10 Braces Rubber Bands DOs and DON’Ts

You finally got braces rubber bands (also called elastics) as part of your orthodontic treatment and you’re a step closer to getting those teeth aligned and biting well. Now that you’re a bit more familiar with your braces, it’s time to create some habits that apply to your rubber bands as well.

First of all, you gotta wear them, that’s the most important thing. But that’s not all. In this article, I’m going to share 5 dos and 5 don’ts of wearing rubber bands with your braces. If you already know and practice these tips, then you’re all set. If not, promise me you’ll implement them.

1. DO: Wash Your Hands Before Placing Rubber Bands

Think of all the germs you’ve collected off door knobs, handles, money, even your phone. If you don’t wash your hands, you’re about to put all that into your mouth when placing elastics.

If this past pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to wash our hands thoroughly and often. For you, this can mean that you have to go to the bathroom every time you need to change your rubber bands.

I strongly suggest you do that, but if it’s not possible, then carry a small bottle of sanitizer with you and use it on your hands before using elastic bands. Plus, many patients are a little uncomfortable with changing their elastic bands in public, so going to the bathroom gives you some privacy.

2. DO: Be Mindful Of How You Wear Rubber Bands

Just because you can hook rubber bands onto your braces hooks at record speed now, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it right. In fact, I suggest you use a mirror, even if you think you don’t need it.

It’s not the same thing to hook your rubber bands to the upper canine or lower canine, first premolar or second premolar, etc – you need to stick to the pattern, or else the elastics will apply either too little or too much force to your teeth. 

So always respect your ortho’s indications and be mindful when you put your rubber bands on. Which brings me to the next point:

3. DO: Ask Your Orthodontist For Different Color Ties

What do I mean by this? If you have a bad memory and always have to take pictures of your rubber band configuration, then your orthodontist can help you. They can place a different color ligature on the teeth you’re supposed to cross rubber bands on.

In addition to this helpful detail, you can also ask for a diagram, and take pictures at your orthodontist’s office with the elastics connected between your upper teeth and bottom teeth.

It’s okay not to remember how to put elastics on, because it’s not always straightforward. Sometimes you need to wear rubber bands in a diagonal line, a triangle and even a rectangle, and it’s important to get it right.

4. DO: Ask For Extra Rubber Bands Or Call Your Ortho If You Run Out

It’s really easy to place your rubber bands package on a napkin and throw them out accidentally. This is why it’s good to always have extra. If you’re going to wear them long term, ask for plenty of rubber bands from your orthodontist’s office, and place them wherever you spend a lot of time: your room, your car, your office.

You can even buy some extras online provided that you know the exact size and strength. You can find the most common configurations here.

Make sure you have rubber bands in your bag and inside your braces brushing kit. Figure out a system that works for you. You’ll be changing your elastics 3-4 times per day and you need to be organized.

If you ever run out, don’t be afraid to ask your orthodontist for more elastics. It’s okay to lose them every once in a while, but if you’re going through your elastics at a fast rate, your doctor may ask you how often you’re changing them and if you’ve been doubling down on them.

5. DO: Wear Elastics 24/7 Except For Eating And Brushing

Just like aligners, elastics only work if worn at least 22 hrs/day. Taking them off for eating and brushing is allowed and recommended, although some people prefer not to take them off at all, so they don’t forget to put them back on.

Elastics take a long time to be effective because they need to move groups of teeth. That takes a lot of force over a number of months. The downside to orthodontic rubber bands is patient compliance. Because success depends 100% on the patient, they’re not the most reliable treatment method.

Now that we’ve been over some good rubber band habits, let’s go over what you should avoid:

6. DON’T: Stretch Your Elastics Too Much When Applying Them

Stretching your rubber bands defeats the purpose of wearing them, since you’ll be reducing their effectiveness. Stretching elastics may feel more comfortable because they’re not as strong, but you’re sabotaging your own treatment.

Stretching elastics can cause them to snap, and if you’re applying too much force to your braces hooks, it can cause the bracket to break as well.

If you’re stretching rubber bands too much because you’re having a hard time putting them on, I suggest you use and orthodontic elastic placer until you get the hang of it.

7. DON’T: Reuse Rubber Bands – Ever

Orthodontic elastics stretch and lose elasticity in just a few hours of use. While it might be tempting to put the same rubber band back on, it won’t have the same strength. Plus, it’s gross.

It’s best to replace elastics after every meal, or 3-4 times per day. This means you should avoid snacking, so you don’t have to replace elastics too often. It’s okay to eat small items and drink with your rubber bands on, but constantly snacking is not good for your braces anyway.

8. DON’T: Double Down On Your Rubber Bands

Some patients think they can skip ahead of treatment if they double up on their rubber bands. More force, more tooth movement, less time in braces, right? Wrong.

In fact, the more rubber bands pull on your teeth, the slower they will move. This is because the bone, instead of melting and allowing teeth to move, turns into something like cartilage as protection from too much pressure.

Talk to your orthodontist about what you’ve been doing and they’ll be able to adjust the course of treatment, or even give you a different size rubber bands so you won’t have to double down anymore.

9. DON’T: Wear Elastics Off And On

It’s no secret, rubber bands cause pain. It can hurt so much that you may feel tempted to take a break. And since you’re the one putting your elastics on, noone will see you if you take them off for a few hours, right?

Taking a few hours or a few days off from your rubber bands is not a good idea. It will cause more pain until your teeth get adjusted with elastics again. The periodontium or soft tissue beneath your teeth swells and activates bone metabolism. While this process hurts at first, it will become less and less painful if you stick to it, just like when you got started with braces.

10. DON’T: Lie To Your Orthodontist About Wearing Rubber Bands

Did you know that your orthodontist can actually tell, by looking at tooth mobility, if you’ve been wearing your elastics or not?

This situation is way too common and it’s a constant source of frustration for both orthodontist and patient. Not wearing your elastics and lying about it erodes your relationship and makes you both resentful. It’s best that you’re just open about your struggles and you might find some common ground.

Plus, it’s easy for your orthodontist to figure out if you’re actually wearing your elastics, just by checking if the teeth you’re placing elastic bands on are loose.

Your orthodontist relies on you to wear your elastics, and you depend on your orthodontist to complete your treatment. Some people aren’t disciplined enough to stick to wearing rubber bands 24/7 and they may be having a hard time. It’s okay, it’s really not the end of the world, but not wearing elastics may change the course of treatment.

In cases like these, your ortho can recommend a non-compliance device, like a Forsus attached on your upper and lower brackets, or going the extraction route and giving up multiple teeth to be able to fit your jaws together.

Conclusion

Wearing elastics is important, and so is the communication between you and your orthodontist. Don’t be afraid to say you’ve lost them or haven’t been good at wearing them regularly. Your ortho should motivate you and explain why it’s so crucial that you wear them.

Yes, there are options that can replace rubber bands altogether, but those options aren’t cheap or comfortable. If you start wearing rubber bands with the right mindset, it will help your braces treatment go smoothly and you’ll soon see your bite improve and your smile straighten.

Whether you’re new to braces or a braces veteran, taking care of your teeth and gums during orthodontic treatment is crucial. That’s why I’ve put together a list of orthodontist-recommended tools that will make caring for your braces a breeze:

  • An awesome mid-range electric toothbrush. Rotating electric brushes are much more effective, in my opinion, than sonic ones. You can keep your teeth white by using whitening replacement heads.
  • A countertop water flosser to blast out food debris between teeth. I know handheld models are tempting, but you’ll need a lot of water. You can almost replace flossing with this and your gums will be healthier.
  • Braces accessories to get into all the nooks and crannies: straight or angled interdental brushes, floss threaders, orthodontic wax or silicone. For pain management, have gel ice packs handy, Orajel, and Mouth Magic (a cool soothing solution for mouth sores).
  • For clear aligner patients, a tool like PUL helps both remove and seat your aligner or retainer. Don’t forget to use a cleaning product like crystals to keep your trays fresh and hygienic.

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you for this! Very helpful + informative. Also want to ask if in #9 you maybe meant: “Taking a few hours or a few days off from your rubber bands is a good idea.” Did you mean it is NOT a good idea? Thank you again, take care

    1. Adriana Sim, DMD Orthodontist says:

      Oops, thanks for catching that! I updated the article. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  2. Theresa Williams says:

    Thank you for the very educational info!

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