Meyer Orthodontics in Brookings Blog

All About Rubber Bands

If you’re a veteran of life with braces, your orthodontist may have told you to wear little rubber bands from your top teeth to your bottom teeth. You may be wondering what these bands actual do!

What do rubber bands do?

The brackets on your teeth do a great job of straightening the teeth within each jaw so that the upper and lower teeth are well aligned. However, they don’t do a great job of making the top teeth and the bottom teeth fit together. This is where the trusty rubber bands come in. Your orthodontist may have you wear the rubber bands in different shapes or hook them up to different teeth. This helps move the teeth in different directions. It is important to wear the rubber bands as your orthodontist showed you so your teeth move in the right direction.

Why are the rubber bands named after animals?

The elastics come in different sizes. They vary in thickness and how big of a radius the rubber band has. These different sizes can be confusing so we typically categorize the different sizes by animals, which is way more fun. The smaller animals: owls, hummingbirds, seals, and foxes are lighter elastics. Larger animals: rams, impalas, moose, and whale are heavier or tighter elastics. Here at Meyer Orthodontics, we typically use the Fox for lighter elastics and Rams for heavier elastics.  

Why not use the heaviest rubber band to move teeth fast?

There is actually a happy medium on the amount of force a tooth can handle. Not enough force and the tooth won’t move, too much force and the tooth will also slow down or could be damaged from the heavy forces. This is why your orthodontist will precisely prescribe the right amount of force by using the right type of rubber band. So, never double up your rubber bands or use a rubber band your orthodontist didn’t recommend. 

Why do they need to be worn for so long?

Let’s talk a little biology and science. It takes ten hours of force on a tooth before it starts moving. This means that when you put your rubber bands in for the first ten hours nothing is happening. After ten hours of constant force the cells surrounding your tooth will start to change and the tooth will start to move. If you take the rubber band out for longer than thirty minutes those cells go back to normal and the ten hour clock starts over. This is why we typically recommend wearing the rubber bands full-time unless you are eating or brushing your teeth. The constant light forces will move the tooth fastest. If you are constantly taking the rubber bands out, you hit the ten hours of constant force.

Here is an analogy: imagine you are rolling a large ball up a steep hill. If you stop rolling the ball, it will roll down the hill and you will lose the progress you made. This is what wearing rubber bands is like, slowly rolling a ball up a hill, but an amazing smile is worth the journey!

Any tips for remembering to wear the rubber bands?

If you are having a hard time remembering to wear your rubber bands, there are many great tips to help build habits. Start by writing down the answer to these questions on a piece of paper: 

  1. I will put on my morning set of elastics: When? and Where?
  2. After lunch I will put my elastics on: When? and Where?
  3. I will store my elastics: Where?
  4. When I leave my house I will keep my elastics: Where?

By physically writing these answers on a piece of paper, it will help train your brain to remember to wear your rubber bands! Another tip is to keep your elastics somewhere visible so that you see them and remember to wear them. You can also associate wearing rubber bands with a habit you already have, such as brushing your teeth or putting your shoes on. If you put the rubber bands in every time you do these already established habits, wearing rubber bands will become a habit as well.