When people start to research getting braces, they are likely to come across a whole host of unfamiliar orthodontic terms and procedures including things like spacers for teeth, braces spacers, spacer for teeth, teeth spacers, spacers braces, rubber spacers, metal spacers, orthodontic separators, separators braces, dental spacers, tooth spacer and a whole host of other similar terms but what are these devices? How do they work? Do you need them? How are they inserted? More importantly, how are they removed? Will you be able to eat and brush your teeth while you’re wearing them? Before we answer these questions and more, let’s take a look at what the experts of orthodontic medicine have to say about the topic.
Separators or spacers are used to create a space between adjacent teeth, to help with the accurate placement of orthodontic bands in the required region (Malagan MA et al.,2014).
If there is insufficient separation, it can lead to improper seating of bands and other problems (Malagan MA et al.,2014).
The ideal spacer should be easy to insert, cause a little discomfort, adequately provide space between the teeth, should not be lost while chewing food, and remain between teeth until removed by the orthodontist (Malagan MA et al.,2014).
Why do you need orthodontic spacers?
Not everybody may need them but orthodontic spacers may be recommended by your orthodontic office. Spacers are quite simply a small piece of plastic or metal that is inserted between the teeth to help provide space for the components of the brace. They are most often placed in the back molar area to help ensure that you have the best results when braces are finally applied.
Individuals who are most likely to need spacers are the same types of individuals who are most likely to need braces, particularly if you have crowded teeth. However, people who do require braces are likely to also require spacers but this is not true in every case as it is possible that your teeth may already be in a correct enough position that you can simply get your braces installed without the need for spacers at all. Talking with your orthodontic office is the surest way of finding out if this is the case for you.
Are there different types of spacers? Rubber spacers?Metal spacers?
The two types of spacers are, as alluded to before, metal spacers and rubber spacers. There is not any particular difference apart from their material as both of them are designed to do exactly the same thing. Why your orthodontist may choose to use one over another is something that is individualized and specific to you. Some people are just more comfortable with the idea of a rubber spacer, i.e. perhaps the area only needs a small amount of adjustment.
Metal spacers are obviously quite a bit stronger than rubber spacers are and can be more resistant to certain forces that might be exerted on them, especially if you use a stout toothbrush. However, having a conversation with your orthodontic office can give you all the pros and cons for your individual case as to whether you go with metal or rubber is really an individualized consideration.
How spacers are inserted? How spacers are removed?
Inserting spacers is not difficult at all. Just imagine it like using very stiff floss. Your dental office or orthodontic office is going to stretch the spacers a bit to get them loose if using the rubber ones of course, and then will utilize a tool to help guide and push them down between your teeth towards the gum line. Some individuals do mention that they feel some pressure or small pinching as the spacers are exerting force on the teeth. This is exactly what they’re supposed to do, a spacer is supposed to help open up more space and so if you are feeling them pushing against your teeth that is simply because the spacer is working. It will be seated down and wedged into place by your orthodontist.
Removing them is quite simple and in many cases can even happen by accident. Your orthodontic office can simply utilize the removal tool and pull it back up and out. It’ll be especially easy since the spacer will have already done part of its job in opening up more space meaning that a spacer is far more likely to fall out and be more comfortable the longer that you wear them.
What to eat with spacers and how to brush and floss your teeth with spacers?
Since the spacers are wedged down in your teeth it’s important to make sure that you eat foods that are not going to impact your teeth. Things that require deep bites like an apple or carrots can be a problem as they can push and shove against the spacers. Simply put, anything that you can’t eat with braces you probably shouldn’t eat with spacers. Gummy foods, foods that get stuck between your teeth already like popcorn, hard taffy foods, foods that require you to take a deep bite like corn on the cob, etc., are all off the list.
By avoiding these types of foods, you can make sure that the spacers will stay in long enough to actually do their job. Brushing is not difficult, just make sure that you rinse the area with water and brush very gently. After all, you do not want to brush your spacer right back out. Flossing is totally fine as long as you do not floss the area where the spacer is. There is of course no reason to floss that deeply anyway as the spacer is not going to allow any food to get between it and the teeth.
What to do if spacers for braces fall out?
The best thing to do is simply just let your orthodontic office know. The good news is that metal or rubber spacers are designed so that if you accidentally swallow them they are safe and will pass through your digestive system. However, if you notice that spacers have fallen out or you accidentally knocked one out, feel free to simply call your orthodontic office, set up an appointment, and talk with your orthodontic office about whether you need to have it put back in or whether the office thinks you can make do without.
Keeping your orthodontic doctor informed at every step of the process can help make sure that orthodontic spacers can do what they are designed to do – help get your teeth ready for braces and get you ready for the smile you have always deserved.
Malagan, M. A., P P, B., Muddaiah, S., Reddy, R., Shetty, B. K., Preetham, J., Naduwinmani, S., & Singh, S. (2014). Comparison between efficacy of four different types of orthodontic separators. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR, 8(8), ZC41–ZC44. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2014/9963.4755