February 5th, 2018
Have you heard your orthodontist say: always wear your rubber bands? Ever wonder why?
Rubber bands or orthodontic interarch elastics help orthodontist's grip the top teeth to your bottom teeth for various kinds of bite correction. Extra oral elastics may also be worn for orthopedic movements. Wearing rubber bands can improve how you chew, and they can maximize the final esthetics of your smile. They can be fun with colors or even help your braces and Invisalign look cute.
Some hurdles do exist when you wear elastics. They cause initial soreness for approximately a week while your mouth becomes accustomed to them. Orthodontic rubber bands can pop out of your mouth or break, which can be a nuisance. Sometimes you can swallow them. I haven't heard of any harm ever occurring with patients as long as elastics are worn as prescribed by your orthodontist. In the instance, you lose or swallow a rubber band, no need to try to find it, just pop in a new one!
Orthodontic elastics come in dozens of sizes and strengths. Your orthodontist will prescribe a given elastic size based on desired tooth movement to occur, and the supporting orthodontic appliance that is anchoring the rubber band. Some elastics have very small diameters, these can exert more force, sometimes used for bringing teeth together or for correcting a crossbite, others have larger diameters meant hooking in unique ways. Elastics come in a host of force levels measured in ounces. The versatility of elastics makes them incredibly useful to you and your orthodontist during treatment. The possibilities of elastics in treatment are infinite and so impossible to fully describe in a blog.
Just as a note of caution: If rubber bands are worn in the wrong fashion then orthodontic appliances can break. Teeth can move incorrectly and the bite may become worse. If the size and strength of elastic isn't correct the teeth and subsequent bones may not move due to incorrect force levels. Too much force can also cause necrosis (death at the level of the cells) causing movement to stop all together. Don't ever decide to move teeth in a DYI fashion, this can lead to tooth loss and poor outcomes.
If you have any questions with regards to elastics reach out to your orthodontist or message Dr. McKinney for clarification. Should you struggle to remember them, or struggle to get use to the initial discomfort, tell your orthodontist. Alternating Motrin and Tylenol can help with pain and discomfort. Placing a bag of elastics in easy to reach places can help you with learning to wear them. If you still struggle with elastics and have made your best effort then other treatment options may be available to you that require less compliance and participation just as your orthodontist.
Dr. McKinney is available for complimentary consultations in our Tuscaloosa and Hampton Cove offices. Like our McKinney Orthodontics Facebook page and send us a message directly!