Conditions,  Orthodontics,  Q&A

My Spacers Hurt So Bad I Can’t Eat – What To Do About Painful Separators?

This article is a part of our Q&A series in which we give detailed answers to our readers' questions. Have a question? Don't hesitate and send it to us to get a detailed answer!

Dental spacers, also known as orthodontic separators, are small rubber bands or small metal appliances placed between your teeth to create space for orthodontic bands. These spacers can sometimes cause discomfort or pain, especially during the first few days after placement. If the pain from your spacers is so severe that you cannot eat, this guide will help you manage and alleviate the pain effectively.

Why Spacers Hurt

Before delving into the management, it’s essential to understand why spacers might be causing pain. Spacers work by pushing your teeth apart, which can cause the ligaments holding your teeth to stretch. This stretching is usually the source of the discomfort or pain.

Spacers Pain Management Techniques

  • Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: Take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as per the recommended dosages on the packaging or as advised by your dentist or orthodontist. These medications can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Cold Compresses: Apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek for 15-20 minutes to help numb the area and reduce pain. Make sure to wrap the cold compress in a cloth to avoid direct contact with the skin.
  • Saltwater Rinses: Mix half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. Take a sip, swish it around in your mouth, and then spit it out. Do this several times a day. Saltwater can help reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Eat Soft Foods: Opt for a soft diet to reduce the pressure on your teeth when you chew. Foods like yogurt, mashed potatoes, soups, and smoothies are good options.
  • Avoid Spicy and Acidic Foods: Spicy and acidic foods can irritate the gums and should be avoided when your mouth is already in pain from spacers.
  • Orthodontic Wax: Sometimes, spacers can irritate the inside of your cheeks or gums. In such cases, applying orthodontic wax over the spacers can help alleviate discomfort.
  • Oral Gel or Spray: Use an oral gel or spray that contains a numbing agent like benzocaine. Apply it to the gums around the spacers. Follow the instructions on the packaging for proper application.
  • Distract Yourself: Engaging in activities that take your mind off the pain can sometimes be quite effective. Watch a movie, read a book, or engage in any other activity you enjoy.
  • Proper Oral Hygiene: Maintain good oral hygiene by gently brushing your teeth and using mouthwash. This can prevent any additional discomfort caused by food particles getting stuck near the spacers.
  • Consult Your Orthodontist: If the pain is unbearable and the above steps do not provide relief, it is important to consult your orthodontist. There might be an underlying issue or adjustment needed.

Importance of Time

Remember that discomfort or pain from spacers is usually temporary. As your mouth adjusts to the spacers, the pain should diminish. Most people find that the severe pain only lasts for the first few days after the spacers are placed.

Bottom Line

While pain from spacers can be quite uncomfortable, especially in the beginning, it’s a normal part of the process. Employ pain management techniques such as taking over-the-counter pain relievers, using cold compresses, engaging in saltwater rinses, and maintaining a soft food diet. If the pain is unbearable or persistent, it’s important to consult your orthodontist. With time, your mouth will adjust and the discomfort will diminish.

This Q&A series article is complete and was published on July 30, 2023, and last updated on July 30, 2023.

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