Rubber Bands and Braces: A Quick Guide

September 25, 2017

Woman smiling with rubber bands in her braces.

On your journey to your “Smile Ranch” smile, you might be asked to wear rubber bands with your braces. These little elastics, though they may seem small, can determine how long your orthodontic treatment takes. Just like with your braces, you’ll most likely feel some pain and discomfort when you first start wearing rubber bands, but it will hurt less the more you wear them.

Because the elastics are removable, you are in charge of how long and how often you wear rubber bands with your braces. If you wear your rubber bands as directed by your orthodontist, your treatment is likely to go faster and be less painful. However, if you don’t wear your rubber bands properly, then you can expect a longer treatment time, plus more pain and damage to the roots of your teeth.

What Do Rubber Bands Do?

The rubber bands you get from your orthodontist usually can’t even fit around your pinkie finger. What do those little pieces of latex or vinyl do for your orthodontic treatment? Depending on how you’re asked to wear them and which rubber bands you were given, they can fix a number of bite issues, including:

  • Overbite. Overbite is when your upper teeth sit “over” your bottom teeth when your mouth is closed.
  • Underbite. Underbite is the opposite of an overbite, where the lower jaw sits over the upper jaw.
  • Crossbite. Crossbite is when some of your upper teeth sit behind some of your lower teeth, making your bite crooked, or crossed.
  • Openbite. Openbite is when your front teeth do not touch your bottom teeth, even when your mouth is closed.

Elastics are attached to hooks on your brackets, usually one place at the top and another at the bottom. These elastics force your jaw to rest at different places, and eventually can change the resting place of your jaw to a proper bite. It’s important to have a proper bite, because if your bite isn’t in the right spot, it can cause uneven wear on your teeth, gum irritation, and pain while chewing.

Best Practices for Wearing Rubber Bands

The better you are at remembering to wear your rubber bands, the better. Here are some best practices you should follow when wearing rubber bands.

  • Follow your orthodontist’s instructions. The most effective way to wear your rubber bands is to follow your orthodontist’s instructions. There are a variety of ways to wear rubber bands, so it’s important to wear them according to what you’re told by your orthodontist.
  • Change rubber bands 3-4 times a day. As you consistently wear rubber bands, the elastics will stretch and be less effective. Change your rubber bands every time you eat and brush your teeth to make sure that your rubber bands are still working to get you your perfect bite.
  • Keep extra rubber bands with you at all times. Rubber bands break all the time, so it’s important to keep a pack of rubber bands with you wherever you go. If you’re in school, keep a bag in your backpack and change them at lunch. Keep a bag at work and put them where you’ll see them so you can remember to put them in and change them throughout the day.
  • Do not “double up” on rubber bands. If you don’t wear your rubber bands, it’s easy to just wear two at a time to make up lost time, right? Wrong. Do not wear more rubber bands at a time than you were instructed to.
  • Create a system to help you remember to wear them. If you find yourself having a hard time remembering to wear your rubber bands, find ways that can help you remember! Make a calendar where you can write down how long you wore your rubber bands each day. If you successfully wear them long enough, treat yourself to a favorite restaurant trip or a movie. If you don’t make your goal, challenge yourself to do better next time.

If your orthodontist asked you to wear rubber bands, keep in mind that there will be some pain and discomfort, just like braces as your mouth gets used to it. But, the more you wear them, your smile will thank you for it later. If you ever lose your rubber bands or need more, let us know!

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