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Why Do I Need Orthodontic Separators and How Do I Care For Them?

By November 7, 2022November 3rd, 2023Blog, Dental Health, Orthodontics

Orthodontic SeparatorsAt Straight Smiles, our number one goal is to help our patients achieve a healthy, beautiful smile. The method for reaching that goal may differ from patient to patient, involving varying orthodontic techniques and appliances to bring their teeth into perfect alignment. One of the ways we guide our patients’ smiles is by using orthodontic separators, a tool that helps prepare the teeth for braces treatment. And to help you prepare for orthodontic separators, Dr. James Scramstad will answer all your burning questions, including:

  • What are orthodontic separators?
  • Do orthodontic separators hurt?
  • How do I take care of my orthodontic spacers?
  • What do I do if an orthodontic separator falls out?

So if you’re gearing up to get braces or you’re still doing your research on the best orthodontic treatment for you, keep reading. Then contact Straight Smiles to get started!

What are Orthodontic Separators?

In order to explain the purpose of orthodontic spacers, we first need to talk about the different components of braces and how they work together to straighten your teeth. You probably already know that braces consist of brackets and wires. The brackets are secured to the front surfaces of your teeth while the wires connect them all together to guide your teeth into optimal alignment. What you might not know is that the wires are also attached to metal bands that fit around your molars, which requires a bit of extra space between the back teeth. That’s where orthodontic separators come in: also known as orthodontic spacers, these separators fit between the back teeth to create space prior to installing braces hardware.

Orthodontic separators can be made from rubber or metal, are included in the cost of braces and are only prescribed when necessary. If Dr. Scramstad determines that you need spacers before braces, he will put them in about a week or two before you get your braces put on. To do so, he will simply stretch the spacer using a small tool or dental floss, then slide it into position between your molars. Once the separators have made enough space, Dr. Scramstad will remove them and replace them with the metal bands that come with your braces. Then you’ll be on your way to a brand new smile!

Do Orthodontic Separators Hurt?

One of the most common questions we hear from patients is, “Will orthodontic separators hurt?” While you might feel some slight pressure as Dr. Scramstad inserts the spacers, the process shouldn’t be painful. However, as they start to widen the space between your molars, orthodontic separators may cause some mild discomfort, which can last for the first two or three days. Over-the-counter pain medications, like Tylenol or Advil, can help with this type of pain.

In some cases, spacers may cause irritation to your gums. If this is happening to you, you can try rinsing your mouth with a saltwater solution several times a day to relieve irritation. These tips will also come in handy during your first week with braces as your teeth, gums and mouth adjust to your new appliance.

How to Take Care of Orthodontic Spacers

To make sure your orthodontic spacers have the opportunity to do their job correctly, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind. Just like with braces, there are some foods to avoid with orthodontic separators, as well as tips and tricks for brushing and flossing your teeth. Here’s how to take proper care of your orthodontic spacers to set yourself up for success with braces treatment:

  • Foods to avoid with orthodontic separators: You’ll have to avoid any foods that put your spacers at risk of becoming dislodged or falling out. This includes sticky foods (like taffy or gum), foods that take a lot of chewing (like tough steak), or anything hard and crunchy (like nuts or popcorn). These same rules (and a few more) apply to eating with braces, so look at this as your practice round!
  • Safe foods to eat with spacers: So now that you know what you shouldn’t eat with separators in, you’re probably wondering what foods are safe. If your teeth are sore, sticking to soft and cold foods (like yogurt and smoothies) can provide relief, while also keeping your spacers safe. Soft foods are the safest bet in general, so try things like mashed potatoes, pasta or soups.
  • How to floss with orthodontic spacers: As dentists in Kelowna, we always want you to floss daily and that’s not about to change just because you have orthodontic separators. You’ll just have to avoid the teeth that have spacers for now, otherwise you may cause one to come loose.
  • How to brush your teeth with spacers: Good news — you can brush your teeth as usual when you have orthodontic spacers. Just be sure to be extra gentle around your back teeth so you don’t dislodge a spacer.
  • Never miss an orthodontic appointment: Stay on top of your treatment by keeping all regular appointments with your orthodontist. They’ll be able to check in on the status of your separators and decide when it’s time to swap them out for braces.

What If My Orthodontic Spacers Fall Out?

Under normal circumstances, orthodontic separators typically stay in for a week or two before they’re replaced by the metal bands for your braces. But even when you take all the necessary precautions and follow all of your Kelowna dentist’s instructions, things can happen and one of your spacers may fall out. If this happens, don’t panic — just call Straight Smiles and book an appointment to have it put back in. That said, the longer you wait to have it replaced, the longer we’ll have to delay the start of your braces treatment, so come see as soon as possible if your spacer falls out.

Getting ready to start treatment with braces and wondering if you’ll need orthodontic spacers? Have more questions about how orthodontic separators work or what to do if one falls out? Straight Smiles is always just a call or click away, so reach out to our friendly staff. We’ll be happy to help.

Dr. James Scramstad

Author Dr. James Scramstad

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