If you or your child needs braces, then you likely have several questions about the process. Separators, sometimes called spacers, typically come before the braces to provide ample space for the bands that fit around the back teeth. Although it seems complicated, it is actually quite simple and requires only a very short appointment with the orthodontist, Dr. McDermott.
Why Spacers Are Necessary
Braces attach to the teeth in a way that encourages movement and alignment. While most people tend to notice only the brackets and wires, there are also bands placed around the molars in the back of the mouth that hold the wires in place, acting as anchors of sorts. These bands are made of metal, and in order to make the bands fit around the molars, Dr. McDermott must create that space. Attempting to place the metal bands otherwise would be quite difficult and painful for the patient.
How Does It Work?
During the visit, the patient will relax in the orthodontist’s chair. Then, Dr. McDermott uses a special tool to stretch an elastic band and “floss” it between the patient’s teeth where the space is necessary. Although patients typically do not experience pain during this process, they do feel pressure and a pushing sensation. A few patients may feel a brief, mild pinch as the separator makes contact with the gums, but this subsides very quickly.
Most of the time, the orthodontist schedules a visit about a week before the placement of the braces themselves during which he places the spacers. It takes only about a week to shift the teeth enough to add the metal bands. Most of the time, there is very little discomfort associated with the process at first and patients feel as if a piece of food is stuck between their teeth. Over the course of the next few hours, the rapid shifting can cause a little discomfort. This is manageable with over-the-counter pain medications such as Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, or Naproxen, and it usually lasts a maximum of two to three days.
Almost everyone with braces must wear spacers for a short time. Fortunately, the process is simple and easy enough to understand, and it takes about 15 minutes in total. Although there may be some discomfort a few hours after placement, it is usually mild in nature and easily resolved with over the counter pain relievers. If pain from the separators persists for more than 48 hours, be sure to contact our office for recommendations.