Why Are Elastics Important?

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Why Are Elastics Important?

Why Are Elastics Important?

Elastics are extremely common in orthodontics. People often ask what they are used for. I normally say that they can be used for lots of things but most commonly elastics are used to attach between one dental arch and the other to move that arch one direction or another.

By far the most common elastic for braces is the Class II elastic. This elastic goes from the side and front of the upper arch to the rear and side of the lower arch. Its purpose is to pull the top teeth backwards and to push the lower teeth forward to equalise the occlusion (bite).

There are other uses for elastics with braces however, as they can be used to drive teeth in almost any direction in which the traction or pull of the elastic is aimed. So they can pull it backwards on one side and forward on the other side. They can pull across an arch, for example the upper from left to lower right to help correct a centre line. They can be used to go across a bite to help correct a cross bite (upper teeth biting inside the lower teeth).

Because elastics can achieve tooth movements that are impossible to generate with archwires alone, they are so common as to be considered normal in orthodontic treatment.


Braces Elastics Mistake 1

The big limitation with elastics is that they must be worn to work. Naturally a packets of elastics in the cupboard doesn’t do very much! The second limitation is that they need to be worn A LOT. They need to be worn virtually full time or they don’t work well or at all. The most common mistake people make with elastics is to try to wear them at just sleeping hours. Indeed occasionally we will use elastics like that but our aim is to just hold things where they are. So if you think of it that way, if you are wearing the elastics just at night you aren’t moving anything, just holding the teeth where they are. In 25 years I have never had one case that has successfully moved teeth just wearing them at night time. So forget what your friends at school say…sorry it doesn’t work!

To emphasise this, I can tell you I had a patient once who was telling me faithfully that she was wearing her elastics. After 2 years in treatment she asked when her braces were coming off, then I discovered that she’d only wearing them at night! She had wasted 12 months treatment time and was absolutely stunned that she had 12 more months of elastic wear to go.


Braces Elastics Mistake 2

This brings me to the second most common mistake in elastic wear. Trying to double, triple and quadruple them...you get the idea. Like the old analogy of 3 men who can build a house in 6 months, 6 men may be able to build a house in 3 months, 30000 can’t build a house in 30 seconds. Teeth just won’t move like that. If we want more force we will give you stronger elastics. What you must realise is heavy elastics have side effects. These side effects will vary depending on your exact case but generally it relates to your facial structure.

Elastics that go from the upper to the lower (which as I have said is the most common) have an extrusive effect on the posterior molars. If you have a long facial type (we call it dolichofacial) that extrusion of the lower molars can jack the bite open, swing the lower jaw around and backwards making the bite worse not better.

So for every patient that you here say that they shortened their treatment time by tripling their elastics, there’s someone else who has caused a problem for themselves. Unfortunately extrusion of molars in the wrong face can be irreversible sometimes. Do don’t double your elastics up (unless we tell you to!).


To Get Faster Results with Your Braces

If we are aiming to shorten treatment times, then there are four main factors in treatment efficiency.

So if you look at the 4 things we need to consider – the only one that patients has any control over is doing as their told.

So remember – elastics can move teeth in ways we can’t bend into the archwires. It’s up to you! Elastics work well when they are worn well, that’s also up to you.


All the best with wearing you elastics I hope your braces move at maximum speed!

We are excited and happy to be able to offer the latest and best Orthodontic care to our patients. For more information about how you can ‘Embrace the Experience’, email us or call 07 5493 3200.

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QLD 4558
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