If you have braces or know someone who does, you may have wondered what those little rubber bands that people wear on their braces do. First, we have to distinguish the elastics that go around each of the braces from those that connect the top and bottom teeth together. Unfortunately, these are generally referred to by the same name so it can become very confusing. The tiny rubber bands that are wrapped around each of the braces are called elastic ligatures. They are often colored and are changed at every adjustment visit. They add some fun to your orthodontic treatment because patients enjoy choosing new colors every time they have their wires adjusted. They function to hold the wire in place. The wire is what straightens the teeth so they line up in the proper position. This is the easy part of orthodontic treatment and generally can be accomplished in 4-8 months.
The other phase of treatment involves the use of another type of rubber bands called interarch elastics. These rubber bands are larger and are placed and removed by the patient. The purpose of these rubber bands is to put forces on the teeth to move the upper and lower teeth until they fit well together. They can help to adjust the bite in patients that have overbites, underbites and crossbites.
Rubber bands are generally worn all of the time, even while sleeping. They are removed when brushing and flossing and can also be removed while eating but it is not required. It is important that rubber bands are worn as directed because, if not, it could delay the progress of your treatment or you may have an inferior result.
If worn intermittently, rubber bands can also cause prolonged discomfort because the teeth never adjust to the forces. It is important to change the rubber bands every 4-5 hours because, like any rubber band, they will lose their elasticity and their effectiveness will be reduced. Adjusting the bite can take longer than straightening the teeth and relies on good compliance to accomplish a superior result.
Once you get used to placing the rubber bands, it will become very easy and you won’t even need a mirror. We want your orthodontic result to be exceptional and that is why wearing rubber bands is so important. If we can answer any of your questions about rubber bands or any other aspects of orthodontic treatment, please let us know!