
How do Spacers Work?
Creating space between teeth
Spacers work by applying gentle pressure on the teeth, causing them to gradually move apart over time.
This process is called tooth separation and can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the patient’s specific needs.
Once the teeth have separated enough to accommodate orthodontic bands, the spacers can be removed, and the braces can be placed.
Preparing teeth for braces
Creating space between the teeth is a crucial step in preparing for braces.
Without adequate space, orthodontic bands may not fit properly, and the braces may not function as intended, leading to less effective treatment or even damage to the teeth.
Spacers help ensure that the braces can be placed correctly and that the treatment will be successful in achieving the desired results.
The Procedure of Placing Spacers
- The orthodontist will first examine your teeth to determine the best type and size of spacers for your specific needs.
- The spacers will be sterilized and prepared for insertion.
- The orthodontist will use a separator placer or a pair of tweezers to insert the spacers between the teeth that require separation. This process may feel slightly uncomfortable but should not be painful.
- The orthodontist will then check to ensure the spacers are positioned correctly and provide you with instructions on how to care for them until your next appointment.
How long do you usually need spacers for?
The duration of spacer placement varies from patient to patient, depending on the amount of space that needs to be created between the teeth.
In most cases, spacers are left in place for one to two weeks before they are removed and replaced with braces.
The teeth may feel sore and sensitive during this period as they gradually shift to create the necessary space.
Following your orthodontist’s instructions and attending all follow-up appointments is essential to ensure the spacers are working correctly and can be removed as scheduled.
Discomfort and pain management
It’s not uncommon for patients to experience some discomfort and pain after spacers are placed, especially during the first few days.
This is because the teeth are being pushed apart and may feel tender or sore. To help manage any discomfort or pain, you can:
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, as your orthodontist recommends.
- Apply ice packs to the outside of your cheeks near the sore areas to help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
- Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater to help soothe any irritation in the gum tissue surrounding the spacers.
- Eat soft foods that are easy to chew and avoid hard, crunchy, or sticky items that may exacerbate your discomfort.
Caring for Your Spacers
Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial while wearing spacers, as it helps prevent plaque buildup and other dental issues.
Here are some tips for taking care of your spacers:
- Brush your teeth gently but thoroughly at least twice a day, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss carefully around the spacers, ensuring you don’t dislodge them in the process.
- Use an antiseptic mouthwash to help kill bacteria and keep your mouth fresh and clean.
While wearing spacers, it’s essential to be mindful of your diet to avoid dislodging them or causing additional discomfort. Consider the following food recommendations:
- Stick to soft foods that are easy to chew, such as mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, yogurt, and pasta.
- Avoid hard, crunchy, or sticky foods that may get caught in the spacers or cause them to come loose, like popcorn, nuts, caramel, and gum.
- Cut food into smaller pieces and chew carefully to minimize the pressure on your teeth and spacers.
Dealing with discomfort and pain
As mentioned earlier, it’s normal to experience some discomfort and pain while wearing spacers.
In addition to the pain management tips provided earlier, try to be patient and remind yourself that the discomfort is temporary and will subside as your teeth adjust to the spacers.
What to do if a spacer falls out
If a spacer falls out, it’s important to contact your orthodontist as soon as possible.
They will determine whether the spacer needs to be replaced or if enough space has been created for the braces to be placed.
Do not attempt to replace the spacer yourself, as this can lead to complications or incorrect placement.
Transitioning from Spacers to Braces
Once the necessary space has been created between your teeth, your orthodontist will remove the spacers.
This process is typically quick and painless.
Your orthodontist will use a separator placer or tweezers to gently slide the spacers out from between your teeth.
After the spacers have been removed, your orthodontist will proceed with placing the braces.
Orthodontic bands will be fitted around your molars, and brackets will be attached to the front surface of each tooth using a special dental adhesive.
An archwire will then be threaded through the brackets and secured with elastic bands or metal ties, depending on the braces you receive.
This process can take anywhere from one to two hours, depending on the complexity of your case and the type of braces being used.
Adjusting to braces
Once your braces have been placed, it’s normal to experience some discomfort and soreness as your teeth begin to adjust.
This discomfort may be similar to what you experienced with spacers, but it should subside within a few days to a week.
To help with the adjustment period, consider the following tips:
- Maintain a soft food diet for the first few days, gradually introducing harder foods as your comfort level increases.
- Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater or use over-the-counter pain relievers to help alleviate any discomfort.
- Use orthodontic wax to cover any brackets or wires that may be causing irritation to your cheeks or lips.
- Practice good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing around your braces, to prevent plaque buildup and maintain a healthy smile throughout your orthodontic treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do spacers stay in?
Spacers typically stay in place for one to two weeks before they are removed and replaced with braces.
The exact duration depends on the patient’s specific needs and the amount of space that needs to be created between the teeth.
Can I eat with spacers?
Yes, you can eat with spacers; however, it’s essential to be mindful of your food choices to avoid dislodging the spacers or causing additional discomfort. Stick to soft foods that are easy to chew and avoid hard, crunchy, or sticky items.
Will spacers affect my speech?
Spacers may initially cause minor changes in your speech, such as a slight lisp or difficulty pronouncing certain sounds.
However, these changes are temporary and should resolve as you become accustomed to the spacers.
Can spacers be reused?
No, spacers cannot be reused. They are custom-fitted for each patient and are designed for single-use only.
If a spacer falls out or needs to be replaced, your orthodontist will provide you with a new one.
Spacers for braces play a crucial role in preparing your teeth for orthodontic treatment, ensuring that bands can be placed correctly and effectively.
By understanding their purpose, how they work, and how to care for them, you can feel more comfortable and prepared for your orthodontic journey.
Although wearing spacers can be an uncomfortable and challenging experience at times, remember that the end goal is a beautiful and healthy smile.
Following your orthodontist’s instructions and maintaining good oral hygiene can ensure a successful and smooth orthodontic journey.
Stay patient and keep your eyes on the prize – a perfect smile awaits!