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Spacers for Teeth: How They Work, Pain & More

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If you are concerned about aligning crooked teeth, you can talk to your orthodontist – a doctor who takes care of teeth arrangement in the mouth – who may recommend that you use braces. Your orthodontist will walk with you throughout your journey until you achieve your goal of straight teeth.

However, before your mouth can be ready for braces, you may need to get orthodontic spacers to prepare your mouth for the wires and brackets.

Orthodontic spacers for braces are an essential part of your orthodontic treatment plan. After your orthodontist consultation, the next step, your doctor might start you with spacers, also known as separators. They are worn for a short time to create a small space between the back molars.

What Are Orthodontic Spacers?

spacers for teeth and braces

Before you get on board with the braces journey, let’s fill you in on what are spacers for braces and what they do.

Orthodontic spacers or separators are small round elastics or metal separators commonly used when patients need to align their teeth. They are stretched out and placed around the back molars to gently create some space where the metal band will be placed.

What spacers do is to push apart the teeth lightly, and create a little gap that makes it more comfortable to fit in a metal band in the back molar.
The dental spacers stay in place for about a week or two. This period is enough to open up the space between teeth.

Dental Spacers Application

When it is time to apply the spacers, the orthodontist will use floss or a tool known as a separating plier to stretch out the spacer and place it between the back molar.

Two pieces of floss are threaded between the spacer, ensuring that the floss threads do not cross. The doctor holds the floss between their thumb and index finger and applies tension on the band to push it down. Once in the correct position, he then releases the floss from one end and gently pulls the floss to remove it.

Most of the time, the doctor will place a spacer in front and behind the molar.

As a result of putting a new object in your mouth and pushing through the contact point of the molar, your gum may be touched and bruised a little bit. You may feel a little pinch and some pressure, but it should go away within a minute or two.

Does Everyone Need Spacers For Braces?

Not everyone will need spacers for braces. However, most people who get new braces usually start with orthodontic spacers.

The doctors use other methods depending on different types of braces for teeth. For the traditional metal braces, your orthodontist may use metal spacers with wires anchored to the back teeth with a metal band that fits around the teeth like a ring.

For other types of braces, you don’t have to get spacers before braces. Some orthodontists will use brackets that are glued directly to the teeth. If your dentist bonds the brackets directly to the teeth, you might not need spacers.

When comparing Invisalign versus braces cost, you may find that traditional braces are more affordable and therefore opt for spacers for braces.

Dental Spacers For Baby Teeth

Dental spacers for baby teeth, also called space maintainers, support a child’s mouth when they lose their baby teeth before the permanent teeth grow in the correct position.

Space maintainers keep the other teeth in the mouth from moving together and filling in the space where the child lost their baby teeth. Dental spacers for kids can help avoid crowded teeth and other dental problems in the future.

Types of Spacers For Teeth

There are two types of orthodontic spacers.

Do Spacers Hurt More Than Braces?

do spacers for teeth hurt

Some people experience spacers and braces differently. Since people are different, some patients have to get spacers before braces and say spacers hurt more than braces, while others hardly notice the spacers and only report a slight discomfort.

Since separators push your jaw and create extra space, spacers for braces may make your mouth a little sore and hurt. Although many patients report pain, the good news is that the pain is manageable and slowly decreases over time.

A few hours after the separator is placed, usually, two to four hours later, you are likely to feel soreness and pain. Talk to your doctor about the best options on how to stop spacers from hurting and getting relief during the first few days.

How Long Do Teeth Spacers Hurt?

Many people report pain and discomfort for the first two to three days of having teeth spacers.

You may have many unanswered questions such as, when do spacers stop hurting? Or, how can you make spacers hurt less? You’ll be glad to know that soon after, the pain slowly disappears. The spacers hurt less, even though, you still feel like something is stuck between your teeth.
Usually, it is perfectly normal, and you don’t have to worry about how to relieve spacer pain. Over-the-counter pain medication is what you need to get relief from spacer pain during the first couple of days.

If spacers hurt so much, you can relieve spacer pain by taking cold drinks or ice or rinsing your mouth with a warm salty water solution.

How To Remove Spacers From Teeth?

what are spacers for braces

One week after your separators are installed, you should visit your doctor to remove the spacers from your teeth. Sometimes the spacers may fall off on their own if extra space between your teeth opens up.

The process takes less than a few seconds, and the spacers come right off. The doctor will use a tool to remove metal spacers from teeth and popping the rubber bands off. This is a fast and easy process.

Be careful not to pull off the separator before the whole week is over. It is crucial that the separator does its job. If it stays in, then we know there will be some space created for the braces.

After you remove your spacers, your teeth should now be ready for the braces. You often get braces one or two weeks after spacers are first applied.
Once you know that you are getting braces, your next step is to figure out how much does top braces cost.

You can check to see if you qualify for certain orthodontic benefits through your state and how to get free braces with the Medicaid program.

What Can You Eat With Spacers?

It can feel awkward before you know what can you eat with spacers. Doctors recommend that you only eat soft foods when you have spacers in your mouth. If your spacers hurt so bad you can’t eat, select softer foods that don’t require as much chewing as possible. The goal is to reduce chewing using your back molars as much as possible. Soft foods are more comfortable, especially the first couple days after you get the spacer.

On the other hand, you also want to be mindful of what can you not eat with spacers in your mouth. Avoid foods such as sticky candy such as gummy bears, chewing gum, caramel, tootsie rolls, and foods that require a lock of chewing, etc. Eating these foods can pull out the spacers prematurely.

eating with spacers for braces (1)

Finally, do not forget to brush and floss your teeth. Stick to your regular brushing routine every morning and night but avoid flossing on the areas where the spacers are placed. It is okay to floss the other teeth.

It is common to get irritation where the spacers are placed because food can get stuck in that area. Try and brush after every meal to keep the area clean but be careful not to dislodge the separator.

Final Thoughts

Spacers or separators are the beginning of your orthodontic journey for straighter, more aligned teeth. Before you start having braces, your teeth may need extra space where the metal band will go at the molar teeth.

Spacers provide space between the back molars where the doctor places metal bands. They are worn for only a short period, but they can be painful for the first few days before your mouth adjusts.

If you are looking for braces alternatives, consider teeth aligners or various types of invisible braces for straighter teeth and a smile. You can get detailed information about teeth aligners and the best in the market by reading our teeth aligners guide.

This chart gives a summary of what’s discussed in this article, all about spacers for teeth.


Why do you need spacers for braces?

Spacers for braces create a gap that enables metal bands to fit in the molar teeth in preparation for braces.

What is the next step after spacers for braces?

The next step after spacers for braces is fitting in the braces. The orthodontist uses brackets, wires, and a metal band to hold the braces.

My spacer fell out: What should I do?

You should contact your orthodontist immediately after you notice your spacer has fallen out. They would put it back if you hadn’t had it in for a week.

How many spacers are needed for braces?

You can have one to eight spacers applied to your mouth to push the molar teeth and create space for the braces.


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