Wearing elastics can be annoying. For one thing, elastics take some getting used to and can initially cause some discomfort. Also, you have to wear them 24 hours a day except when you eat or brush your teeth. And then, you have to remember to put them back in afterward. So, it helps to understand why they are so important.
Why are elastics so important?
There are two processes in straightening teeth. One, we use braces and wires to straighten the teeth. And two, we use elastics to correct the bite. Elastics work to align the upper and lower jaws so that they fit together properly. This phase of the treatment usually takes the longest. We call this the “bite-fixing” phase. Using elastics we fix problems such as an underbite or overbite. Having an incorrect bite can cause the following problems:
- Speech problems
- Pain in the jaw
- Difficulty keeping teeth cleaned which leads to gum disease
- Wears the teeth down from improper chewing
- Lower self-esteem due to physical appearance
So, it is important that we fix the bite as well as straighten the teeth. Failure to wear the elastics as directed by the orthodontist only adds more time to the process. So we urge our patients to wear their elastics as they should.
- Wear your elastics 24 hours a day except to brush your teeth or as otherwise instructed by the orthodontist.
- Most of the time you can eat with your elastics in. When you do, your elastics will work even more and help your teeth move even faster.
- If you do eat with your elastics in, replace them after you eat.
- Wash your hands before putting in new elastics.
- Change your elastics 3-4 times a day, at the very least every 12 hours.
- Keep a supply of elastics so that you don’t run out.
- Keep extra elastics with you when you leave home so you can replace them out if needed, such as you end up eating out.
- Never “double-up” on your elastics! Some people have thought that using more elastics than they should, could speed up the time of wearing braces. However, it will actually slow the process and add more time to wearing braces. So, even if you miss a day of wearing your elastics, don’t double up.
- Don’t overstretch the elastics. Overstretching an elastic can cause it to lose strength, then it won’t work as it should.
Tips for Parents
It’s not always easy to get your kids to wear their elastics as they should. For many parents, it can become downright frustrating. As we mentioned above, it can take some time to get used to braces so your child may be annoyed about them. Also, children can be “forgetful” about them, such as forgetting to replace the elastics after they eat. As a parent, you can understand much better the importance of correcting their teeth but also the cost involved. So it helps if you can find ways to keep them motivated to wear their elastics and replace them when they should. Here are some tips:
- Try to stay positive. Remind them of why they are wearing braces and how much better their smile will be when the braces come off. You can also remind them how the more they wear their elastics, the sooner they will get their braces off.
- Rewards. Reward them when they wear their elastics as they should. Find out what motivates them and work out a reasonable award.
- Reminders. You can post sticky note reminders where they will see them the most, such as on the bathroom mirror. If they have a cell phone, you can help them set up reminders on their phone.
- Keep a calendar. Have your child mark a calendar for the days they did well on wearing their elastics. You can have different colored pens for “great”, “ok”, or “bad” days.
Wearing elastics as directed by the orthodontist is very important to achieve the desired result in the time expected. Not wearing them as one should or “doubling up” on them only lengthens the time of having to wear them. So, keep in mind the purpose of elastics and how great it will be when the braces come off!
Dr. David McDonough
Salt Lake City, Utah