What Are Elastics for Braces?

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Elastic bands are often essential to orthodontic treatment. Small elastics fix the braces wire to the brackets on teeth, and longer bands are sometimes used to adjust the position of the jaw and the bite between the upper and lower teeth. Elastics for braces may need extra cleaning and care, but they can also be a fun way to express yourself with colors and styles.

How Are Elastics Used for Braces?

It's the flexible stretching qualities of elastics that make them useful in orthodontic treatment. A set of traditional braces consists of three components: brackets that are bonded to the teeth, an archwire that runs through the brackets, and ligatures that fix the archwire to the brackets. The ligatures are small elastic bands. When it's time to adjust the braces, the orthodontist pops off the stretchy elastic bands, adjusts the archwire and then fixes it to the brackets again with new ligatures.

Another use for elastics in orthodontics is to connect brackets on the upper teeth with brackets in the lower teeth. These elastics are called interarch bands, and the pressure they exert repositions the jaw and improves the meeting of the upper and lower teeth over time. While orthodontists take care of removing and replacing ligatures, fixing, removing and replacing interarch elastic bands is the patient's responsibility.

What Are Orthodontic Elastics Made From?

Most elastics for braces are made from natural latex. The journal The Angle Orthodontist explains that natural latex rubber is the traditional base ingredient for elastics for braces. Elastics manufacturers also add chemical stabilizers and preservatives to the natural rubber as they process it; however, there's no standard composition of ingredients in the final product. Consequently, elastics made from latex can vary quite a bit in their elasticity, resilience and flexibility. This variance helps your orthodontist choose the right band for the job.

Although latex is a safe material, it can be an allergen for some patients. Orthodontics patients who have an allergy to latex can develop symptoms like an inflamed mouth, oral sores and, in very rare cases, difficulty breathing. Many children discover a latex allergy long before they're old enough to be fitted with braces since the natural rubber is also present in balloons, bandages and bottle nipples, explains University of Utah Health Radio.

A life-threatening allergic reaction to elastics is unlikely, but if you're worried you may be experiencing severe symptoms of an allergy to latex, remove the elastics if possible and see a doctor immediately. For patients who are allergic to latex, non-natural elastics offer an alternative solution. These bands are made from silicone, polyurethane plastic or another artificial polymer, and they work the same way as natural latex.

Elastic Band Colors

Elastics aren't the only option for ligatures on braces, but they're the only one where the patients can choose the colors they want. According to the Mayo Clinic, braces ligatures can also be made of tiny wires or the brackets can include a sliding mechanism to hold the wire. Yet children, teenagers and even some adults prefer ligatures that are colorful elastic bands.

Patients can choose colors that complement their skin tone, improve the appearance of their teeth or just make a fun statement. Certain colors of elastics can even help make your teeth look whiter. Clear elastics are an option for those who want their braces to look less noticeable.

Interarch Elastics

Interarch elastic bands are longer than braces ligatures and are used to help fix a misaligned bite. The Braces Guide explains how interarch braces attach to small hooks on braces brackets, forming a stretchy connection between the upper and lower teeth. As well as improving the way patients' teeth fit together, orthodontists use interarch elastics for other purposes like closing spaces between teeth.

You might hear your orthodontist refer to the "class" of interarch elastics. Class II elastics help correct an overbite, where the upper teeth sit too far forward. Class III elastics correct an underbite, where the lower teeth are too far forward in the mouth.

Interarch elastics are available in different lengths to fit the size of the gap between the upper and lower bracket hooks, exerting the correct amount of pressure but allowing a patient to open their mouth comfortably to speak. When the elastics are adjusting a misaligned bite they must generally be worn all the time except when eating or brushing your teeth. However, if the elastics are only needed for light maintenance, then the orthodontist may only prescribe nighttime wear.

It's the consistent tension on the teeth and jaw that makes interarch elastics effective. If the patient doesn't wear their elastics as prescribed, the treatment time is lengthened. Wearing two elastic bands as an alternative to wearing the bands consistently isn't an effective alternative, says the Braces Guide. Doubling up interarch elastics can increase soreness and even make treatment time longer if your teeth move in an unintended way.

Caring for Elastics for Braces

Orthodontists are responsible for caring for elastic ligatures, but patients must care for their interarch elastics themselves. Always remove interarch elastics before eating and before brushing your teeth or using floss. If you try to brush your teeth while the elastics are attached you can damage the archwire and bracket hooks. Replace interarch elastics every day or as often as recommended by your orthodontist.

If elastics for braces are a part of your orthodontic treatment, take advantage of the opportunity to choose colors and follow the advice of your orthodontist if you have interarch elastics. Braces are sometimes a fuss and bother, but the end result of straight teeth and a great smile are worth it!

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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Top Oral Care Tips Related to ADULT ORTHODONTICS

  • Flossing – creating a flossing routine is important during orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists and hygienists may recommend interdental brushes or floss threaders to make getting in between teeth easier.

  • Brushing routine – using fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush are ideal for cleaning teeth with braces. Begin brushing at a 45-degree angle at the gum line using small circular motions. Then place the toothbrush on top of the brackets, angling down to brush on top of each bracket. Finally, reposition the brush to brush the bottom of the bracket as well as the wire, angling the toothbrush up.

  • Fluoride mouthwash – after brushing and flossing, rinse with a fluoride mouthwash to help prevent cavities and white spots.

  • Mouthguards – wear a mouthguard if you play sports. Mouthguards can protect your cheeks and lips from serious cuts and can prevent damage to your braces or orthodontic appliance if you fall down or are hit in the face.