Elastics help to improve the way that the upper and lower jaws fit together. Elastics are used in conjunction with braces to align the bite, which can be the most difficult and time consuming part of the process of correcting alignment issues. Braces and wires straighten the teeth relatively quickly, but the elastics help to make sure that the teeth fit together properly in the jaws so that the corrections will be long-lasting and the results will be optimal. Patients should follow the advice given by the orthodontist carefully to achieve the best results in the shortest amount of time.
Elastics should be worn for the majority of the day, including when eating and sleeping. Orthodontists may advise patients to take the elastics out to brush and floss if the elastics will prevent thorough cleaning of the teeth and mouth. When eating, the elastics will help to shift the alignment of the jaws even more than at other times, so orthodontists usually advise patients to keep the elastics in unless they will interfere with eating a large meal.
Elastics should be replaced often, for best results. After eating, patients should replace the used elastics with fresh elastics to keep the mouth as clean as possible. Patients should wear elastics while sleeping, but should remove the elastics when cleaning the teeth in the morning and put fresh elastics in place. Elastics should be changed at least three to four times daily, with no elastics staying in place for more than twelve hours at a time. Even if elastics do not break or become dirty, the material begins to lose elasticity after more than 12 hours of use and will not be as effective.
An orthodontist will give instruction on how to replace elastics. Patients should be sure that the process of changing elastics is completely understood before leaving the office. When patients are getting used to changing elastics, a mirror should be used to ensure that the elastics are hooked in properly. Over time, patients are usually able to replace the elastics easily.
When patients fail to wear elastics as instructed, treatment may take longer and may not be as effective. Elastics may cause the mouth to be sore for a while, but the mouth will adjust and the soreness will subside over time. If elastics are not worn full time, it will take the mouth longer to adjust to the sensation and the jaws and teeth will become more resistant to movement. If elastics are not worn for a day or a period of time, patients should never double up on elastics, but should replace the elastics as normal and continue with the treatment as recommended by the orthodontist.