Braces are a part of childhood for many kids. Besides metal wires that surround your teeth, dental braces also include rubber bands that connect the upper and lower braces.
Braces put a constant pressure on your teeth to gradually move them in your mouth. The wires on the braces move your teeth, while the rubber bands work toward correcting the alignment of your teeth. If additional pressure is needed, you might sometimes be required to wear head gear during the night. The realignment is a gradual process that usually takes two years to accomplish, though this can vary.
Orthodontic rubber bands are used because they can exert pressure on certain teeth in ways the braces alone can't. They are designed to be small enough and thick enough to create the proper amount of pressure on your teeth. While braces can align the teeth properly, rubber bands exert pressure to move the teeth forward and back and close gaps between your teeth. The rubber bands also allow the orthodontist the ability to change the pressure exerted. As teeth move into place, new placements of rubber bands can be made to exert pressure on different teeth. The extra pressure from the rubber bands can cut the time a patient needs to wear braces down by a third (roughly a year). This is a lot of time in the life of a teenager worried about his or her appearance.
The rubber bands on braces usually need to be changed daily. Because they are constantly stretched, they will eventually lose some of their elasticity, which reduces pressure on your teeth. If you don't change your rubber bands, you might be surprised by a sharp pain when the rubber band snaps. You should also remove your rubber bands before eating to reduce the wear on them.
Without the additional pressure from rubber bands, you could wind up wearing your braces for up to a year longer. Since most kids don't want to wear braces longer than they need to, it should be an incentive for using rubber bands properly.
Some rubber bands are now made to taste like breath mints, which is a vast improvement over the way non-flavoured rubber bands taste in your mouth. And should you accidentally swallow one of the rubber bands, don't worry, it will pass through your system eventually. If you experience any kind of allergic reaction to the material in the rubber bands, though, you need to call your doctor or dentist.