If your child's orthodontist has informed you that your child needs braces, then the first step in the process is the placement of molar bands on the back teeth. These metal attachments are cemented around the molars, and they serve as anchors to help keep arch wires in place. Molar bands cannot be simply slipped over the molars though. Since the back teeth sit extremely close together, the pediatric orthodontist will need to place separators in between the molars first. Keep reading to learn about separators and how you can help your child with them after they are placed.
What Are Separators?
Molar bands are typically placed on the four first molars that sit across the upper and lower jaw. To create space around these teeth, orthodontists slip small rubber bands called separators between the second bicuspids and the first molars and the second molars and the first molars. In other words, two bands will be forced into the right and left gaps on the sides of all four of the first molars.
The separators or spacers will be placed for about one week. During this time, the spacers will move the first molars backward and the second bicuspids forward a small amount so the brackets have room to sit on the teeth. The teeth will only be moved a fraction of a millimeter, so this will not cause the teeth to shift significantly. This means that the separators will not cause overcrowding issues.
If the teeth are already overcrowded and rubber spacers are not strong enough to move the teeth, then your child's orthodontist may decide to place small metal spacers instead. This may also happen if the teeth sit so closely together that the rubber spacers cannot be forced in between the teeth. The metal separators will have a small metal loop on the outside so they can be removed easily after the teeth have shifted.
How Can You Help Your Child With Spacers?
Keeping the Spacers in
If your child has been fitted with spacers or separators, then the most important thing you can do is help your child keep the implements in the mouth. Molar bands, arch wires, and brackets can be placed only after the spacers do their job. This means that you should keep your child from doing anything that may dislodge the spacers. Make sure your son or daughter does not eat any gummies, fruit snacks, or taffy that can pull out the bands. Chewing gum, caramels, and other types of chewy and sticky foods should also be avoided.
Your child should also avoid using floss or toothpicks in the area where the spacers are secured. Your child may feel as though food is stuck between the teeth, but this is normally how the separators feel after being placed in the mouth.
Spacers will produce some pain and soreness. This is typical for the first few days after the bands are secured. The separators will place pressure on the teeth that will cause them to loosen a small amount. This happens when the dental ligaments stretch out, and the stretching will cause the pain. Offer your child an NSAID pain reliever for several days until the pain subsides. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen are all good pain relievers. You can also use a numbing gel like Orajel or a natural remedy like clove oil or garlic on the painful area. Cold compresses can help as well.
Pain should not last the entire week as the spacers are worn. If pain continues for longer than two or three days, then make an appointment with the pediatric orthodontist. They can make sure that the teeth are moving correctly.