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.
- 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.
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.
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: