Hygiene recommendations if your orthodontic treatment involves elastic bands

If you are currently undergoing orthodontic treatment, your regular appointments may have been disrupted during the recent COVID-19 restrictions. While your treatment may be prolonged by clinic closures, it should not disrupt your overall orthodontic treatment if you take care of your appliance and ensure you follow the advice of your orthodontist.With the government and local health authorities advising not to touch your face or mouth, you may be wondering what you should do about your orthodontic elastic bands that must be changed regularly.

While there is no doubt that you should be limiting contact with your face and mouth as much as possible, particularly when need to leave the house for school or work, the reality is that this may be unavoidable during your orthodontic treatment.

In this article we will explain the importance of elastic bands and how to ensure they are changed safely during this critical time.

elastic bands for braces

What are elastic bands?

In orthodontics, elastic 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:

  1. 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.

  2. Class II Elastics

    – Class 2 elastics are used to reduce an overjet by retracting the upper teeth and moving the lower teeth forward.

  3. Class III Elastics

    – Class 3 elastics are used to correct an underbite by retracting lower teeth and advancing upper teeth.

How do you replace elastic bands?

This is different for everyone, depending on the severity and type of malocclusion. Your specialist orthodontist will demonstrate how to wear the elastics as well as how to replace them. These instructions will usually include attaching the rubber bands to hooks on your braces in a particular direction, that will help move your teeth into the correct position.

orthodontic elastic bands

How often do you need to replace your elastic bands?

You will need to wear your elastics for close to 24 hours a day, but may be removed while you eat and clean your teeth. We know this is a big commitment, however your full co-operation is required to get the best result. Your orthodontist will usually recommend replacing your rubber bands a few times per day, so the elastics do not lose their strength and elasticity. You can change your elastics after every meal, and before bed, that way you can get into a routine and won’t forget to change them.

What happens if you run out of elastics?

Your orthodontist will provide you with a large supply of elastics in a bag, with each bag usually holding 100 elastics. If your orthodontist’s clinic is closed or you are running low, contact your orthodontist who can help you source a fresh supply, by posting a few bags of elastics to you. It’s important to make sure you keep an eye on your stock and contact your orthodontist before you run out completely.

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.

different elastics for braces

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.

What happens if I snap an elastic?

Don’t panic, this is a fairly common occurrence. Simply wash your hands, brush your teeth and change your elastics as soon as you can, to ensure your treatment continues to progress. A handy hint is to keep a spare bag of elastics in your bag to access on the go.

If you require elastics, wearing these rubber bands faithfully and correctly will be vital to the success of your treatment. If any appointments are cancelled, your orthodontist may need to change how much or the direction that you wear your elastics.

If you have any concerns about your teeth or how you are wearing your elastics during this time, just take a quick photo of your mouth with your elastics in and send it to your orthodontic practice. Your specialist orthodontist will know what to do and will be in contact with you to ensure that your treatment stays on track.

How to hygienically change your elastics during coronavirus

While it is always important to wash your hands before touching your face, this becomes even more important during a pandemic. Before removing your elastics, please ensure that you wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and brush your teeth. If a sink is not available, ensure an alcohol-based hand sanitiser is used to ensure your hands do not have any bacteria on them.

Click here for up-to-date coronavirus advice.

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