What Is the Purpose of Elastics? 

Close up of a person's smile with braces putting elastics on with a hook

Elastics are rubber bands that hook to brackets or archwires of braces to assist with movement. They provide extra force to move teeth into positions that braces cannot achieve independently, speeding up the alignment process and shortening the treatment period.

How long you will wear elastics depends on the condition of your bite. Patients with significant misalignments might wear them throughout most of their treatment (typically beginning four to six months after braces are applied). Those in need of mild bite correction might only wear them for a few weeks or months. Others suffering from crowding alone might not require elastics at all. 

Typically, elastics are made of a type of latex material, which is effective and affordable. However, alternative compositions are available for patients with latex allergies.

How Elastics Work 

Elastics pull the jaw forward or backward to improve bite position and correct underbites, overbites, open bites, and crossbites. The orthodontist can apply these bands in several different configurations to meet the connective force requirements you need.

Elastics usually link to the hooks that the orthodontist attaches to your braces, so it is easy to apply and remove them. If they go into hard-to-reach areas of your mouth, your orthodontist can provide a hook tool that you can use to secure the bands in place.

You also will receive a diagram indicating which teeth need to connect via elastics. Placing rubber bands incorrectly can be even worse than not wearing them at all because your teeth might move in the wrong direction.

Elastics vs. Ligatures 

Ligatures are rubber bands that fit over the individual metal brackets used with traditional braces. Though they are made of similar material, ligatures are not considered elastics as they are part of the braces equipment. 

The purpose of ligatures is simply to hold the wires in place rather than assist or enhance the treatment process. Your orthodontic technician will replace them at each checkup, which enables patients to have some fun with their appearance. Ligatures come in a variety of colors that you can mix and match.

Elastics are much larger rubber bands that apply pressure to the jaw to help achieve proper alignment. They come with force strengths of light, medium, and heavy, as well as sizes measured by diameter. The rubber band size that’s used depends on how far it needs to stretch in order to work effectively.

Types of Elastics Used for Braces 

Smaller elastics are used to connect to teeth that are closer together, and larger elastics connect teeth that are farther apart. Stronger elastics apply more pressure to move your teeth. Your orthodontist will choose the length and strength of the elastic that is right for you.

Class I elastics close gaps between the teeth. They connect laterally from an upper canine to one of the molars. 

Class II elastics help correct an overjet or overbite, connecting a top canine to a lower molar to bring the upper and lower jaws in line. 

Class III elastics help correct underbites. The top of the band will attach to the first or second molar, while the bottom will attach to a lower bicuspid to help move the bottom jaw forward.

Triangle Class II elastics help correct an open bite by retracting the lower teeth and advancing the upper ones. They stretch from an upper canine to a bottom bicuspid, then from the bicuspid to a lower molar, and back to the upper canine. 

Triangle Class III elastics attach from the lower bicuspid to the upper first premolar, and then to the upper first molar to form a triangle.

Anterior Triangle elastics connect an upper canine to a lower one, which connects to a premolar and back to the upper canine.

Crossbite elastics help correct a situation where your bottom teeth fit inside your upper teeth. One end starts on the upper canine and goes down around the lower canine on the opposite side of the mouth. 

Vertical elastics link teeth on your upper jaw with the corresponding teeth below them on the lower jaw. They can be used to correct an open bite.

Midline elastics run from the upper to lower canines, but they can also be attached to other front teeth. This helps line up the center of the top and bottom front teeth.

Box elastics are used to close the bite and tighten everything together. They attach to four teeth: two on the upper and two on the bottom, forming the shape of a box.

Wearing Elastics 

If you are prescribed elastics, you likely will wear them most of the time. You will need to change them daily–often multiple times–so always keep a pack handy.

You may be able to remove your rubber bands temporarily in order to eat, particularly if the way they’re arranged makes eating difficult. You can also remove them to brush and floss.

Wearing elastics irregularly will make your teeth more resistant to moving in the right direction and slows down or stops your treatment progress, so talk with your orthodontist about when it’s appropriate to remove your rubber bands.

Follow your orthodontist’s directions about how to wear your elastics, and never double up to try to progress your treatment faster. Wearing multiple elastics produces so much pressure that it can slow the movement of your teeth and damage their roots. 

Elastics And Invisalign 

Although people typically associate elastics with traditional braces, it also is possible to use them with clear aligners. Invisalign elastics are discreet rubber bands that connect the top and bottom rows of teeth. They can add enough force to help correct mild to moderate bite issues, making Invisalign an option for some patients who might not otherwise qualify.

The most common type of bite condition treated with Invisalign is an overbite or overjet. Invisalign can treat a mild overbite using elastics attached from your upper canines down to your lower molars. It also can treat mild underbites using rubber bands that hook from your top back molar to your lower canines.

Invisalign elastics attach to your teeth using a special hook built into the aligner or by connecting to tooth-colored attachments called buttons. These attachments are small dental fixtures placed on certain teeth where the rubber bands can attach.

Just as with traditional braces, it is important to follow your orthodontist’s advice when it comes to wearing your elastics. If you don’t follow their instructions, you may not get the results you want, or your treatment may take longer.

For more information about orthodontic treatment options, contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified orthodontists.


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