Orthodontists use spacers during the beginning stages of treatment to help open up a couple millimeters of space around a specific tooth. The purpose for needing this extra space is so that a metal ring, called a band, has enough room to fit snug around the tooth (similar to how a ring would fit on a finger).
The use of bands are preferred over the use of traditional brackets on the lower first and second molars. Why? Because these are the teeth you use to chew the majority of your food. Since bands are a lot less likely to come loose, they tend to be the best option for aligning the lower back molars.
Other situations that an Orthodontist may prefer the use of bands over brackets would be when a molar tooth had prior restorative work completed on it. A good example of this would be a porcelain crown. Traditional brackets bond best to a natural tooth surface, and are likely to loosen if bonded to an artificial surface.
There are two different types of spacers, rubber and metal. Rubber spacers are best used for short term purposes (1-2 weeks) because they fall out as soon as the adequate amount of space needed for the band is achieved.
Metal spacers can be used for short or long term cases, but are most commonly used on patients who will need them for 6+ weeks. They are designed to stay in for a longer period of time, even once the space around the tooth has been achieved. Metal spacers may start to feel loose after 1-2 week, although, unlike rubber spacers they should not fall off. The use of metal spacers over rubber bands tends to be the more convenient option for patients because it allows them to go longer periods of time without needing to be seen in office.
Spacers are wedged interproximally between teeth when being placed. This only requires about 1-2 seconds of mild pressure against those teeth. Your gums may feel a little irritated at first, but after a few hours it will just feel like a piece of food stuck in your teeth. If for some reason you experience a lot of pain or swollen gum tissue in the areas that the spacers were placed, contact your Orthodontist and they will advise you on how to best handle the situation.
It is advised to not floss between the teeth that have spacers, chew gum, or eat sticky foods until they are no longer needed. All of these things can cause the spacers to fall out prematurely.
Contact your Orthodontist if a spacer falls out to see if they would like to replace it right away, or wait until your next scheduled appointment. At Cardinal Orthodontics, we try to avoid scheduling you unnecessary trips back to our office if it’s something that will not delay treatment.
Jr, DDS, MS, P.A. Tucker, Gary “Orthodontic Spacers” youtube, 11 Dec. 2015Orthodontic Treatment
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