Ortho Appliances - Orthodontic Spacer

Orthodontic spacers are rubber bands or metal appliances that are commonly used in orthodontics. The spacers are placed between the molars at the second orthodontic appointment prior to the application of molar bands. They are typically added a week before braces are installed, however, they can also be added after. Spacers are usually circular rubber bands that are a centimeter in diameter. They are placed between the top and bottom molars. The orthodontist may use between 1 to 12 spacers or small metal spring clips which are used to push the molars apart. The spacers remain in between the teeth for a week and slowly move the teeth apart. Once they are far enough apart, the orthodontist will place a tooth brace or molar band in between the teeth.


Spacers are typically used to created spaces between the teeth prior to applying braces. Spacers can often be uncomfortable, but patients are cautioned not to pick at them as they can and will fall out. They are usually made out of rubber, but can also be metal. They can be used to help create space when a patient's teeth are too close together. Though they are sometimes quite painful, they are usually only applied for a week or two. Because of the constant pressure against the teeth, spacers can sometimes create toothache and gum pain. The spacers create important gaps which are necessary in order to apply orthodontic appliances or braces. There are two different types of expanders which are used once the spaces have been made. The older model is a metal bar which has a key that is used to tighten the space. The more modern option is an expander which has two "L" shaped metal rods that are attached to the molars. Brackets are fitted against the edges of the molars and it is secured with a spring in the middle which applies the pressure.


Patients experience various reactions when they have spacers placed between their teeth. For patients with a relatively small amount of space between their molars, or no space at all, the spacer may cause quite a bit of pain. In some cases, the spacer will also dig into the gums, which can result in bleeding and swelling. An orthodontist may encourage patients to drink cold drinks or eat ice cream for some short-term relief.

Spacers are typically painful. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help alleviate pain, as needed. Based on the patient's teeth, the spacers may not cause pain when they are first applied. They can then begin to cause discomfort over time, or might hurt right away. Depending on the type of spacer used, it may cause pain while chewing, which makes some foods challenging to eat. Some patients experience a sensation similar to having food stuck between their teeth. The patient might even feel the need to try and remove the spacer, but should be strongly discouraged as it makes the next step in the treatment process more difficult and more painful. Brushing will not displace the spacers. Brushing while the spacers are in place is actually encouraged.


To apply spacers, floss is usually strung through the rubber band the spacer is placed between the teeth. Some spacers are created using small metal spring clips which squeeze the teeth apart. There will be some pressure during the process and there also may be some soreness. Overall, the process of applying spacers is mostly painless. The patient may begin to feel some pain from the pressure that is applied to the teeth. In some cases, special orthodontic tools are used to stretch the rubber bands open. In cases where the jaw is particularly crowded, the spacers may cause an intense and constant pain. This pain starts after the spacer is placed and lasts for a few days.


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