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Everything You Need To Know About Orthodontic Spacers

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Last Reviewed 13 May 2024

Medically reviewed by Dr. Paul O'Connell, Bachelor Dent. Sc. (Trinity College Dublin) 2004, Practice Limited to Orthodontics

Table of Contents

Dr. Paul O'Connell Explains Orthodontic Consultations At 3Dental
Dr. Paul O'Connell Explains Orthodontic Consultations At 3Dental Orthodontics
Dr. Paul O'Connell Explains Orthodontic Consultations At 3Dental
Dr. Paul O'Connell Explains Orthodontic Consultations At 3Dental Orthodontics

Braces are often a first-line treatment option for teeth and bite alignment issues. They can encourage the teeth and jaw to gradually move into the correct positions, creating a more symmetrical smile that boosts confidence and maintains oral health.

However, before fitting braces, your orthodontist (or dentist) might recommend using spacers (also known as separators). In many cases, orthodontic separators are a crucial component of any treatment plan - but many patients don't understand what they are or their purpose.

With more than three-quarters of dental professionals revealing adults are seeking tooth straightening treatment, it's important to know the role of separators (BNDJ).

As part of our commitment to patient care and transparency, here's everything you need to know about orthodontic spacers, including their purpose and how we place them.

What Are Orthodontic Spacers?

When an orthodontist or dentist decides braces are the best treatment, they'll evaluate the patient's teeth to determine if they're ready for appliances. Separators are beneficial for creating space between the teeth, preparing them for bracket and band placement.

Once your orthodontist or dentist places them, they'll work by putting the teeth through gentle pressure, which encourages gaps to form, making it easier to fit braces and ensure they serve their intended purpose.

Braces and retainers must be in the right place to work properly, and spacers are integral to preparing your teeth for them.

Types Of Orthodontic Spacers

In general, two types of orthodontic separators are available: metal and rubber. While each has its benefits, the ones you receive depend on what your dentist feels is best.

Metal SpacersRubber Spacers
Also called metal spring separators, metal spacers use small metal spring clips. They fit between adjacent teeth, using light pressure to gently push them apart, making a gap that allows braces to fit correctly.
Metal separators are known for their durability while remaining flexible, and many professionals use them for larger space creation.
Rubber spacers are standard treatment options to create gaps due to their flexibility. Made of rubber or elastic rings, the spacers create space by fitting around the teeth and encouraging them to move apart gradually.
Many people prefer circular rubber bands because they come in different colours and can be less noticeable than metal spacers.

Benefits Of Orthodontic Separators

The role of spacers in orthodontic treatment ensures braces can fit correctly and perform their duty. Many people require orthodontic spacers, and while they might seem an extra inconvenience, separators have numerous benefits.

Creating Space

As mentioned above, the main purpose of inserting spacers is to create space that will accommodate braces. Your orthodontist (or dentist) will evaluate your teeth and bite alignment before deciding which braces are best for your needs, but failing to create gaps means they might be unable to align them.

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Treatment Planning

Everyone wants the quickest possible results with orthodontic appliances, and separators make room for them to work. When we have the necessary room to place your spacers, it's easier to customise your treatment and ensure the perfect fit.

Minimising Discomfort

We all know that braces can cause discomfort, but spacers give your teeth more room. While spacers may be uncomfortable initially, they're better than braces that don't fit and cause constant pain.

Better Outcomes

Placing rubber or metal bands enables orthodontists and dentists to deploy comprehensive treatment strategies, ensuring better outcomes. Giving the teeth adequate space makes it easier to place braces and customise the treatment.

Meet Your Orthodontic Team

Dr.Sandra Montano - Orthodontist - 3Dental Dublin

Dr Sandra Montano


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Dr. Paul O'Connell - Dentist - 3Dental

Dr Paul O'Connell

Practice Limited to Orthodontics

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Dr.Paula Taracido - Practice Limited to Orthodontics - 3Dental Dublin

Dr Paula Taracido

Practice Limited to Orthodontics

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Bobby Price - Dentist - 3Dental Limerick

Dr Robert Price

General Dentist/Orthodontics

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Dr Cem Algul

Specialist Orthodontist

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Sarah Dempsey

Orthodontic Therapist

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Disadvantages Of Orthodontic Spacers

As with most things, spacers can have some disadvantages, too. However, when weighing whether they're the best treatment options, most would agree the benefits of separators far outweigh them.

Minor DiscomfortFor some people, their spacers cause minimal discomfort when first applied, but this usually subsides after a few days. It might take a while to adapt to chewing or speaking with them, but most people wear spacers for one to two weeks, so the discomfort is temporary.
DislodgementWearing spacers means you might need to make a few sacrifices to avoid dislodgement, including avoiding crunchy and sticky foods. While rare, failing to look after your oral health can cause the rubber or metal rings to fall out.

Step-by-step Process of Placing Spacers

EvaluationYour orthodontist or dentist will thoroughly assess your mouth and determine whether you need spacers. You might require X-rays.
PreparationWhen inserting spacers, the dentist might clean the teeth to decrease the risk of infection and ensure proper placement.
Choosing spacersYour orthodontist or dentist will choose either circular rubber bands or metal spacers. Rubber is popular for teeth that require minimal positioning, while metal spacers are best to create larger gaps.
PlacementUsing dental floss or a tweezers your orthodontist or dentist will place the spacer between your teeth. Some people experience mild discomfort during this stage of the spacer application process.
Follow-upOnce the spacers are in place, you'll receive aftercare instructions and a follow-up orthodontic appointment to review their progress.

What Can Patients Expect During The Procedure?

While everyone responds differently to orthodontic treatment, if you feel irritation initially, don't be alarmed. This is completely normal. The gum will settle once the spacers are removed

At 3Dental, for example, with access to special orthodontic tools and a team of dedicated professionals, we go out of our way to make your experience as positive and stress-free as possible

Removal Of Orthodontic Spacers And Transition To Braces

Once your spacers perform their intended duty, it's time to remove them and transition to retainers or traditional braces. Here's what you can expect during the process:

  1. Evaluation: Your orthodontist or dentist will want to check the spacers first and evaluate whether there's enough space between the teeth. If not, they might advise wearing your spacers longer.
  2. Removal: When your orthodontist or dentist removes the spacers, you might feel a small amount of pressure, but this is often minimal. We have access to specialist tools, making removal as quick as possible.
  3. Preparation: Once your spacers are off, your teeth will be cleaned to prepare them for braces.
  4. Placement: Depending on the type of braces you opt for, the orthodontist or dentist will apply them and make adjustments if necessary.
  5. Check-ups: You'll attend regular check-ups throughout your appointment to check for any issues and adjust the braces. Once the treatment is complete, you'll have an enhanced smile.

Wearing Orthodontic Spacers

When wearing orthodontic separators, you should expect a little discomfort; however, most people find the effects subside in a couple of days.

To help you adjust to your spacers more quickly, these tips should ensure you make a smooth transition and don't put your spacers at risk.

Eating And Drinking

Spacers often attach to the top and bottom molars, so avoiding sticky and chewy foods like toffee, chewing gum and sweets is essential.

Steering clear of crunchy foods is also advisable, as the pressure exerted from chewing them can cause damage to the spacers. If you notice discomfort initially, drink cold drinks, eat ice cream and opt for other soft foods.

Pain Management

Discomfort and pain is minimal. Pain relievers like paracetamol and ibuprofen can reduce your discomfort, but we recommend speaking to a specialist if you plan on taking anything stronger.

Care And Hygiene Tips For Orthodontic Spacers

Wearing spacers shouldn't restrict you from brushing your teeth and other essential oral hygiene. Failing to take care of your teeth can prevent you from having orthodontic treatment. Here's how to protect your spacers - and oral health.

Brush And Floss

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean your teeth twice daily, along with fluoride toothpaste.

Remember to gently clean around the spacers and ensure you remove any food particles. You can also floss around the spacers; just be careful.

Orthodontic Wax

Some people find orthodontic wax decreases discomfort, as it forms a barrier around tender areas. If you apply it when pain begins, it should help you manage better.

Don't Miss Appointments

Follow-up appointments let your orthodontist or dentist assess whether the spacers are working correctly. It can also speed up the treatment and help you access braces quicker.

What If My Spacers Fall Out?

In rare cases, the orthodontic separators can fall out - but avoiding certain foods and taking care of your oral hygiene will reduce the chances of this. Here's what you should do if they do fall out:

  • Contact your orthodontist or dentist immediately and arrange an appointment.
  • Follow the dentist's instructions, then head to your appointment.

Please don't try to reinsert them yourself - even if you have rubber band spacers. An orthodontist or dentist knows how to place spacers properly without causing any damage

For more information about orthodontic spacers, or to discuss orthodontic treatment at 3Dental, please get in touch with our friendly team today.

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