Orthodontic Spacers

In an ongoing effort to let our readers know about as many technologies as possible, I would like to take this time and talk a little about orthodontic spacers and their use in orthodontic treatments. In other words, what they are, why they’re used, and if there are any alternatives.

What They Are

Orthodontic spacers are little metal rings that are put around teeth, usually molars, with the purpose of, well, creating space. They are most commonly little metal rings that encircle a tooth, attached to a single bracket. Less frequently they are a tiny bump, used when more space is needed only on one side. Sometimes spacers are used in conjunction with braces, sometimes on their own before treatment begins.

orthodontic spacer

Why They Are Used

Usually, molars are the teeth that are affected by orthodontic spacers, as space is most often needed in back teeth. They are the teeth to experience crowding the most frequently, as an impacted wisdom tooth will push the molars first and foremost. Space may also be needed to enable use of ligation and rubber bands; sometimes the space between molars is so small that you literally cannot adjust the devices that hold the dental elastics in place. On occasion, orthodontic spacers are used instead of brackets. A bracket cannot be placed on a filling, as the pressure will remove the filling altogether.

Alternatives

This is one of those orthodontic treatment where alternatives are sought after frequently, as the treatment is uncomfortable, but nothing else does the job at hand. It reportedly feels like there is something caught in between your teeth all the time, and that something harder than your teeth is pushing them away from each other. Some patients complain of an itch and an unshakable urge to pick at the tooth. The good news is that orthodontic spacers are usually only on the teeth for 10 days or less, much shorter than braces.  

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