Rubber Bands 101 for Braces

Published by Dr. Charles Gemmi

A Board Certified Orthodontist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics, Dr. Charles Gemmi has been a practicing orthodontist with Orthodontics Limited since 2000 and is a member of the teaching staff at Einstein Medical Center. Orthodontics Limited is a Diamond+ Provider of Invisalign in Philadelphia and Hatboro, PA.

Last Update: 25 January 2022

Having to wear braces is enough to have to adjust to, but sometimes your orthodontist will also give your rubber bands to wear as well. They can take some getting used to, but don’t give up so quickly. They have an important job to do, adding extra tension to your teeth to help move your teeth in the right position.

Having to wear braces is enough to have to adjust to, but sometimes your orthodontist will also give your rubber bands to wear as well. They can take some getting used to, but don’t give up so quickly. They have an important job to do, adding extra tension to your teeth to help move your teeth in the right position.

Check out this Rubber Bands 101 for Braces to help you prepare for wearing rubber bands with your braces.

What Exactly Are Rubber Bands for Braces?

Also called elastics, these rubber bands are tiny and come in many different colors. The rubber bands have two roles when it comes to orthodontic treatment. First you have rubber bands called ligatures that are wrapped around each individual bracket to hold the archwire in place. They stay in place all of the time and are only removed by your orthodontist when he or she adjusts your braces at your appointment.

Everyone who wears braces have these rubber bands, but some may need an additional type of rubber band during treatment. Called interarch rubber bands, rubber bands focus on fixing your bite and the alignment of your jaw.

Keep in mind that these rubber bands are different from the rubber bands you will find in your local stationary store or pharmacy so don’t think about using those if the ones from the dentist run out before your next appointment. Always get your supply directly from your orthodontist.

How Do They Work?

Typically you will be asked to wear a rubber band on each side of your mouth. They will be hooked onto a bracket attached to your top canines and then stretched until it can be hooked onto a bracket attached to one of your bottom molars. The rubber bands help keep the archwire in place.

Tips for Wearing Rubber Bands on Your Braces

Making sure you wear your rubber bands every day is an important responsibility that you shouldn’t ignore. While it will take some adjustment and your mouth will feel a little sore in the beginning, in time you will forget that they are even there.

Here are some tips for adjusting to wearing rubber bands on your braces:

  • To hook the rubber bands securely use both your thumb and your pointer fingers. In the beginning, stand in front of a mirror to do it. Eventually you will be a pro and can do it in your sleep. Though of course we don’t recommend that. If you still struggle with it after a couple of weeks, ask your orthodontist for a bigger size.
  • The rubber bands come in a small bag and are easy to lose so make sure you always keep them in secure spot which is easy for you to get to at all times. For school age kids, keep them in the smallest zippered pocket in your schoolbag.
  • Make sure you replace your rubber bands daily because they do through a lot of wear and tear, and always replace each side at the same time. Even if just one breaks, replace them both to ensure that the same level of tension is being applied on both sides.
  • Always remove your rubber bands when you eat and when you brush your teeth.

Choosing the Color of Your Rubber Bands

As stated before, the rubber bands for your braces come in a variety of colors. Younger orthodontic patients sometimes like get creative and play around with the color of both their ligatures and their interarch rubber bands. Because they are constantly switched out you can even use the rubber bands to decorate your mouth for Halloween or Christmas.

If you are an adult orthodontic patients, you will probably want to stick to more neutral colors but stay away from black and brown because they make it look like you have food stuck between your teeth. Gray and silver are good neutral colors that won’t easily stained. Clear rubber bands are also another option but you need to watch out for staining from what you eat and drink. The biggest culprits are coffee, tea, soda and wine.

The most important thing to remember is to not give up wearing the rubber bands. If you don’t wear them, you could make your treatment last a lot longer than if you had just listened to your orthodontist. Whether you are the one with the braces or it is your child, complete compliance can sometimes be an issue, but don’t worry, there are ways you can boost compliance. For yourself, post a reminder to put them in on your bathroom mirror and also make sure you google what happens to your mouth when you have your braces on too long. It is called braces decalcification and it can happen if your treatment progress is delayed and you have to wear your braces for a lot longer than you originally intended.

If it is for your child, try positive reinforcement by offering little treats or rewards for wearing the rubber bands all week. Take them out for ice cream or treat them to dinner at their favorite restaurant. You know your child best, think about what he or she enjoys the most. Whether it is a movie night, or even a new video game, pick something that will give him or her that extra incentive to wear the rubber bands. Help them keep track by keeping a calendar that you fill in together each day.

If that doesn’t work you may need to try negative reinforcement as well and take away favorite things. They will see you mean business if you take away their cell phone for a few days or ground them from hanging out with their friend on the weekend. Also remind your child not to play around with the braces while in school. Everybody has a story about rubber bands flying across the classroom at some point. No matter how board they are or how sore the rubber bands make their mouth, they need to keep them in to have the best result from their orthodontic care.

Find out more about proper rubber band care by contacting Orthodontics Limited, PC, today.

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73 responses to “Rubber Bands 101 for Braces”

  1. Kya Potts says:

    These tips really helped me because I just got my rubber bands today and I am really excited. My uncle asked me if I could eat ice cream with my bands in, but don’t I have to take them out when I eat?

  2. Brodie says:

    Bored*, not board.

  3. Myriah says:

    You don’t have to take them out to eat, but it is definitely easier than snapping one and accidently swallowing it.

  4. I'm disappointed says:


  5. Luke says:

    Are the rubber bands suppose to move you teeth down if it’s used for an overbite?

  6. Jolin Feng says:

    I have rubber bands that go 3 and 4 on top, 4 and 5 on the bottom. I’m slightly concerned that this will interfere with my singing. I’m not able to open my mouth the whole way without them snapping. Are they supposed to be so tight?

  7. Gabriella says:

    My elastics were tight at the start and now they are loose when I have them in I got them 8 days ago what do I do because they are really stretching

  8. Brace face says:

    I’ve just had my elastics and have to wear then full time 🙁 they really hurt atm how long until the pain easis away?

    • Orthodontics Limited says:

      After a few days of advil or tylenol, it will be completely fine. If you are still feeling stress or pain, don’t be afraid to contact your local orthodontist

  9. Arianna says:

    When do the orthodontist usually give you the ellastic bands ?

  10. Anonymous says:

    My orthodontist assigned my rubber bands for 2 months do I have to continue wearing them after?

  11. Orthodontics Limited says:

    After a few days of advil or tylenol, it will be completely fine. If you are still feeling stress or pain, don’t be afraid to contact your local orthodontist

  12. Anonymous says:

    My orthodontist always goves me mew rubber bands each vists and are all different, A few months ago i had kangaroo, then i got rabbit, and now zebra. Whats the difference between these rubber bands and why do i need different ones each time?

  13. Deelisha Sharma says:

    I love braces but I can’t wear them because my teeth are okay so I want to wear fake braces and I want to ask that is the elastic necessary in fake braces??

  14. Lance strasser says:

    My kid just got braces. What is the best way to take off retainer and rubberband for school lunch.Is the best way to do it in the restroom?

  15. Arthur Lao says:

    my rubber bands kind of hold my teeth apart. Is that normal?

    • Kenzie says:

      I have both a retainer and bands. My orthodontist told me to take both out to eat, but do I have to take out the bands to drink? I understand why I have to take my retainer out to, but what about the bands?

  16. S. says:

    This seems out of date. My braces don’t have the ligature rubber bands.

    • Cinnabon says:

      Those rubber bands come in later. I believe when they get close to properly aligning your teeth (not fixing the overbite or underbite yet) they hand you those. My teeth aren’t too bad, but once they fixed the alignment of mine my gap looked bigger than before. If you’re nearly done with your treatment then consider yourself lucky, as that just means your teeth were nice.

      (I am not an orthodontist please talk to yours for official info.)

  17. lucy says:

    i recently started using bands to align my bite and i’ve gotten used to them but i just noticed that i have a gap in my two front teeth now and that wasn’t there before. is that normal?

    • Mallory says:

      Yes it is. sometimes Your teeth must be pulled apart before they and be out back together perfectly my friend is the same way and that’s what her orthodontist told her.

  18. Kim says:

    My daughter just got braces but the hook for the elastic looks way close to her gums I can’t even get the band under it is that normal

  19. Anonymous says:

    I just got elastics, and while changing them I forgot which teeth they go on… is it ok if I get it one tooth wrong or should I go to my orthodontist?

  20. Saha Daniel says:

    If I break a bracket, should I still wear my elastics?

  21. Cristal Martinez says:

    My last appointment i went to was in October … My next appointment was schedule on dec 5. My appointment in October said i had to wear elastic. But i haven’t gone to my appointment in 5 months. So should i still be wearing my elastic??? I weared them at the at the beginning but stop.. I just don’t know if i should still be wearing them now?

  22. yashmitha says:

    When I was eating one of the rubber bands in my braces got removed. Will that cause a severe problem?

  23. Faith says:

    I ran out of rubber bands and my orthodontist is closed cause of the national pandemic. What should i do ? i called the office but they’re not answering. please help

  24. Kevinas Sadauskas says:

    One of my braces has gotten loose and isn’t attached to my tooth anymore, it’s just kinda there on the wire. I was wondering can I still wear the rubber bands even though one tooth doesn’t have a brace on it. I can’t go to my dentist because she’s abroad and Covid-19 is active there!

  25. Jacquelyn McCrary says:

    I’ve been wearing my braces for the past 14 months. I started wearing elastic 6 months ago. I’ve gotten used to the braces that used to be ulcers inside my lips, but the molars on the back left of my mouth are completely misaligned now, and the elastics on the right side of my mouth are like razor blades that cut the corners of my mouth every day. When I showed my orthodontist what the elastics were doing to the right side of my mouth, he said I should quit wearing them on that side for two days so that the corner of my mouth could heal. However, as soon as I put them back in, they started cutting the corner of that side of my mouth again. After 6 months of wearing the elastics, there is still no callous formed there. I can see some positive changes in the alignment of my front teeth, but the alignment of my back teeth is completely wrong and the cutting of the corner of the right side of my mouth is extremely painful. I was originally told that I would have to wear the braces for 15-22 months. It has been 14 months so far. Is it normal for me to still have these issues at this stage of wearing braces and elastics? The advice I’ve been reading says that Tylenol will make a big difference, and the pain will go away after a few days. That would be true for the pain I experienced when my wires were changed, and using wax was very helpful as I adjusted to the pain from the metal braces. But nothing seems to be working for the elastics cutting the corner of my mouth for the past 6 months. If I quit wearing the elastics on the side that is being cut, how many months will be added on to my treatment?

    • Kim Lewis says:

      I’ve had to deal with similar issues but don’t give up. I’ve read and will start using saltwater rinse through out the day and/or a tea bag on the area helps relieve the pain.

  26. Hayley says:

    I would stop wearing them but, yeah, ask your orthodontist

  27. Lisa says:

    Hi can anyone please teach me step by step how to put the bands on for an overbite?

  28. Alayna says:

    Is it normal to go threw two bags of rubber bands in month I change out three times a day

  29. Jenny Mendez says:

    I got my bands yesterday and today i noticed “food stuck” on one of my tooth that is the same tooth the band is being pulled, i tried cleaning it and it wouldnt come off so i started scratching my tooth but then i realized my tooth was being pulled by the bands what should i do ?

  30. Talia says:

    I got elastics today and they hurt like really bad and I took ibuprofen and it didnt help at all, I dont know if I’m overly sensitive or if something’s actually wrong, what should I do?

  31. Thank you for that helpful advice on choosing the right color of elastics. Though a lot of people love black, it’s not ideal for elastics as well as green and brown since these colors tend to look like you haven’t brushed your teeth and have food stuck in them.

  32. Anna says:

    Do I have to wear those elastics at night?

    • Olivia says:

      I’ve had my rubber bands for about 2 months now and on my left side on the bottom back bracket I can’t get it in the hook so I have been putting it on the whole bracket and my molar is moving up and I’m very worried that it’s not normal and my teeth are being messed up. If anyone knows anything about that please let me know.

  33. Anon says:

    I have one bracket on top that can hold a rubber band and three on the bottom. I forget things very easily and have forgotten which two of the three I’m supposed to use, becuse I’m pretty sure I don’t use all three. How do I tell which two to hood the rubber bands around?

  34. Anonymous says:

    My got my elastics a few days ago at first they were tense now they are stretchy I am wondering if they are supposed to be stretchy (I’m wearing the turtle ones btw)

  35. Cecilia Fitzgerald says:

    Hi, my rubber bands are cutting my tongue! What can I do to protect my tongue? Wax doesn’t work for this problem.

  36. Sarah says:

    Hi I was hoping to as if u have a 5cm gap that needs to be decreased how long would it take till my front teeth are aligned.

  37. Ky says:

    If my front tooth bracket comes off my tooth but is still like on the wire should I still wear my bands.

  38. senna says:

    if i dont wear the rubber bands will the dentist give thicker heaver bands?

  39. Anonymoussss Jio says:

    So I’ve got the elastics or rubber bands. One connecting to my upper teeth to the bottom teeth, close to my molar. And same thing for the other side. The other sides bracket fell off in the BOTTOM TEETH. And I can’t really go back due to COVID and all. So I just kept the same placement on the top tooth, but moved the one for the bottom tooth one bracket over. Will that affect anything?

  40. Slim says:

    Elastics are supposed to stop hurting after a few days but my teeth still feel constantly sore weeks later and I wear them all day! Why is this??

    So when I started wearing elastics, the former was the case but my dentist gave me much tinier elastics in my last visit. Despite this, I still expected my teeth to adjust and for the pain to have stopped by now. It hasn’t and my teeth are super sensitive. Can someone tell me why?

  41. Monte says:

    Is it normal for lower brackets to sink into the growing gums.

  42. Iram says:

    I had my rubber bands 4 days ago
    My orthodontic made me wear 2 band at a time because mine is case of large tounge
    Plz suggest me tip’s for my day

  43. Cold chicken says:

    Plz help, I forgot where my rubber bands go bcz I got a new placement yesterday…
    And it hurts so bad and I’m in a lot of pain

  44. Toya says:

    I forgot where my rubber bands goes, can someone tell me where they go?

  45. Anonymous says:

    When it comes to eating breakfast, I sometimes make it hard for myself when it comes to this, do I brush my teeth, put in my rubber bands for my braces then eat or do I eat, brush my teeth after and then put my rubber bands in? I feel like if I did the first one, it’ll just waste the bands.

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