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What Exactly are Rubber Bands Used for With Braces?

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closeup of teeth with colorful braces

Just like metal brackets and wires, rubber bands are also an essential part of many people’s orthodontic treatment. They serve an important role in adding extra tension to the teeth to help them move into the right position, and they also ensure the braces stay in place. So, exactly how do rubber bands help someone achieve a straighter, healthier smile? Your orthodontist in Powell covers everything you need to know below!

The Two Types of Rubber Bands

There are two main kinds of rubber bands orthodontist use in conjunction with braces, and each serves a unique purpose:


These tiny rubber bands are not only adorable, but they are essential because they keep the archwire held up against the brackets, which allows it to apply the right pressure to move the teeth. Each bracket will have its own ligature, and they will only be removed by an orthodontist when the braces are being adjusted.

Ligatures come in a wide variety of colors, allowing patients to inject a little bit of their personality into their treatment. Children can choose their favorite color, sport their school colors, or even choose ones that coordinate with the season or an upcoming holiday. Adults, on the other hand, can choose more subtle shades that will make their braces stand out less.

Interarch Rubber Bands

If a patient has a misaligned bite, an interarch rubber band will often be used to correct it. These larger bands hook onto one bracket on each row of teeth, creating a force that can’t be generated by the brackets and wires alone. Over time, this will help the bite come together properly, which will make eating and speaking more comfortable while also helping the patient avoid accelerated tooth wear. Unlike ligatures, interarch rubber bands can actually be removed by the patient, so it’s up to them to wear them every day. This can require a little bit of adjustment time, but the end result will be well worth the slight amount of awkwardness at the beginning.

Quick Rubber Band & Braces Tips

  • If a ligature pops off, it’s no big deal, but you should still contact your orthodontist relatively soon so it can be replaced quickly.
  • Eating sticky foods and candies can easily dislodge a ligature, so it’s important for a patient to reduce their consumption while undergoing treatment.
  • Children can easily forget to put on their interarch rubber bands, or they may avoid doing so because they don’t like how they feel. Encourage your child that they shouldn’t give up, and let them know that not wearing them will only make their treatment last longer.
  • For children who often “forget” to put on their interarch bands, a little positive reinforcement can go a long way. If your child wears their bands like they should for a week straight, for example, offer them a little reward (we find that ice cream is always a good idea!). 

Rubber bands are often the unsung heroes of orthodontic care, but now you know why your orthodontist relies on them to give people gorgeously straight smiles. Of course, if you have any questions or issues with you or your child’s rubber bands, you’re always encouraged to give your orthodontist a call—they’ll be more than happy to help you out.

About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Shirck is a proud alumnus of The Ohio State University and has been voted as one of Columbus’ Top Orthodontists every year since 2011. He always takes the time to explain a patient’s treatment to them so they know exactly what to expect and can enjoy the most comfortable experience possible. If you have any questions about you or your child’s orthodontic treatment, or if someone in your family is ready to straighten their teeth, contact us today to schedule a FREE consultation.