What are elastic bands used for in brace treatment?

Orthodontic appliances are used to treat occlusion and position problems that affect the teeth and jaws. The use of elastic bands in the treatment with braces it is quite frequent, although they are not always necessary.

During appliance therapy, controlled forces are used to move the jaw bones and teeth to new positions. These pressures are applied by an arc of wire that passes through the braces, which in turn are attached to the teeth.

However, the application of additional forces is sometimes necessary. This is when the use of elastic bands is used. They are placed between the upper and lower arches, and its function is to achieve movements that the device alone cannot perform.

In this article we will tell you how they are used and what they are for. In addition, we detail the different types, the necessary care and the complications that may appear due to its use.

What do elastic bands do on braces?

Elastic bands in treatment with braces they are also known as "intermaxillary elastics." They are auxiliary elements that are placed in the devices to produce certain movements.

In particular, these are attachments made of latex, silicone or similar materials. Its shape is oval or circular, and in terms of colors there is a great variety. They can be transparent for patients seeking discretion, or multi-colored for those who prefer to have fun making creative designs.

They are not used during the entire treatment with braces, but in certain periods and for a specific time. The dentist is the one who indicates the way to place them and the duration.

The patient places them in small hooks that have the braces. Depending on the movement you want to achieve, they will go in a certain place and direction. The configuration can be vertical or diagonal. They can be used in most of the braces available, either metallic, ceramic or sapphire.

The force that is generated by placing these elements, in addition to that already produced by the device on its own, causes guided movements to correct the occlusion. With its use it is sought to achieve an adequate relationship between the upper and lower jaw.

Therefore, they are useful in overbite, crossbite and open bite treatments. They are also used to adjust the gap between teeth or reposition teeth that are crooked.

Elastic bands are a complement that is used in orthodontic treatment to stimulate specific movements of the teeth.

Also read: What is an overbite and how is it treated?

What types of elastic bands are there?

When the orthodontist decides to use elastic bands in orthodontic treatment, will place small hooks on them to facilitate its laying and its extraction.

In general, there are several types, and they can be classified according to size, strength, material and their uses. In this way, the professional can choose the best option according to each particular clinical case.

Size and strength

There are different dimensions of elastic bands. The diameter is measured in fractions of inches, and this determines the size. The choice is made based on the extent of movement needed in treatment.

With regard to the force they can exert, three categories are distinguished that include light, medium and heavy. This is measured in ounces (oz) or grams (g). The actual force they can exert may vary between manufacturers and brands.


There are two main materials with which the elastic bands that are used in the treatment with braces. Latex bands are flexible and inexpensive, which is why they are the most widely used. Some studies suggest that the forces they exert are more stable over time.

There are also synthetic bands, useful in people allergic to latex..


The placement of these bands has several objectives. According to need, they are classified into various classes.

  • Class I: the bands are placed horizontally, and join supports in a single jaw. It is used to help close spaces between the teeth.
  • Class II: connects the teeth of the upper jaw, generally from the canine to the lower first molar. It is used to correct problems of excessive horizontal overbite (it is the space that exists between the upper front teeth with the lower teeth when biting). This generates a force that draws the upper jaw in the direction of the rest of the mouth.
  • Class III: the bands connect the teeth of the lower jaw, generally the canine with molars of the upper jaw. They are used to treat prognathism, as the lower jaw is pulled back.
  • Vertical: the teeth of the upper jaw are connected to the lower teeth below. The connection can be with the opposing tooth or in a triangular pattern, with one upper point and two lower points. It is used for open bite cases to bring the jaws closer together.
  • Cross elastic bands: the bands are placed across, and connect the upper teeth with the lower. They are often worn anteriorly, crossing from the upper canine on one side of the mouth to the lower canine on the opposite side. They are prescribed for the correction of deviated midlines and in cases of crossbites.

Maintenance of brackets and elastic bands

The use of elastic bands in the treatment with braces it should be done in the manner prescribed by the dentist. Following the professional's recommendations and using them correctly is key for the procedure to progress successfully.

The amount of time and how to use it will be explained and taught by the dentist to ensure proper use. Here are some cautions that should be taken into account.

  • Replacement of elastic bands: with use, the bands lose their elasticity. Therefore, it is convenient to replace them from time to time so that they continue to exert the appropriate forces. This will be done as required by the orthodontist.
  • Replacement bands: bands can break or come off. Having extra bands on hand to make spare parts is ideal. Keeping them in a safe place prevents them from being lost.
  • Follow the dentist's instructions: These items must be positioned and used in the manner taught by the orthodontist. Garters should not be used that have not been prescribed by the dentist, such as DIY ones. The latter not only alter orthodontic treatment, but can also cause serious complications in the mouth.
  • Feeding: Hard, crunchy and sticky foods that can damage the appliances should be avoided. You have to remove the elastic bands to eat.
  • Brushing the teeth: the removal of bacterial plaque and food debris that may be trapped in the appliances must be rigorous. Therefore, it is necessary to remove the elastic bands and brush the teeth with a soft brush after each meal.
  • Floss: dental floss allows to eliminate the bacterial plaque accumulated between teeth, where brushing cannot access. It should be done at least once a day, removing the bands.

For optimal maintenance of elastic bands in orthodontics, it is necessary to follow the instructions of the orthodontist.

It may interest you: 8 cares that every person with orthodontics should follow

Complications from the use of elastic bands in the treatment with braces

While using the elastic bands in treatment with braces some complications may arise that must be taken into account. There are patients who may experience allergic reactions to the material of the bands, especially if they are made of latex. In these cases, the dentist should be notified, as there are synthetic options to replace them.

Sometimes the pressure exerted by the bands on the teeth and bones can cause discomfort, especially at the beginning of use. They disappear when the patient adjusts to the treatment. However, the dentist may prescribe an over-the-counter pain reliever to alleviate the discomfort.

Another common drawback is that the rubbers split and break when used. In such cases, they must be removed and replaced with a new rubber.

Collaborating with treatment is essential

There is no need to worry if the orthodontist recommends the use of elastic bands in the treatment with braces. Although the placement of these elements may seem difficult and uncomfortable, the truth is that it is not.

Once the person learns to position them correctly and adjusts to their presence in the mouth, they will hardly notice that they are being used. What's more, you will have the advantage of incorporating complementary forces into your treatment, that translate into precise movements and faster results.

It is the responsibility of the patient to use them every day in the manner directed. With your help, the treatment will be successful and a healthy, beautiful smile can be achieved.