diagram of separators between teeth

Appliance Profile What Are Separators & Bands?

Before braces are placed on your teeth, separators (sometimes called spacers) are placed between specific teeth to move them apart slightly and create space. This allows our orthodontists to easily place orthodontic bands (like a ring on a finger) on the teeth the following week.

diagram of bands around molars

Bands are rings that surround the whole tooth. They are placed on the large back molar teeth, which act as anchors. Since teeth normally contact each other very tightly, a separator is placed on the front and backsides of these molars to move these teeth apart slightly. This allows for easy placement of the band around the tooth.

Frequent Questions Learn More About Separators and Bands

Separators are either the rubber type (little pieces of latex rubber) or the metal type. Both types of spacers will give the sensation of having a piece of food caught between your teeth.

Separators can be placed from two days to two weeks before the banding appointment, which is the day the braces are placed. The longer you wear them before your next appointment, the better to achieve the optimal space.

It is normal to be a little sore, but if you are uncomfortable try rinsing with warm salt water. The soreness is temporary and will go away in one to three days. You may also take over-the counter pain relievers such as aspirin, Tylenol, or Ibuprofen to provide even more comfort.

If the separator is accidentally dislodged several days before your next visit, then a new separator should be placed. You will be shown how to replace these separators and given a backup supply. Once the space has been gained, the rubber separators may fall out. The space will begin to close on its own, so wait until three to five days before your next appointment to replace them. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT THEY BE IN PLACE FOR YOUR NEXT APPOINTMENT. If any questions arise as to whether replacement separators are needed or not, please contact our office. Also, if they are accidentally swallowed, do not be concerned, as they are harmless.

You can brush normally around these separators but do not floss or use toothpicks in these separated areas. Flossing should be immediately resumed when the separators have been removed.

Most importantly, you must AVOID ALL STICKY FOODS while you are wearing separators. These types of foods will easily dislodge the separators.