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How to Manage Rubber Bands and Braces Pain

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If you have braces, your orthodontist might give you small rubber bands to attach to your brackets to help move and align your teeth. While they may cause some discomfort, they're an important part of your overall orthodontic plan. Luckily, there are several strategies you can try out to help alleviate rubber bands and braces pain.

Components of Braces

To understand why rubber bands are an important part of your orthodontic treatment, you'll first need to know how all the components of braces work together. As the Mayo Clinic explains, braces are comprised of several parts, including:

  • Brackets, which are the small, square metal pieces attached to the front outer surfaces of the teeth.
  • An archwire, which connects the brackets to one another and controls the tooth movement.
  • Metal rings, which are placed on the back teeth.
  • Rubber bands or elastic ties, which attach the wires to the brackets and also may be used to connect teeth in the upper and lower jaws.

The American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) explains that braces work by slowly and deliberately applying force to the teeth. If your teeth require more force, the AAO notes that your orthodontist may give you small rubber bands to temporarily connect teeth in your upper and lower jaws using hooks on the brackets. It's important to follow your orthodontist's instructions for wearing these rubber bands, including any guidance regarding when to remove them.

Why Do Rubber Bands Cause Pain?

The Mayo Clinic explains that, when you have braces, your orthodontist will tighten the archwire in order to continue to add pressure to the teeth. You may feel minor pain as this process unfolds. Think of it like lifting weights: As you start lifting more weight, your muscles become more conditioned and strengthened. Rubber bands are like additional weights. They produce more pressure to correct your tooth and jaw alignment.

The Oral Health Foundation notes that rubber bands or other parts of the braces may rub the insides of your cheeks and may cause sore spots. However, there are several ways you can manage braces pain with at-home techniques.

How to Manage Rubber Bands and Braces Pain

The textbook Orthodontics: Current Principles and Techniques explains that pain is one common reason patients don't continually wear their rubber bands as directed. But it's critical to follow your orthodontist's instructions to achieve your goal of a straight smile.

Some ways to alleviate rubber bands and braces pain, according to the Oral Health Foundation and the AAO, include:

  • Placing orthodontic wax on areas that are painful to help mitigate rubbing or chafing inside the mouth
  • Taking an over-the-counter pain medication
  • Applying a topical anesthetic to provide temporary relief

Rinsing with warm salt water may also help to soothe any canker sores that develop from braces, as the University of Michigan explains. You can also ask your orthodontist for tips on managing discomfort as your treatment plan continues.

Experiencing moments of minor pain is a normal part of the teeth-straightening process. Your teeth are moving and shifting to give you a beautifully straight smile. Remember: The minor and manageable pain will be well worth the results!


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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