In the orthodontic field, spacers are the first step towards being fitted for braces. Some people have heard them alternately called “orthodontic separators,” which is precisely what they are. If you have not yet been given a look at the spacers, you may be surprised to find out they are small elastic rings that look like small rubber bands.
These tiny blue rings are approximately one centimeter in diameter. Although that may sound like a large gap to place between your teeth, the spacers are placed on each side of the teeth in a parallel arrangement, so the gap is not as large as it might seem at first. Orthodontic separators or spacers can be worn for varying periods — from as little as a few days before fitting braces or as long as required.
Why are Spacers Necessary?
The design of orthodontic separators is quite simple, but they are very important in the process of getting braces. When your braces are first fitted, it is critical that the rear molars do not fit too tightly to each other. The braces will work to progressively shift your teeth and align them properly. If during this process the back molars begin fitting too closely against each other, it will not only become uncomfortable, but cavities can form or your bite may be altered in such a way that the top and bottom teeth come together when in biting position. To prevent this from happening, orthodontic separators are placed between the back three teeth in the mouth on both sides.
How are Spacers Fitted?
The spacer fitting process is not complicated, but some consider it to be an uncomfortable experience. Dr. Steven Ricci begins by stretching each elastic space so that it becomes thinner and can be inserted between the teeth. Our orthodontist then releases each band when the correct spacer position is determined. This is usually the place where the spacer’s bottom lies just over the gum line and the spacer top is located in a level position with the lowest crown point of each adjacent tooth. This part of the procedure is commonly referred to as “flossing.”
Are Spacers Painful?
Some people find the separator fitting process to be painless, but it is common to experience some discomfort, particularly jaw tenderness caused by the force needed to conduct the fitting. At first, it can seem as though a large food particle is stuck in between your teeth. This may lead to the sensation of pressure in between your teeth or gums. This feeling can range from a minor irritation to a sensation not unlike a toothache.
If your molars are tightly set, you may have more discomfort since the spacers will have to create more space to form the necessary gap between the teeth. Most people find that their pain or discomfort begins fading after the first couple of days of wearing separators, while others experience some discomfort for as long as one week following their fitting.
How is Discomfort Managed?
Any pain or discomfort caused by the placement of spacers can be minimized by using a mixture of pain medications and changes to your diet. Dr. Steven Ricci will not normally prescribe pain medication for separators since any pain or discomfort can usually be minimized with the use of over-the-counter pain medications. Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen should help manage any pain you are experiencing.
You should avoid biting down strongly on your teeth while you are experiencing discomfort because this added stress can lead to increased sensations of pain and discomfort. You may also wish to avoid chewing hard foods that require increased force upon your sensitive teeth and gums. Instead, you should select softer foods, such as yogurt, mashed potatoes, and cereal, to limit irritation due to chewing. Some discomfort may continue, but eating softer foods should prevent it from worsening.
Is Special Care Needed when Wearing Spacers?
You can mostly eat the same foods you normally eat, although you should avoid foods that are sticky, such as chewing gum, toffee, caramel, and gummy candies, because they tend to stick to your dental work, pulling them out of position. If your spacers fall out too soon, they will require refitting. If you do not have them refitted, your teeth will not end up in their optimum position. You may brush your teeth and rinse normally, but you should not floss between your teeth to avoid the risk of dislodging your separators.
Will Spacers be Replaced by Bands?
At the time your braces are fitted, spacers may be replaced using a metal band. It will replace the task that the separators performed by keeping the space required between the teeth open. In short, yes they will replace bands.
How are Spacers Removed?
Removing spacers is a far more comfortable process than the initial fitting. Spacers can even grow loose and fall out prior to the installation of braces. There is no reason to be alarmed if this happens because it actually indicates that the spacer did its job and moved teeth into their correct locations.
Any spacers that have not already fallen out can be removed easily by our orthodontist immediately before the attachment of the braces. If you are like most people and are having metal bands attached to teeth, a special dental cement will be used to glue a band around a molar on each side. The separators may be left alone or readjusted if Dr. Steven Ricci feels that they should be used instead of metal bands.
Feel free to learn more about spacers for braces in Johns Creek, Georgia, by contacting Ricci Orthodontics at 678-417-9848.