What Are Metal Spacers for Braces: Types, Use, Side Effects & More

People who contemplate getting braces to align their teeth must know that they will have to wear spacers for braces first. These dental devices, also known as orthodontic separators, are actually small round elastic rings that the orthodontist will fix between your molars before installing the braces. These spacers for braces will thus create the space necessary for a correct installation of the braces. Read on to learn more about spacers for braces, from their types to their use, side effects, and more.

Why Do You Need Metal Spacers for Braces and What Are Spacers for Bracers?

So what are metal spacers for braces and why do you need them? This section will explore the importance of spacers for braces, and why you need them. When the orthodontist decides to install braces, they have to create a small space between your molars, in order for the braces to fit in properly. Braces might cause your back teeth to shift closer to each other, which is why it’s important to have enough space for them to do that without causing you any problems.

Spacers for braces force some distance between your back teeth, helping the braces work properly. You will have to wear the spacers until they fall out, which indicates they have done their job, or until your dentist decides it is time to take them out. Do not, under any circumstances, try to take them out yourself. Once the dentist removes them, they will immediately put the braces on.

What Are the Main Types of Spacers for Braces?

There are two types of separators (or spacers for braces) used in order to help facilitate the usage of braces:

  • rubber separators;
  • metal separators;

Rubber Spacers

  • most commonly used.
  • placed between teeth using floss and a little force.
  • stretched around the contact areas of the tooth.
  • return to their original shape and push the teeth to create space.

Metal Spacers

  • typically used only when a rubber separator is not doing the trick. This usually happens when the space between the teeth is so tight that a rubber spacer just will not fit.

How Are Spacers for Braces Fitted?

The procedure of fitting the spacers for braces is quite simple and painless, although it may be a bit uncomfortable. The orthodontist will simply stretch the spacers, and then fit them between the patient’s molars. In orthodontics, this procedure is referred to as flossing. As the name suggests, the process is pretty much similar to the regular flossing that is part of a good oral hygiene routine.

You are going to feel some pressure when the orthodontist places them on, and the area will feel sore after, but the pain is not unbearable. Most patients require between one and 12 spacers for braces. If you only have to wear the spacers prior to wearing the braces, you will most likely get rubber spacers. If your dentist recommends wearing the spacers even after putting on the braces, you will get metal braces.

How Long Do You Have to Wear Spacers for Braces?

Orthodontists will usually advise patients to wear the spacers for 7 to 10 days before getting their braces. As teeth move, it is possible for the spacers to fall out prior to that time frame. This usually means that the spacers did their job, and there is enough space for braces between the molars. However, some specialists may recommend patients to continue to wear the spacers for a while during the braces treatment.

What Do You Do if One of Your Spacers for Braces Fall out?

If a patient has separators, they cannot floss around them or pick at them. It is also normal that, when wearing a rubber separator, you can feel it when you bite. As much as it might seem like an inconvenience, it is better to leave the spacer in place until your next orthodontic appointment.

Should the separator come out, it typically means that an adequate amount of space has been formed as expected. If this should happen, give your orthodontist a call and see if they want to put it back in or not.

What Are Orthodontic Bands?

Orthodontic bands are metal devices that replace the spacers. They are typically implemented in the posterior section of the mouth, and kept in its place by a dental cement adhesive.

Since there are different sizes of teeth, there will also be different sizes of bands. The orthodontist will try out varying sizes to find one that fits perfectly. Once the size is figured out, orthodontic cement is used inside of the band to keep it on the tooth. Excess cement will be scraped off before it has a chance to set. After a few minutes, the cement is hardened, and the rest of the appointment can go on.

Orthodontic bands are able to withstand the forces of chewing much better than a bonded bracket located on the posterior teeth. Many orthodontists will begin treatment by using bonded brackets placed onto the molars.

Are Spacers for Braces Necessary for Primary (Baby) Teeth?

No, not always. The contact point between the primary teeth can vary greatly from patient to patient. An orthodontist can attempt to see if the orthodontic band will adhere to the primary tooth before adding the separator. Sometimes, though, the contact is tight enough to require the spacer. It all just comes down to the tightness of the contact.

How Do You Manage Spacers for Braces Pain and Side Effects?

Although spacers for braces are usually painless, some patients may experience annoying side-effects, such as: pain, sensitivity, or sore jaw. These side-effects are usually felt for 2 or 3 days after having the spacers fit.  You can manage pain with over-the-counter analgesic medication, or with home remedies, such as cold water or ice applied locally. Do not chew hard food, and do not floss while wearing the spacers.

Typically, the pain you experience won’t be that severe to require prescription medication. As long as you do not pick or pull at the spacers, and you avoid food that might get stuck in them, the pain will be easy to manage with home remedies and OTC medication. Soft foods are great for preventing pain. We recommend eating soups, pasta, yogurt, and mash.

In terms of oral hygiene, you don’t have to do anything out of the ordinary. You can still brush as before. However, you cannot floss between the spacers for bracers, because this might make the pain worse, or cause them to fall out before their due date.

How Are Spacers for Braces Removed?

If your spacers do not fall out by themselves, your orthodontist will have to remove them. This will only happen immediately prior to installing the braces. If you experienced discomfort and pain when the spacers were placed on, now, you don’t have to worry about that. The spacers are easy to remove, particularly if they have done their job, because there is plenty of space between your teeth. All the orthodontist has to do is pull them out slowly.

In some cases, the orthodontist might suggest keeping the spacers instead of placing an orthodontic band, in which case they will leave them as they are, or adjust them slightly. If this is not the case, after removing the spacers, the orthodontist will fit in the bands, followed by the braces.

Spacers for Braces – Conclusion

Spacers for braces (or separators) are, as orthodontic bands, dental tools used to help separate and otherwise prepare the teeth for braces. They can be metal or rubber, and are only used for a limited amount of time. They typically do not cause that much pain, but they can feel uncomfortable. We hope this guide has showed you exactly what to expect from spacers for braces. Have you ever had to use spacers? How did it feel? Let us know in the comments section!

Recommended Read: How to Tell If You Need Braces

1 Comment

  • As someone who has never worn braces, I never knew this about metal spacers or that spacers are even worn before applying braces. Such an interesting fact!

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