woman learns reason for tightening braces

Once your orthodontist has come up with a treatment plan that best suits your needs and you get your braces on, you will still need to visit your orthodontist’s office every 1-2 months for an appointment. During these appointments, your orthodontist will check to ensure that your teeth are moving at the proper pace and that you are taking care of your teeth and gums. At these visits, you will also need to have your braces ‘tightened’. This may sound scary, but don’t worry, it’s just an important part of aligning your teeth!

How do you tighten my braces?

Traditional braces consist of metal brackets, metal arch wire, and elastic ligatures, which are also known as rubber bands. The brackets are cemented directly on the teeth, the arch wire fits onto the brackets, and the elastic ligatures tie the arch wire onto the brackets to keep it in place.

At every appointment, your orthodontist will check the progress of your teeth and then will most likely ‘tighten’ your braces. Tightening is accomplished by removing the elastic ligatures and the arch wire and either adjusting the existing arch wire or replacing it with a new one. New elastic ligatures are then placed around the brackets and arch wire until your next visit.

Do I have to have rubber bands on my braces?

Actually, no, elastic ligatures are not necessary with all braces. At EA Smiles, we have braces that use passive self ligation systems, also known as sliding door technology. These systems include brackets with openings (sliding doors) for the arch wire to move back and forth inside the bracket, eliminating the need for any kind of rubber bands to tie the wire onto the bracket. The passive self ligation systems are more comfortable and create less friction in the mouth than traditional brackets.

‘Tightening’ braces using a passive self ligation system is simpler than ones with elastic ligatures, since the wire can just be adjusted in the bracket without also having to change out ties around the brackets. The wire is able to move more freely and allows the teeth to move at a faster pace than traditional braces. And if your teeth are moving at a faster pace, there is a good chance you will get your braces off even sooner!

What should I do before and after my braces are tightened?

If you are worried that you may feel some discomfort from having your braces ‘tightened’, you can take a dose of over the counter pain reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen one hour before your orthodontic appointment, and four to six hours after (the directions of dosage will be on the brand selected). Make sure that you follow your orthodontist’s instructions closely so that your braces can work effectively with your teeth.