You’ve lost an elastic tie on your braces, or it’s barely hanging on. What should you do? Are elastic ties really that important, or are they there just to make braces more colorful and fun? And will just one elastic tie make any difference at all?
If one or multiple elastic ties fall of your braces, those particular teeth are no longer engaged in the archwire and risk becoming more crooked. This can lead to longer treatment time, so it may need to be addressed sooner. You can try placing your elastic tie back yourself, if you still have it.
I’m going to teach you a couple of DIY tricks, but make sure you check with your orthodontist if you didn’t manage to place your elastic tie back on.
What are elastic ties and why do we need them?
Elastic ties, also called elastic ligature ties or o-rings, are tiny colored rubber bands that go on top of brackets, securing the archwire in the bracket slot. The most fun part about getting braces is choosing which color to wear at each appointment.
Elastic ties need to be changed at each appointment because they get dirty with food and saliva, retain moisture, lose elasticity and even break.
So what happens if an elastic tie breaks or falls off sooner than your scheduled appointment? The elastic tie is what keeps the archwire intimately engaged in the bracket slot, which applies force to the tooth. If the elastic tie comes off, that tooth will no longer be pulled in line with the others, and may get left behind.
If your appointment is in a few weeks, here’s the worst that could happen:
- if it’s a front tooth, you may see a slight difference in position or angle compared to its neighbors;
- if it’s a tooth that’s really crooked – you may see it become even more crooked as the other teeth straighten around it.
None of this is serious, but it does add more time to your treatment. Your orthodontist may need to go back a wire size because the wire that you now have no longer fits in all the brackets.
This is why it’s so important to let your orthodontist know that you’ve lost an elastic tie, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal. You may approach the end of your treatment, and if your teeth are already straight, you could be just fine, but why risk it?
What to do if an elastic tie has come off?
Most of the time, losing an elastic tie happens without you even noticing, but on the rare occasion that you still have your elastic tie, we’ll teach you what to do. We’ll also teach you what to do if you don’t have your elastic tie and can’t see your orthodontist soon.
Elastic ties could come off from aggressive brushing, eating hard foods, or just because the rubber is of poor quality and it breaks. Hopefully, that’s not the case.
Here’s what to do if an elastic tie has come off PARTIALLY:
- First of all, this is not an emergency. If it’s still sitting on three corners of your bracket, it’s okay and you don’t need to do anything.
- If it really bugs you, you can grab a tweezer and pull it on top of the fourth corner.
Here’s what to do if an elastic tie has come off your bracket and YOU STILL HAVE IT:
- Grab a fine tweezer and try to place your elastic tie on two of the bracket wings. If your bracket has a hook, start with the hook part.
- After the elastic tie is secure on two wings, grab it with tweezers again, and stretch the rubber carefully over one wing, then the other. Don’t pull too hard, so you don’t cause your bracket to come off.
- Alternatively, you can use a piece of floss threaded through the elastic tie, hook it on one wing and use your fingers to do the rest.
What to do if you don’t have your elastic tie and can’t go to your ortho soon:
I don’t encourage you to do this, and definitely check with your doctor before doing this, but it’s really easy. All you have to do is order some elastic ties from Amazon or eBay. It’s useful to have them around the house anyway.
Your elastic ties will come on a rubber stick, and you’ll have to pull them off. If you’re using a hemostat or Mathieu plier, grab the elastic tie by the edge so that the hole part remains free. It’s important you keep that hole clear so that the elastic tie can grab onto the bracket.
Use the technique I just described, doing your best to slowly stretch the elastic tie on top of all four wings of the bracket. If your bracket has a hook, always start with the hook.
Here’s a video that best describes it:
What to do if you didn’t manage to place your elastic tie back on?
First of all, if you’re wearing rubber bands – stop. Rubber bands are really powerful; their job is to move groups of teeth in the desired direction. If one of those teeth isn’t engaged in the wire, and you’re still wearing rubber bands, that tooth could potentially become crooked.
Next, you’ll want to assess if that tooth has a metal ligature. It’s not frequent, but sometimes orthodontists will secure a tooth with a metal ligature, and then put a colored elastic tie on top, just so it doesn’t look different. This is especially true for teeth that need more correction. If you still have a metal ligature on, then all is good.
Lastly, and most importantly, call your orthodontist’s office to book an appointment so they can add that elastic tie real quick if your attempts weren’t successful.
What if your orthodontist forgot to place the rubber ties?
Perhaps you just came home from your orthodontist and noticed that one or multiple brackets don’t have an elastic tie on, or don’t seem to be engaged in the archwire. Was it intentional? Well, there’s only one way to find out – call the ortho’s office and ask.
Doctors make mistakes too, so it may be that your orthodontist forgot to place elastic ties. I got so absent-minded once, that I forgot to do an entire arch – good thing my patient noticed before leaving. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.
Another reason could be that the tooth is too crooked to engage in the archwire, and more space needs to be created before it’s tied in with the rest of the teeth. If that’s the case, no need to go to the orthodontist early.
An elastic tie that’s fallen off is considered an orthodontic emergency because it can prolong treatment. In most cases, the tooth in question might not move in unwanted ways, but it’s always better to prevent than to treat.