When You Need Your Space: What You Should Know About Orthodontic Spacers

Life Is Better With a Smile

Cheerful young girl with-braces

Orthodontic spacers (or separators) are often used for braces by creating space for fitting dental bands. Elastic spacers are the most widely used, although sometimes metal spacers are required for advanced orthodontic care. They are common in the early phases of treatment and are sometimes needed later to make small adjustments in tooth alignment.

Creating enough space for a perfect fit allows your braces to work effectively and quickly to create your ideal smile. If you have orthodontic spacers or are about to have them inserted, there are a few things you should know about the process.

How Do Orthodontic Spacers Work?

Spacers are placed between the teeth in a simple office visit, as the first step in fitting braces for adults and children. The small elastic rings are threaded onto a piece of dental floss and slipped into place, and then the string is removed. The spacers create pressure that moves the teeth apart.

Spacers or “orthodontic separators” are also a useful treatment option for certain dental conditions, including management of ectopic teeth (which erupt abnormally), and for moving molars into an upright position.1 These temporary appliances have many uses in the skilled hands of your orthodontist!

How Long Will I Wear My Spacers?

Most often, you will wear your spacers for about 7-10 days, immediately before the appointment when your braces will be fitted. In some cases, you may need to wear the spacers for the entire length of your orthodontic treatment, and, sometimes, they may even replace metal bands.

When it is time to remove the spacers, your orthodontist slips them out and immediately cements a metal band in place to anchor the wires of your traditional or ceramic braces. If spacers are part of your ongoing treatment, they may be replaced or adjusted to keep your teeth moving in the right direction.

How Should You Care for Orthodontic Spacers?

For the first 2 or 3 days after your spacers are placed, you will probably have some discomfort. If your teeth are sore, eat a soft diet and take over-the-counter pain medication, especially at bedtime. Eating or drinking cold things may help numb your teeth and gums.

To care for your spacers while they do their work, you should:

  • Continue brushing and flossing, but do not floss between teeth with spacers.
  • Do not pick at the spacers with your fingernails or toothpicks.
  • Avoid eating sticky foods that might pull the spacers out.

Reduce plaque and support your oral health by avoiding foods high in sugar and starch.

What if My Spacers Fall Out?

As the spacer completes its purpose, it may become loose and fall out on its own. If it happens less than two days before your next appointment, there is no need to worry unless you have been given other instructions. Even if you swallow the spacer, there is no reason to be concerned.

If spacers are part of your teeth straightening program, your orthodontist can even show you how to easily replace a spacer at home. The most important factors are to follow the instructions for your own individual treatment program and to work with a team that understands your needs and treats you like family.

Creating Space While Growing Together

Here at Labbe Family Orthodontics, we offer more than professional and effective orthodontic services. We know that life is better with a smile and want to help you and yours smile more confidently and more often as part of our extended family.

We believe working together toward your perfect smile should be a fun and exciting experience. We look forward to meeting you and your loved ones, so schedule a free consultation today in Annapolis, Crofton, Bowie, or Greenbelt, and we will help you make space for more smiles tomorrow!


  1. https://www.magonlinelibrary.com/doi/10.12968/ortu.2018.11.2.61