What do the Elastic Rubber Bands on Braces do?

by Dr. Joseph Thompson

Orthodontic Elastic Rubber BandsDuring the course of orthodontic treatment, a patient with braces may have to wear elastic rubber bands to help with the correction of their malocclusion.

Rubber bands come in different lengths and colors, and they place forces on the teeth and jaws.  With rubber bands, one can enhance or slow down the growth of the jaws in a growing child and they can also be used to move teeth, like correcting a posterior cross bite.

Orthodontic Rubber Bands for Class II CorrectionCertain brackets have hooks where the elastics are stretched in various ways.

Some orthodontists will have hooks on every posterior bracket which makes it a little more difficult to keep clean.  Most orthodontists have hooks on the cuspid and molar brackets only.  These hooks can be used for various attachments like springs and rubber bands to help move the teeth.  The majority of the time, these hooks are used for elastic rubber bands.

Anterior Diagonal Orthodontic Rubber BandsRubber bands can be used in many different configurations.  Normally, they are used inter arch which can be from top to bottom, side to side or front to back.

A typical example is a patient that has an excessive overjet (overbite).   An overjet is measured by the distance from upper incisors to lower incisors when the teeth are occluding.  An acceptable overjet is about 2 to 3 millimeters.

A patient who has a Class II malocclusion has a large overjet.  In a growing child, rubber bands can slow the growth of the upper jaw and enhance the forward growth of the lower jaw.  The picture below shows an excessive overjet and correction with orthodontic rubber bands.

 

Correction with Elastic Wear

How often are rubber bands worn?

When a patient is asked to wear rubber bands, it is usually for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The only time rubber bands are taken out of the mouth is when the patient eats or brushes their teeth.  You wear them while you sleep and you use a new pair everyday.   Some patients will have to wear them for a full year or longer.

Once the correction has occured, the rubber bands are not worn as much and slowly you are weaned off of them.  So when your orthodontist asks you wear rubber bands, wear them.  They are very important in creating a proper occlusion.

This topic and more information about orthodontic treatment is found in the comprehensive book, The Orthodontic Handbook for Patients & Parents.

To get a copy, please click here.

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