Do Self-Ligating Braces Need Power chains?

You might be wondering if self-ligating braces need power chains. This is a common question since the whole purpose behind self-ligating braces is to avoid the use of rubber ties on teeth.

The answer is yes, self-ligating braces will need power chains to close gaps. It’s likely that you’ll wear them at some point during your orthodontic treatment. Some patients may need power chains for a longer period than others, depending on the size of their gaps and other factors.

There are some perks to using power chains with self-ligating braces, as well as some drawbacks. I’m sure you’re worried about pain as well. In this article, we’ll discuss how power chains work and what you can expect if you need them with your self-ligating braces.

You might already know that self-ligating braces (SLBs) use a door or clip mechanism instead of the traditional elastic ties to hold the wire in place. This unique design helps reduce friction and make them more comfortable.

However, self-ligating brackets don’t work on autopilot, and there’s more to them than just brackets and a piece of wire.

In your orthodontic journey with SLBs, you’ll still need various accessories to help close spaces, move teeth, and settle your bite. It’s essential to understand that your self-ligating braces will still require additional components like hooks, rubber bands, coils, metal ligatures, and yes, power chains.

If you’re expecting a minimalistic look for your braces, you may be surprised to find that these additional components are necessary and most patients get them.

Power chains are special elastics that connect the brackets together. They look like a continuous band of little elastic loops, and they come in various colors, or you can even pick a clear one if you want it to be less noticeable.

So, what’s the main job of power chains? Their primary purpose is to close small gaps that may appear during the orthodontic treatment and make sure those gaps won’t open back up. They do an excellent job at treating gapped teeth, and they’re essential when it comes to closing spaces left after tooth extractions.

Power chains exert a lot of force on the teeth and can move them to undesired positions if used too much or on thin wires. That’s why orthodontists use them with caution and only in certain phases of treatment.

If you’re worried about the pain caused by power chains, know that it typically subsides in about 48 hours, and gets less intense the more you receive them from your orthodontist.

Since they’re very similar to elastic ties, power chains also come in different colors which you can switch at every appointment. Ask your orthodontist about the available colors and experiment with options, we have a helpful article on power chain colors alone.

Yes, self-ligating braces will most likely need power chains to close spaces between teeth. Although self-ligating braces don’t use power chains to keep the wire in place, these chains serve an essential purpose in connecting brackets and bringing teeth together to close spaces.

So, if you expected no ligatures on your teeth at all with self-ligating braces, that might be a little misleading.

Some patients may not need power chains much, while others may use them heavily, depending on the situation. If you have crowding in your teeth, you may only wear power chains for a brief period, while patients with gaps and extractions depend on them exclusively.

Power chains are typically changed with fresh ones at every appointment. Changing them too often can result in too much force on your teeth, while not changing them often enough will lead to overstretched elastics that accumulate plaque.

With self-ligating brackets, power chains tend to be refreshed less often compared to traditional brackets, because the appointments are spread further apart.

Benefits and Drawbacks

There are some benefits and drawbacks to consider when using power chains with self-ligating braces:


  • Closing gaps and extraction spaces. The main benefit of power chains is that they get the job done.
  • You can have fun with colors, switching them up at every appointment.


  • Retain plaque, especially since they are in place for 8-10 weeks.
  • Can stain and discolor.
  • Can look too obvious for patients wanting something discreet.
  • Painful, can apply too much pressure to teeth.

Unfortunately, there’s no alternative to power chains for closing spaces with either traditional or self-ligating braces. If you need to close multiple gaps between teeth, it’s the only efficient way to do it.

If you have extraction spaces to close, your orthodontist may use a few other methods, such as springs (closed coils), or long ligature ties called lace ties, but the vast majority still use power chains.

Caring for Self-Ligating Braces with Power Chains

Power chains can seem intimidating because they take up so much space around braces and so much food can get stuck around them. Add self-ligating clips to the mix, and you have a lot of cleaning to do. Here’s a detailed oral hygiene routine tailored for patients with power chains and self-ligating braces:

  • 1. Start with Rinsing: Begin by rinsing your mouth with water to loosen any food particles around your braces and power chains.
  • 2. Use Interdental Brushes: Carefully use interdental brushes to clean around the brackets and along the power chains. These brushes are designed to slide between the teeth and braces wires, removing plaque and trapped food particles. Be gentle to avoid any damage to the braces.
  • 3. Floss with Threaders: Utilize floss threaders to pull floss through the spaces between the teeth and the archwire. This step is crucial as it allows you to clean the spaces that are hard to reach with a toothbrush or interdental brush. Be careful not to apply excessive force on the power chains while flossing to avoid stretching.
  • 4. Incorporate a Water Flosser: A water flosser can be used as a secret weapon in your oral hygiene arsenal. It can effectively clean around the braces and power chains using a stream of water to dislodge food particles and plaque without applying pressure to the power chains.
  • 5. Brush with an Electric Toothbrush: Use an electric toothbrush with a soft-bristled head to clean your teeth. An electric toothbrush is more effective than manual brushing because it can remove more plaque around the brackets and power chains. Brush gently and methodically around each bracket and along the gum line.
  • 6. Inspect and Touch-up: After cleaning, inspect your teeth and braces in the mirror to check for any remaining food particles or plaque. Use a dental mirror to view hard-to-see areas. If necessary, do a touch-up clean with a manual brush or water flosser.
  • 7. Finish with Fluoride: Conclude your routine by rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash to strengthen your teeth and help prevent cavities.
  • 8. Regular Check-ups: Lastly, ensure that you maintain regular visits to your orthodontist to check the integrity of your braces and power chains, and to receive professional cleanings and guidance.

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