Orthodontic Spacers: What Are They, Benefits and Cost

orthodontic spacers

If you or your child need braces to straighten your teeth and improve your bite, you may also need tooth spacers before getting the braces.

Orthodontic spacers are small devices that create space between your molars to make room for the metal bands that anchor the braces. In this article, we will explain what tooth spacers are, how they work, what they look like, and how they affect your oral well-being.

What are orthodontic spacers?

Tooth spacers, also known as Orthodontic spacers or separators. They are small rubber bands or metal appliances used in orthodontics to create space between teeth.

They are typically placed between the molars at the back of the mouth, either before braces are applied or during treatment.

Types of Orthodontic spacers

1. Rubber spacers:

These are the most common type of spacer and look like small, colored rubber bands. They are placed between the teeth and gently push them apart over time.

2. Metal spacers:

These are less common than rubber spacers and are usually used when more space is needed. They are made of thin metal springs that clip onto the teeth and exert pressure to push them apart.

How do Orthodontic spacers work?

1. Preparation.

About a week or two before getting your braces, your orthodontist will insert the spacers. They’ll use a special tool or dental floss to gently stretch each spacer before carefully positioning it between two of your back teeth, usually molars.

2. Creating space.

Once in place, the spacers exert gentle pressure on your teeth, gradually pushing them apart to create the needed space. This process may cause some mild discomfort or pressure, especially for the first few days.

3. Braces or appliance placement.

After wearing the spacers for the prescribed period (usually one to two weeks), your orthodontist will remove them and place your braces or other orthodontic appliances. The newly created gaps will allow for proper bonding or attachment of the appliance.

Related: Lingual Braces: What are they, How they work, and Benefits

Benefits of Orthodontic spacers

In the beginning, they might seem like an annoying hurdle on your journey to a straighter smile. But trust me, these play a crucial role in the success of your orthodontic treatment and offer a lot of benefits.

Some of the benefits are:

1. Smoother Braces Placement.

Imagine trying to put on a jacket over a bulky sweater. It’s not gonna be easy, right?

Similarly, placing braces on teeth that are tightly packed together can be challenging and even damage the enamel. Spacers gently create the necessary space for your orthodontist to securely attach the braces, ensuring a smoother and more comfortable experience.

2. Efficient Tooth Movement.

Think of spacers as tiny levers. By gently pushing your teeth apart, they initiate the initial movement that your braces will later fine-tune. This jumpstarts the entire orthodontic process, potentially shortening your overall treatment time.

3. Improved Oral Hygiene.

Crowded teeth are very difficult to clean. Food particles and plaque can easily get trapped in them, increasing the risk of cavities and gum disease.

Spacers create more breathing room, making it easier to brush and floss effectively, leading to better oral health in the long run.

4. Reduced Pain and Discomfort.

Believe it or not, spacers can actually help reduce pain and discomfort during your orthodontic treatment. By gradually creating space, they lessen the initial shock of braces being applied and allow your teeth to adjust to the pressure more comfortably.

5. Enhanced Treatment Outcomes.

With proper spacing, your orthodontist has better access to move your teeth into their ideal positions. This translates to a more predictable and successful treatment outcome, giving you that picture-perfect smile you’ve always dreamed of!

How long does it take to put a spacer in the mouth?

A tooth spacer should stay in your mouth until your orthodontist removes it at your next appointment. This is usually when you get your braces installed. The duration of wearing spacers can vary from person to person, but it is usually between one and two weeks.

It is important to keep your spacers in place until they are removed by your orthodontist. If they fall out or get dislodged, you should contact your orthodontist as soon as possible to have them replaced. Otherwise, you may lose the space that was created and delay your braces treatment.

Risks of tooth spacers

Orthodontic spacers might be small, but they pack a punch when it comes to creating space for braces. However, like any medical device, they come with their own set of drawbacks.

Here are the main risks associated with them:

1. Pressure and pain.

Spacers wedge teeth apart, which can cause soreness, pressure, and even nerve irritation, leading to a dull ache. This is usually most noticeable in the first few days.

2. Speech issues.

The presence of spacers can temporarily affect your speech, making it sound lispy or slurred. This usually resolves as you get used to them.

3. Chewing difficulties.

Biting down with spacers can be uncomfortable, forcing you to adjust your eating habits and avoid certain foods.

4. Food traps.

Spacers can create small gaps where food particles can get stuck, making it harder to maintain proper oral hygiene. This can increase the risk of plaque build-up and cavities.

5. Flossing difficulties.

Flossing around the spacers can be tricky and may require special flossers to effectively clean between teeth.

6. Gum irritation.

In some cases, the pressure from spacers can cause irritation or inflammation of the gums.

7. Accidental dislodgement.

Spacers can be dislodged if you bite down on hard foods or accidentally bump your mouth.

How to take out Orthodontic spacers?

Orthodontic spacers should only be removed by your orthodontist. Attempting to remove them yourself can damage your teeth, gums, and braces, and may even delay your treatment progress.

If a spacer accidentally falls out before your appointment, do not attempt to put it back in yourself. Contact your orthodontist as soon as possible to schedule an appointment to have it reattached.

Do orthodontic spacers Hurt?

Whether or not orthodontic spacers hurt depends on your pain tolerance. Some people experience mild discomfort or a feeling of pressure, while others may have more noticeable pain, especially for the first few days after placement.

This is because the spacers are gently widening the space between your teeth to make room for braces.

Here is what you can do to ease the pain:

  1. You can take over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  2. You can also apply ice packs or cold compresses to your cheeks to reduce swelling and inflammation.
  3. You can also rinse your mouth with warm salt water to soothe your gums and prevent infection.

What to eat with spacers?

You should eat soft and nutritious foods that are easy to chew and swallow. Some examples are:

  • Soups, stews, broths, or smoothies
  • Cooked vegetables, fruits, or salads
  • You should eat more dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or ice cream
  • Lean meats, fish, eggs, tofu, or beans
  • Pasta, rice, oatmeal, or mashed potatoes

You should also drink plenty of water to keep your mouth hydrated and clean. You should avoid drinking carbonated drinks or using a straw, as they can create pressure in your mouth and dislodge your spacers.

How much do Orthodontic spacers cost?

They are not charged separately. They are considered part of the overall cost of your orthodontic treatment, which includes the braces themselves, adjustments, retainers, and other associated fees.

If you want the individual cost of the spacers then the average cost of a rubber spacer is about $10-$20, while the average cost of a metal spacer is about $50-$100.

The total cost of braces can vary widely depending on several factors, including:

  1. Your location: The treatment tends to be more expensive in urban areas compared to rural areas.
  2. The complexity of your case: More complex cases requiring longer treatment times or specialized techniques will generally cost more.
  3. The type of braces you choose: Traditional metal braces are typically the most affordable option, while other options like ceramic braces, lingual braces, or Invisalign can be more expensive.
  4. Your dental insurance coverage: Some dental insurance plans may cover a portion of the cost of orthodontic treatment, including spacers.

As a general estimate, the average cost of braces in the United States ranges from $3,000 to $7,000.

The Bottom Line

Orthodontic spacers are small devices that create space between your molars before getting braces. They are usually made of rubber or metal and are inserted by your orthodontist.

They can cause some pain and discomfort at first, but they are necessary for the success of your braces treatment. They can also improve your oral well-being by preventing tooth decay, gum disease, and other orthodontic problems.

If you have any questions or concerns about tooth spacers, you should consult with your orthodontist. They can provide you with more information and advice on how to care for your spacers and prepare for your braces.

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