Do Rubber Bands Move Teeth or Jaws?

If you have a serious malocclusion and you’ve started wearing orthodontic elastics, you’re probably wondering if your rubber bands move teeth or jaws or both.

This is a question many orthodontists have struggled to answer over the years. Luckily, there is now sufficient evidence to measure how teeth and jaws move during orthodontic treatment, and what impact rubber bands have on the treatment outcome.

The short answer is that orthodontic rubber bands move teeth through bone which eventually leads to a more stable bite. This improved bite can, in turn, reposition the jaws slightly. Jaw alignment is an indirect consequence of wearing elastics, not the main effect.

Do rubber bands Reposition teeth or jaws?

Decades ago, orthodontists used functional dental appliances to try to push bones forward or back in growing patients. But now we know that they don’t work that well.

Genetics still plays a huge role in how jaws grow. This is why trying to change or move jaws with rubber bands isn’t effective.

Rubber bands can correct many types of malocclusions but their effects are mainly dentoalveolar. This means that orthodontic elastic bands move the teeth (and the thin bone on top of teeth), but don’t have a major effect on jaw positioning.

In short, braces and elastics can move your teeth, make your lips and mouth look better, and maybe even move your jaw a tiny bit. But they won’t change the shape of your jaw or make big changes to your bones.

If you need your jaws repositioned, or you need their shape changed, your best bet is orthognathic surgery.

If you’re curious about how rubber bands work, check this article first to learn about all the rubber band patterns you might wear.

To help you understand even better whether your rubber bands can pull your jaw forward or backward, I’m going to describe two examples of how rubber bands work: one for an overbite, and one for an underbite.

How do rubber bands fix an overbite?


An overbite, sometimes called “buck teeth”, is when the top teeth are too far forward and stick out. Clinically, this is known as class II malocclusion.

There are different types of overbites, and some need surgery or teeth removal. But most can be fixed with braces and class II elastics.

To understand how elastic bands work on an overbite, carefully look at the picture below. You’ll see the ‘before’ in black, and the ‘after’ in red.

Overbite and deep bite correction with Class II Elastics – Source

Notice how:

  • the top dentition is pulled back
  • the top dentition is pulled down
  • the bottom dentition is pulled forward and up
  • the bottom incisors are tilted forward

When you use rubber bands to fix an overbite, it can make your bottom teeth tilt and improve the look of your lower lip. It can also make your top lip look less big because your top teeth move back.

When the bite opens up, your jaw might sit in a new position that’s more open. But we can’t achieve jaw movement in any other way without surgery.

How do rubber bands fix an underbite?

An underbite occurs when the bottom teeth and jaws are too far forward compared to the top teeth and jaws. We refer to it as a class III malocclusion.

In the example below, you’ll see the ‘before’ situation in black and the outcome in red. The patient had a significant underbite and was treated non-surgically. His bottom teeth were pulled back with the use of miniscrews and class III elastics.

Underbite correction with TADs and Class III Elastics – Source

This is how class III correction works. Notice how:

  • the top teeth are pushed forward
  • the top incisors are tilted forward (proclined)
  • the bottom teeth are pulled back
  • the bottom incisors are tilted back (retroclined)

Braces and rubber bands will fix an underbite following the same concept: the top lip that used to be receded will become fuller. The bottom lip will sit back slightly, and the mandible will rotate and open.

Still, the length of the top and bottom jaws will stay the same. It’s the teeths’ new position and jaw rotation that creates that improved look.

Does the jaw go back after elastics?

In some situations, the jaw may reposition itself because the results were unstable. Jaws and even teeth may want to go back in the direction they came from after braces.

For example, if you had a deep bite correction, the deep bite might return because of the strong muscles in your jaw, affecting how your jaw sits. Or the bite can relapse because the teeth are sitting in unstable positions.

To make sure your teeth stay straight, orthodontists often have patients wear rubber bands even after the correction is done. This helps to overcorrect the problem and prevent it from coming back.

Retainers are also extremely important for maintaining teeth and jaws in their new positions.

Will elastics and braces fix a weak (receding) chin?

Braces and rubber bands won’t fix a receding chin by themselves, but they can help make your lower lip look better and fuller, which might be helpful.

If a weak chin is an issue for you and you have a severe class II malocclusion, surgery will be of great help.

Getting orthognathic surgery can fix your occlusion, jaw, and also give you a genioplasty. Genioplasty a type of chin surgery that makes your chin look better by adding bone to it.

Conclusion

Rubber bands apply a lot of force to teeth and groups of teeth. They need to be worn constantly to be effective, but the changes they induce are powerful and, most of the time, stable.

Whether your orthodontist decides to treat you with extractions, surgery, or just braces, you’ll still need to wear elastics at some point during treatment. It’s best to know exactly how they work so you feel more motivated to wear them.

Check out these resources on rubber bands to learn more:

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3 Comments

  1. Sorry but the information is wrong that elastics cannot cause skeletal changes. I had my braces on when i was 20yrs old. I didn’t know that the clinic was operating unethically. During my treatment the dr put on an extremely hard elastics on my upper front incisors even though they were straight and i didn’t had an overbite or any crowding in those two centre incisors. He didn’t just simply attached the elastics but also added multiple knots in an already hard elastics on the bracket. After the elastics with multiple knots were added, my whole face started paining because of the extreme force. The doctor asked me to take paracetamol. The force could be felt up till my forehead specially the bones around my cheeks nose and the area between the eyebrows. I didn’t know why did he applied elastics on my self ligating brackets on the teeth which had no problem where as only other two incisors on the either sides of centre incisors were crooked which was the only reason i got braces. but gradually as months passed i noticed my face dishing inwards but i wasn’t sure and also didn’t know what was going to happen (i had no extractions). By 5-6 month my face was completely dished in, the maxilla moved back which resulted in front entrance of the ear canal blocked by the bone and hence my lower jaw also moved back and the chin is so close to the neck. I can’t speak or breath properly. My face completely got ruined and is unidentifiable from how i looked. My whole skull and neck pains like hell. It’s been 4 years and i can’t live a normal life at all because of how doctors instead of being open to a different possibility and trying understand the reason behind it they simply deny that it can’t happen when it is clearly visible in the photos aswell just because their perception is so rigid and limited based on the typical results of typical work. Different possibilities can’t be denied before doing proper studies and experimentation i know this being a medical student. You simply can’t deny it entirely because you never know what elastics someone is using and how they might be doing the work. Variations in work also exist hence this can’t be denied. This is not just me but also some other people living their life with this abnormality just because they got in the hands of a messed up doctors. Even those people aren’t getting any help because of such baseless beliefs based on work which is done under certain ways and limitations. I came with such a good face i had perfect bite could eat food, smile laugh and open my mouth normally. I only wanted my two crooked incisors on the sides of my centre incisors to be fixed. I ended up with a messed up bite which are constantly damaging my teeth, can’t even open my mouth, my symmetry shifted towards left in a certain process that he couldn’t manage or didn’t know why he started doing it and then stopped it when he saw the deviation told me he would fix it but aligned my lower teeth to the left angled deviation instead of fixing the upper teeth which were deviated to the left. This deviation affected the position of my other facial bones to gradually shift within fee months to the left just like the teeth. But doctors deny that aswell. the bite from the right tilted downwards ans hence the whole face adjusted accordingly. During the transition constantly felt crackling sounds within my bones throughout the skull whenever i put my head down on the pillow, or ate food, or even applied cream on my face. I had to do my own research and di find out the answers of why did this happen to me and the answer lies right in the basics. Sutures doesn’t fuse until around the age of 26 but the study has proves this is different in different people. For some people it fused around the age of 24 for some it happened in their 30s for some in their 40s and for some it didn’t even fuse until they were 60-65. Remodelling also occurs in sutures. So if someone is doing their work beyond the typical limitations make changes in the teeth frame as a whole and change their angle and position and work on such major levels, the positional relationship in facial bones can change due to remodelling in sutures which is also studied in a scientific paper in 2007. People noticed, for some it was negative change considering this working there are few cases in the world where team of doctors tool a non surgical approach to change in facial symmetry ans they did it successfully. Please i request you to be open to different possibilities because of work done out of typical orthodontic style. This needs to spread among orthodontists so that orthodontics can expand its knowledge and hence it’s working so that some people like me can be helped.

    1. Adriana Sim, DMD Orthodontist says:

      I’ve never heard of such extreme side effects on sutures resulting solely from elastics and no extractions. Yes, braces and elastics used improperly can dish in faces and cause TMJ issues and bone resorption, but not to the extent you’ve described. Have you seen a maxillofacial surgeon and got MRIs done to confirm this? Either way, I’m sorry for your experience, something must have gone horribly wrong during your treatment.

      1. Hello thank you for your response. It’s a surprise to me that you have mentioned that improper use of elastics can dish in faces. I live in india, but maximum orthodontists i have met and even took an online consultations with doctors in various states in india simply deny that this can’t happen. They don’t even take their time to analyse or compare everything carefully that they can and tell me it’s my delusion whereas everyone me who know me witnessed what happened. They only address the problem in the occlusion and nothing else. The doctor who undertook my case only took an opg before the treatment. Later after the complaint he denied and lied about what he told me he is doing and everything else he did during the treatment. From what i understand is he was doing anything he thought he should do, on the lower left side the second premolar is a milk teeth and there’s no tooth below it, and the premolar above was naturally in a 90 degree rotated position. During the 3-4 month of me getting my braces the first thing he did was add a hook like bracket on the front side of the rotated premolar and added an elastic from that hook to the bracket on the molar behind it. He told me he would rotate it and position it in the way it should be. The premolar started rotating outwardly but it also added outward force on the wire going around it, that’s when the whole frame of my teeth moved toward left angle. When the premolar rotated, the backside of that premolar which was being rotated went slightly downward because of which the left bite got improper and the right side the teeth weren’t meeting at all. I addressed the problem but he told me it’s just a transition and then went on to explain that he cannot rotate the premolar now because he suddenly realised that there was milk teeth below it which is bigger in size and justified how he was trying to make space. He said that he would fix it, the next thing that happened is that the lower teeth were aligned according to the deviated alignment of upper teeth and on the right side the teeth started meeting but now there was a tilt in the bite on right side. I made a complaint and the other doctors along with him started gaslighting me that such transitions are normal and you are overreacting. I was naive didn’t have enough knowledge or facts at hand to understand it and so i accepted what they told me. Because the deviation on my bite towards the left along with the tilt was prominently reflecting in the position of my lips he told me that this would get alright and i should remain patient. That is when he added those elastics on my upper centre incisors, from that point on the transition of dishing in of my face started on. I experienced constant pain and force in my whole face and he told me it’s normal and asked me to keep taking paracetamol. Initially i thought i am getting thinner but till the time i realised the backward transition of my facial bones it was too late. The photos captured every month shows how smaller and inwards my face got and because of the deviation in symmetry towards the left and the tilt, intially the asymmetry only remained in the lips and teeth and there was no change in the whole face and experienced change in force throughout my face previously when i ate food and gradually witnessed the change in adjustment of my facial bones by the next 8-9 months of me getting braces. Not just this but i also saw that the angle of my whole bite and my jaw went on the downward angle from the front and further affected my whole appearance as my fafe looked stretched and droopy and at that point he told me he’s almost done and that he would remove my braces and my bite is perfect now whereas it was worse than how i came there.I made a complaint and asked him why would he angle my whole bite downwardly. he very arrogantly said that it had to be done that’s why i did it and then i finally told them i would file a legal case after the final result but the clinic asked me to shut my mouth, accept my face as it is now and told me if i do tell anyone about it there would be disastrous consequences for me (because the founder has political connections). When i got my cephalogram after what was done, that cephalogram showed extreme protrusion in my incisors which couldn’t be noticed on the lips or by anyone at all when they see me directly. I figured out that my incisors now have no space left due to which they are in such a manner, he knew exactly what he was doing had no intention to correct anything at all but made an effort to hide what he did wrong the downward angle make my front teeth appear straight. The asymmetry which was reflecting prominently by lips wasn’t showing up as much as it did because the whole thing moved inward and my lips now look shrinked and smaller then it used to be. Unfortunately i have no pre-op cephalogram but my pictures shows all of it clearly. Sadly it’s not just me but other people getting braces from the clinic (which is a chain spreaded throughout india) had similar experiences and everything went downhill for them instead of getting any correction at all. Recently a dentist that i consulted understood my issues and i asked him to prescribe me a test for the analysis, he asked me to get a CBCT scan done. The orthodontist he suggested only focussed on my teeth (like all other orthodontists) didn’t even saw my CBCT scan or took time to see my pictures to analyse it throughly and denied that this can’t happen and you are imagining it. I haven’t met any maxillofacial surgeon but i am only expecting similar answers. They don’t even listen to me before coming to conclusions and don’t even consider what has happened and if something is and can happen beyond typical work and typical possibilities and moreover they show me the google search result to prove that this can’t happen. If you know someone who can see my case open mindedly and does such kind of work please do let me know. I understand that this kind of work is not common at all among orthodontic practitioners but i can’t find those on my own. I will be very grateful to you. Also once again, thank you so much for reading and responding to my comment, i really appreciate it.

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