Elastics (rubber bands) are sometimes a necessary addition to braces and help to improve the fit of a patient's upper and lower teeth. When fitted to braces, elastics work by pulling the jaw either forward or backward to correct overbites and underbites and to bring teeth into a more comfortable alignment when biting down. However, because of the constant pressure exerted by these elastics, the early stages of this treatment can be somewhat painful.
Because of this pain, which can seem like it will never end, patients may be tempted to remove their elastics. They believe that taking a 30 minute break here and there won't do their treatment any harm. If you have recently had elastics placed on your braces, do not remove them unless your orthodontist instructs you to do so. Why? The reason is simple.
Do Not Remove Your Elastics to Take a Break
The key to the success of elastics lies in the constant pulling forces that they apply to your teeth. However, if those forces are interrupted on a regular basis, even for just a few minutes at a time, any results that may have been gained up until then may be lost, or you may see no change at all after weeks of use. This is because elastics pull teeth slowly.
It is a gradual process that requires constant motion, much like swimming against the current. Swim hard enough and you'll make progress, stop to rest frequently and you'll end up back where you started. So how do you deal with the pain if removing your elastics is out of the question?
Bear the Pain for 3-4 Days
Though it may seem like a lifetime when you are in pain, 3-4 days is about the average length of time that it takes for the initial pain to wear off. That doesn't mean you should simply do nothing while you wait. There are some things you can do to soothe the pain. Ibuprofen is effective at dealing with pain in the oral cavity. Don't overdo it, however.
You should also stick to soft foods for the first few days. Remember, your teeth need to move in order to reach their ideal position and the pain you are feeling is as a result of the initial movement of your teeth in your jaw. Soups and broths will help take the pressure off those teeth for those crucial first few days.
Although the pain can be unbearable, you do have a choice. You can either opt to take the elastics out and forgo the benefits of having a perfectly aligned bite, or you can leave them in, persevere through the pain, and see rapid progress in your treatment over the next few weeks. The choice is yours, so do what's best for your smile.