Braces are most common during the teenage years. While this technology has improved over the years, the basic components of braces have remained relatively consistent.
If you’re prescribed braces, the following parts are involved:
- Metal brackets
- Metal hooks (bracket hooks, K hooks, crimpable hooks)
- Metal archwires
- Ligatures (metal or elastic)
- Interarch elastic bands
Metal brackets are affixed to the teeth, and the distinct types of elastics attach to these brackets to help realign the bite and jaw as well as straighten the teeth. In fact, if you have an overbite, underbite, crossbite, or other misalignment, elastics are one of the best options available to help correct the issue. So, what do these elastics do, and how can they help correct your orthodontic problems?
How Do Orthodontic Elastics Work?
Elastic bands are connected to the metal brackets in your braces and can be positioned in several diverse ways. Some types of elastics are placed around the metal brackets to prevent the metal archwires from moving out of place, while others are used to connect neighboring brackets to one another. Still others are used to exert firm pressure on the teeth to address specific factors of the bite alignment.
No matter their position, elastics provide gentle force during the orthodontic process to help reposition the teeth and jaw. The goal of elastics of any type is to ensure the upper and lower teeth align perfectly.
Types of Orthodontic Elastics
Orthodontic elastics come in a variety of colors, materials, and types. While some elastics are used for all types of braces, others are used in specific cases. Here are some types of elastics your orthodontist might recommend.
Ligatures are a type of orthodontic elastic that is used on all braces. These are the often-colorful bands placed around each bracket and are changed with a special tool when you visit your orthodontist. These come in several different colors that you can choose from to compliment your smile, but many people choose clear ligatures to keep their braces more discreet. Ligatures are mostly used to hold the metal archwires running from bracket to bracket in place.
Some ligatures are designed to connect a row of brackets to one another, forming what’s known as a “power chain.” Power chain ligatures provide additional pressure needed to pull or push your teeth into place more quickly than brackets and wires alone. When used together, ligatures and power chains can address multiple different alignment issues at the same time. For example, power chains can correct misalignment, gaps, and crooked teeth. There are several types of power chains with varying pressures, and your orthodontist will determine which is best for your needs.
“Orthodontic elastics” is generally meant to describe what are officially termed “interarch bands.” These elastics, also known simply as rubber bands, can be placed and used in several different ways. Some may be attached to small hooks on your brackets. Unlike ligatures, interarch elastics come in several types and sizes, and your orthodontist will choose the best ones for your treatment plan.
Interarch elastics are put in place solely to align your bite and jaw, while brackets, ligatures, and wires help straighten the teeth. Unlike ligatures or power chains, you won’t need to visit your orthodontist to remove or replace these elastics. In fact, they can be removed when you’re eating, brushing, or flossing—potentially even with a small hook your orthodontist provides to make the process easier.
Depending on your treatment plan, you may need to wear your interarch elastics anywhere from 12 to 24 hours each day. Not all patients will need interarch elastics. However, if your orthodontist recommends their use, the period you need to wear your elastics will depend on your unique treatment plan.
Your orthodontist will know what type of material to use to correct your orthodontic issue, but the position of your elastics is just as important.
Below are the distinct types of interarch elastics used:
- Class I – These elastics are positioned horizontally and link the brackets on either your top or bottom jaw. These are primarily used to close spaces between your teeth.
- Class II – Elastics in Class II connect teeth on your upper jaw to the molars on your lower jaw. Orthodontists use this method to fix an overbite, which is any gap between the front upper teeth and the lower teeth while biting.
- Class III – These elastics connect the teeth on your lower jaw to the molars on your upper jaw. This method is used to treat underbites, which occur when your lower teeth protrude in front of your upper teeth. This method is the opposite of Class II, but underbites are rarer than overbites, affecting less than 5% of the population in America.
- Vertical Elastics – Vertical elastics link teeth on your upper jaw with teeth directly below them on the lower jaw. These are mainly used to correct open bites, which are cases where the upper and lower teeth do not touch when the jaw is closed. The bands can also be set in a triangle, with the band connecting the top canine tooth, lower molar, and lower canine tooth.
- Cross Elastics – These elastics connect the teeth in your upper and lower jaw, usually crossing over the front teeth. Elastics crossing from one side to another are used to correct crossbites, where the upper teeth fit inside the lower teeth.
Benefits of Orthodontic Elastics
Elastics can seem like a nuisance at first, and they might be a bit uncomfortable for a while due to the increased force on your jaw and teeth. However, in a few days, any discomfort will ease, and you’ll be on your way to straighter, better-aligned teeth. Here are a few benefits to consider if your orthodontist is suggesting orthodontic elastics.
You’ll Have a More Comfortable Bite
Dealing with crooked teeth or an overbite can make eating and even closing your mouth uncomfortable. While there are other methods to improve your crooked teeth, using elastics helps to realign the jaw and bite. This way, your bite will not cause discomfort, and eating will be much more comfortable as well.
You’ll Have a Visually Appealing Smile
While our primary goal is improving the oral health of our patients, we also want everyone to be proud of their smile. A visually appealing smile can give you the confidence to engage with others and may even improve your mood. If misalignment of your teeth and jaw have been affecting the way you see yourself in the mirror, elastics are a great tool for fixing your bite and improving your appearance.
Elastics Are a Simple Process
Wearing braces and elastics can seem like an inconvenience at first, but professionals agree that elastics are a much simpler tool to use than others. Elastics are flexible, leaving you with a wide range of motion. The bands are also easily replaceable as they wear out and break. Finally, elastics allow your orthodontist to address multiple issues at once more quickly than you would see results without elastics.
Things to Remember When Wearing Elastics
Since elastic ligatures can be changed only with a special tool, they will need to be replaced by your orthodontist each visit. However, there are a few tips to keep in mind if you are wearing interarch elastics.
Carry Extra Elastics
While orthodontic elastics are durable, they won’t last forever. If you are away from home and a band breaks, or if you remove an elastic to eat and notice the band is very weak and not providing enough force, you’ll need to replace it. When you go out, carry some extra elastics in case something happens.
Wear Elastics as Directed at All Times
Do not double up on elastics. This can cause issues with the alignment process and put too great a strain on your jaw. Similarly, do not remove your elastics or attempt to loosen them. Your orthodontist placed each elastic as a carefully arranged component of your treatment plan, and changing the plan could affect your results.
Change Your Elastics as Instructed
Elastics will get weaker over time, so replacing them with fresh ones will keep the alignment process running smoothly. Elastics typically need to change at least every 12 hours, but preferably four times per day. You should be sure to change them as your orthodontist recommends. In addition, make sure you wash your hands before you touch your elastics or put your fingers in your mouth.
Follow Any Other Instructions
If your orthodontist offers any other directions regarding how to wear your elastics, be sure to follow them. Every treatment plan is different, and to ensure you receive the best results possible, it’s important to stick with what your orthodontist recommends. If you have questions about your treatment plan or elastics, contact your orthodontist as soon as possible.
Orthodontic Elastic FAQs
Braces and elastics can be incredibly useful in treating orthodontic issues, but you might still have questions about the process.
Worried About Elastics? Robison Orthodontics Can Help
At Robison Orthodontics, we believe everyone deserves a healthy, happy smile. We use high-quality orthodontic technology to deliver strong results and improve your oral health. No matter your age or your orthodontic issue, we offer expert guidance and friendly care to keep you and your smile happy and healthy.
Our team is committed to providing reliable, high-quality orthodontic care in Gilbert, AZ. To learn more about elastics and how they can help address your orthodontic issue, contact us today.
Dr. Tyler Robison is an alum of Mesa’s Mountain View High School. He graduated from Brigham Young University before being accepted to the “Top Ten-nationally ranked” University of Louisville in Kentucky, where he earned his Doctorate in Dental Medicine and a Master’s Degree in Oral Biology. He graduated with honors in the top ten percent of his class. Dr. Robison continued at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco, where he received a second master’s degree in dental science and his orthodontic certification.