Having braces can make eating challenging, especially when you have to wear elastics or rubber bands. These elastic bands connect parts of your braces to help move your teeth into proper alignment. But what should you do with the rubber bands when you eat or drink? Here are some tips for handling your orthodontic rubber bands during meals.
Overview of Braces Rubber Bands
Rubber bands or elastics are tiny elastic rings that orthodontists attach to braces to provide gentle pressure on the teeth. The elastic bands stretch between different parts of the braces, usually hooks or brackets on the upper and lower teeth. Rubber bands create forces to gradually shift the teeth and jaws into proper alignment.
Orthodontists typically recommend wearing elastics full-time, except during meals and for cleaning the teeth. The elastic bands apply constant gentle pressure on the teeth when worn. Taking them out temporarily for eating and cleaning allows you to move your jaw freely during these activities.
Importance of Rubber Bands for Braces Treatment
Although rubber bands are removable, wearing them consistently is vital for achieving the desired results from braces. Here are some key reasons orthodontists prescribe elastic bands:
- Close gaps between teeth
- Align crooked or crowded teeth
- Correct overbites and underbites
- Improve jaw alignment
- Guide erupting teeth into proper position
- Coordinate upper and lower tooth positions
The constant gentle forces from the elastics move the teeth steadily into alignment. Missing just a day of wear can slow down treatment progress. So, orthodontists emphasize keeping the bands in as close to full-time as possible. Removing elastics for eating helps protect them so they can keep doing their job.
Protecting Rubber Bands During Eating
Elastic bands are small and easily lost or broken, so you must remove them and store them carefully during meals. Here are smart techniques for protecting your braces elastics when eating:
Have a dedicated case.
Get a special orthodontic case just for storing your bands when eating. Plastic cases with lids or small screw-top containers work great. Some orthodontists provide cases, or you can find them in drug stores. Having a designated case keeps the elastics clean and contained.
Remove carefully by the hooks.
Take elastics off gently by slipping them off the attached hooks or brackets. Avoid stretching them too much or pulling them over your teeth, which can weaken the elastic. Handle by the hooks to avoid breakage.
Keep the case handy when dining.
Always keep your elastic case right on the table when eating at home or out. Transfer the bands carefully into the case before picking up utensils. This prevents accidentally swallowing or losing the tiny bands during the meal.
Remove one arch at a time.
Unhook elastics from just the upper or lower braces first, then store those bands before removing the other side. Removing both arches leaves the risk of dropping some while your mouth is full.
Take out immediately before eating.
As soon as you sit down to a meal, take out the bands right away. This prevents forgetting and accidentally biting into foods with the elastics still in place.
Wait to brush after dining.
Leave the bands out until you finish eating and can brush your teeth. Replace with fresh elastics after brushing. Avoid putting used bands back in after eating before brushing.
What Not to Do With Rubber Bands During Meals
Just as important as removing and storing elastics properly is avoiding these common mistakes:
Don’t wrap around a napkin.
Wrapping used elastic bands in a napkin or paper towel seems quick but can cause you to accidentally throw them away. Always use a case.
Don’t set them on a dish.
Never remove elastics and set them on a plate, bowl or utensil. They can too easily flip off into food or get tossed away.
Don’t put in a pocket.
Pocketing elastic bands leads to lost or dirty bands. Always use your orthodontic case.
Don’t remove just one side.
Always take elastics off both arches before eating, Not just one. Removing only one side leaves the chance of losing or breaking the still-attached elastic.
Don’t close them in a napkin.
Never wrap orthodontic bands in a napkin or tissue then close it up. The elastics can too easily become lost in a closed bundle.
Don’t try to wash and reuse.
Always insert fresh, clean elastics after eating. Attempting to wash used bands during meals leads to loss and breakage.
Special Guidelines for Different Foods
Certain foods require extra care or avoidance when wearing orthodontic elastics. Follow these guidelines for different foods:
Avoid chewy, sticky foods like gum, caramel, licorice, Skittles, Starburst. They can pull off, stretch or entangle the elastics.
Take extra care when eating hard foods like nuts, seeds, hard candy, popcorn kernels. They can potentially break elastics if fully bitten down on.
Use caution with crispy crunchy foods like chips, pretzels, crisped rice treats, ice. Take smaller bites and chew deliberately to avoid damaging elastics.
Bread and similar foods like pizza crust or rolls can detach elastics. Use your tongue tip to brush away any stray band threads.
Fruits and veggies
Many fruits and vegetables have parts that can pull on bands. Peel/slice carefully and watch for loose threads.
Elastic bands can adhere to fatty meats. Use a clean utensil to remove any attached threads.
In general, remove orthodontic elastics for eating and cleaning. But exceptions once in a while are OK if needed:
- Drinking water – Leave bands in for quick water drinks.
- Eating in public – If self-conscious, keep elastics in but avoid sticky foods.
- Quick snack – For things like an apple or crackers, may keep bands in.
However, make these exceptions occasional. Leaving elastics constantly while eating can damage or weaken the bands and lengthen treatment time.
Have a Routine
Getting into a daily eating routine makes removing and replacing elastics easier. Keep your case in the same spot at home and work. Right before eating, open the case and remove bands. After brushing teeth, always insert a fresh set right away. Practicing this consistent routine helps taking bands out for meals become automatic.
Replacing Rubber Bands
Orthodontic elastics lose their tension and should be replaced regularly. Most orthodontists recommend changing elastics daily or at least every 2-3 days. Always keep extras handy. Replace bands more frequently if they feel loose or torn. Using fresh elastics ensures the most consistent force on the teeth.
Damaged or Swallowed Rubber Bands
Accidentally swallowing an elastic band rarely causes harm – they simply pass through the digestive system. But a swallowed or lost band means less force on the teeth, so replace it promptly. Notify your orthodontist if a band is damaged or broken to get a replacement.
Make a Habit of Removing Elastics
Handling elastics properly for eating and cleaning takes practice but quickly becomes habit. Remind yourself and family members to remove bands before every meal. With time, it becomes natural to immediately take out elastics when ready to eat.
Protecting orthodontic elastic bands during meals takes effort but is vital for braces success. Follow these key tips:
- Invest in a special case for storing bands when eating
- Remove carefully by the attached hooks before eating
- Keep the closed case nearby whenever eating
- Avoid sticky, hard or crunchy foods that can damage bands
- Remove and replace elastics gently to maintain tension
- Rinse away any band threads stuck after meals
- Establish a consistent daily routine for handling bands
With practice, removing elastics around mealtimes will become second nature. Taking proper care of rubber bands will keep teeth moving in the right direction.
Braces rubber bands must be handled carefully during eating to avoid damage or loss. Always transfer elastics to a protected case before meals, then remove and replace them gently using proper technique. Practicing consistent habits for removing and storing orthodontic bands will help complete brace treatment as efficiently as possible.