All about elastics
Braces – which consist of brackets attached to the teeth with dental adhesive and flexible wires which are held into the braces with coloured or clear plastic modules – work by gently applying pressure to the teeth to gradually move them into the correct position. In some cases, orthodontic elastics (sometimes known as rubber bands) are used to apply additional pressure in a specific direction to move individual teeth or groups of teeth and are commonly used to improve your bite.
Orthodontic elastics may also be used with clear aligner treatment such as Invisalign®, especially when complex tooth movements are required or if bite adjustments are needed.
What is the purpose of braces elastic bands?
In orthodontics, rubber bands are often used to align your bite and are very important in the bite-fixing phase of treatment. These bands stretch over tiny hooks on the top and bottom of your braces or over small clear buttons attached to a few teeth if you are wearing clear aligners. If worn consistently, these tiny elastics will apply the steady pressure needed to guide teeth into the correct position. Not every child who gets braces will need elastics, as it depends on the child’s existing jaw alignment and what the orthodontist recommends to the patient and their parents based upon the models of the teeth and the recommended treatment.
These elastics are usually crafted from medical-grade latex, which is safe to be in contact with your mouth, but latex free options are also available – and no, they are not normal elastic bands or hair bands!
Your orthodontist will demonstrate how to wear the elastics so it will soon become second nature to replace them.
What are the different types of elastics for braces?
There are many different types of elastics that your orthodontist may recommend for you or your child throughout their treatment period. This includes:
Class I Elastics
– Class 1 elastics are used to close the gap between teeth. These elastics run from the upper 1st or 2nd molar hook to the upper cuspid hook.
Class II Elastics
– Class 2 elastics are used to reduce an overjet by retracting the upper teeth and moving the lower teeth forward.
Class III Elastics
– Class 3 elastics are used to correct an underbite by retracting lower teeth and advancing upper teeth.
Elastics dos and don’ts
If your orthodontist recommends that you use elastics as part of your orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign®, it’s important that you follow these tips:
DO – Get in the habit of carrying around extra elastics and replace them as soon as possible if one breaks or is lost. By consistently wearing the elastics you will ensure that your orthodontic treatment is always progressing.
DON’T – Double up on elastics (unless specified by the orthodontist) as this may cause too much pressure on the tooth or teeth and can actually harm the roots of the tooth.
DO – Always wash your hands before removing or replacing the elastics.
DON’T – Overstretch the rubber band or it will lose its strength and it will be ineffective.
DO – Call your orthodontist if you run out of these bands. Your orthodontist will normally provide you with plenty of elastics to keep you stocked up and will happily provide you with more if needed. Make note of the type of elastics you are wearing (they have different names and sizes on the packet) so you know what to ask for if you run out.
Elastics are a key part of orthodontic treatment and learning how to remove and replace them is an important part of the process for most patients undergoing braces or Invisalign® treatment. Before your orthodontist sets you on your journey to a perfect smile, they will make sure you understand all there is to know about this aspect of your treatment as the need for elastic wear will vary greatly from one person to another.
How to put elastics on your braces?
- The first thing you need to do is ask your orthodontist for instructions on how to apply your elastics based on your unique treatment needs and the malocclusion he or she is trying to correct.
- Rubber bands are usually attached to the hooks on braces so ensure you know the different parts of your braces before attempting to use these bands (ask your orthodontist for instructions if you think that will help)
- Change your rubber bands as instructed by your orthodontist and ensure you are wearing them for the correct amount of time to ensure the required pressure is applied. The bands may need to be changed more than three times a day, depending on your bite.
- Attend your regular orthodontic appointments to ensure your treatment stays on track and the necessary elastic adjustments take place
Do rubber bands on braces hurt?
It’s normal to feel some discomfort when using rubber bands with your braces. This is because these bands place additional pressure on your teeth and jaws to ensure they move into the correct position. This pain should not last long. But if you want some relief from discomfort, you should try to drink cold water or take over-the-counter pain relief medication such as instructed. If you continue to feel pain or discomfort, its best to call your specialist orthodontist who will ensure the rubber bands are fitted properly and pain is minimised.
How long do you need to wear your elastic bands?
The total amount of time elastics need to be worn will vary from patient to patient. This can range from 2 months to more than a year, depending on the severity of your malocclusion and the adjustments that need to take place to align your bite. It’s important to wear your elastics full-time to ensure your treatment stays on track and completion is not delayed. Unless specified differently by your orthodontist, the only time to remove your elastics is when brushing your teeth, eating and when replacing old elastics with new ones. During your orthodontic appointments, your specialist orthodontist will show you how to attach the elastics to your braces or aligners to ensure the best final treatment result. Regular and consistent elastic wear as prescribed will ensure your treatment is completed in a timely manner.
Can you eat with elastics on your braces?
You should wear your elastics constantly, even when you’re eating. But if your rubber bands are really getting in the way, you can remove them for a short period of time, and replace them with new elastics straight after your meal. Removing your elastics for an extended period of time could be detrimental to your treatment so make sure the elastics are attached to your braces as often as possible.
How will elastics affect the cost of braces?
Since rubber elastics for braces are quite small, easily available and cheaply made they won’t have a massive effect on the overall cost of your orthodontic treatment. Whether you will need to use braces to assist with some tooth movements will be assessed prior to commencing your treatment, which allows your orthodontist to ensure you’re fitted with the right brackets from the start. You’ll be provided with additional elastics on the day of your appointment, to allow you to change your elastics as needed or if they break.
However, it is crucial that you follow your orthodontist’s advice when wearing elastics as improper use, such as doubling up on your rubber bands or attempting to use them on different teeth, can lead to damage that can be costly to fix down the track.
How to find an orthodontist
If you are confident in your family dentist you can ask them to refer you to their preferred local orthodontist so that you can rest assured that they’ll be able to work collaboratively to ensure the ongoing health of your teeth. Alternatively, you can use our online tool to help you find a registered specialist orthodontist in your area. All of the ASO members displayed in the individual directory have completed their specialist orthodontist training and are registered with the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA), so you can be confident in their ability to offer a high level of orthodontic care.