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Why do I have to wear elastics or “rubber bands” with braces?


Orthodontic treatment sometimes calls for our patients to wear elastics or rubber bands. The elastics are essential to the completion of the patient’s orthodontic treatment and are required to be worn approximately 20-22 hours a day. The only times the elastics should be removed would be when the patient is eating, brushing and/or flossing their teeth. If the patient is capable of wearing them while they are eating or snacking that is highly recommended as they will get more wear time versus taking them out every time. The rubber bands should be changed out for new ones about three times a day (or after every meal) so that they may hold enough elasticity for the movement needed.

The elastics allow for the jaw and bite alignment to occur and are the patient’s responsibility as they are removable and replaceable. The rubber bands connect to small hooks on the bracket and put a small amount of pressure in a specific direction to improve your bite. The bracket is the square metal piece that is directly attached to the tooth. Typically the rubber band will attach from a bracket on the patient’s top teeth to a lower bracket to help guide the alignment and position.

Before leaving the office, it is the patient’s responsibility to understand where and when to wear the rubber bands. If the patient would like a drawn diagram as a visual reminder an orthodontic assistant can provide that, but sometimes taking a picture with a cell phone of the placement during the appointment is also very helpful. If there is ever a moment where the patient is unsure of where they need to be wearing the rubber bands never hesitate to stop by the office and ask. This part of the patient’s treatment is crucial for completing the entire process and failure to wear elastics will extend treatment time significantly. Not wearing the rubber bands the full 20-22 hours a day will also keep your teeth constantly sore. The stopping and starting sets the patient back and then it’s like they’re starting over again every time the patient does decide to wear them. Only double your rubber band wear if the doctor has given you approval to do so, otherwise wearing one full time will typically be enough. Too much pressure on the tooth could cause harm to the roots of the tooth.

Patients are encouraged to carry elastics with them in case one breaks or is losing elasticity and should call their orthodontic office if they run out of elastics. Not every patient will require rubber bands while they are in orthodontic treatment, but those who do will need to be persistent and motivated to achieve the beautiful smile they deserve!