Separators, or spacers, are small elastic bands that are flossed between teeth where space is needed. The most common reason for placing separators is to create space for metal bands to be placed on the tooth or teeth next to the separator. These bands fit around the teeth and may hold a bracket (braces) or be part of another appliance, such as an expander or space maintainer. Other reasons for separators include helping an impacted, or stuck, tooth to erupt and creating space to straighten a particularly stubborn tooth.

Once a separator is placed it is very common to feel like there is a piece of food caught between your teeth. After a few hours this feeling typically changes to more of a sore ache. This dull, achy feeling is usually at its worst the day after the separators are placed and gets better within three to five days. Over-the-counter pain medications can be taken as needed and as directed on their labels. For most orthodontic related discomfort ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) has been shown to work the best, although other medications can be used, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and naproxen (Aleve).

Separators must remain in place for about one week in order to create the desired amount of space. To prevent pulling a separator out, please refrain from eating sticky foods such as gum, taffy, and other chewy candies. Also, avoid flossing between the teeth where a separator has been placed. If a separator falls out before your next appointment please contact our office for further instructions. Sometimes having a separator fall out on its own is a sign that there is enough space already and that it won’t have to be replaced.


  • WHAT - Small elastic bands placed between teeth

  • WHY - To create space for metal bands or help move stubborn or impacted teeth

  • HOW - Separators are stretched and flossed into place 

  • WHEN - Often at the beginning of treatment and sometimes during treatment

  • WHERE - Between teeth that will need metal bands or need extra help moving

  • HOW LONG - Separators are usually left in place for one week. Certain circumstances require more time.

  • CARE - Take ibuprofen or other over-the-counter pain medications as needed. Don't floss between teeth where separators have been placed. Avoid sticky, chewy foods. Call our office if a separator falls out.

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