While most people are familiar with the brackets and wires of traditional braces in orthodontics, many don’t realize that orthodontists have a vast array of orthodontic equipment at their disposal to offer the best orthodontic treatment plan possible. Orthodontic bands, or molar bands, and separators are such pieces of orthodontic equipment that you may hear your orthodontist mention but know very little about.
What Is An Orthodontic Band?
These are custom fitted ring-shaped devices designed to wrap around the tooth and be cemented in place. They’re traditionally stainless steel, but modern orthodontic treatment includes more aesthetically inconspicuous clear plastic versions and ceramic versions, too. They can be used on any tooth but are most commonly applied on the molars.
The exact design varies. Some have attachments and hooks welded onto them for use with springs and elastics. Other options have a sleeve for the archwire to run through.
An orthodontist may feel that an orthodontic band encircling the tooth is a more secure, durable treatment option than the square brackets that just attach to the front of a tooth.
While orthodontic bands provide a more solid anchoring system for the archwires of your braces, you must still take care in cleaning and avoiding damaging activities that could loosen them and compromise the integrity of your braces and teeth.
Why Would You Need An Orthodontic Band?
Not everyone will need orthodontic bands as part of their orthodontic treatment. These devices are primarily indicated when the treatment plan requires:
- Major corrections to tooth alignment, gaps, and/or bite.
- Cases where the bone structure is less malleable due to age or disease.
- To better isolate teeth in a child’s mouth (teeth aren’t mature yet.)
- Braces need a more stable base, such as mouths that have large gaps between orthodontic appliances.
- To offer a more stable attachment point for headgear being used to correct an overbite.
- You have a history of loosening/ dislodging traditional brackets.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Orthodontic Bands?
Keep in mind that you may not be a candidate for the less obvious plastic and ceramic bands. They’re thicker than the stainless steel bands.. They’re also not as durable, which may make them inappropriate for major corrections. They also have a tendency to stain and may cause mouth irritation.
The major con with any orthodontic band is the risk of tooth decay. Because the device encircles the tooth, the orthodontist is unable to monitor the tooth as well, and food does have a tendency to get trapped between the band and tooth. Meticulous oral hygiene and care can help lessen the risk.
The major pro is that orthodontic bands provide a highly durable and reliable connection point for the other orthodontic equipment being used.
How Are Orthodontic Bands Installed?
Installation is a two-step process:
Your orthodontist will need to ensure there’s enough space for the band to fit comfortably around the tooth and correctly size the orthodontic band.
You’ll undergo a dental impression so that your orthodontist can size the band, which usually just involves pressing a cup of casting gel on your teeth. The solidified gel will then be used to create a plaster replica for sizing purposes.
Your orthodontist may need to insert elastic separators between your teeth to make room for the upcoming orthodontic bands. Insertion is quick and painless. You’ll likely feel like you have a piece of popcorn stuck between your teeth.
No chewy and sticky foods that can pull the separators out, and avoid flossing right now. If the increased pressure becomes uncomfortable or gives you a headache, you can use ibuprofen or acetaminophen for relief.
You’ll return to your orthodontist in about a week to remove the elastic separators and install the orthodontic band(s.) Your orthodontist will slip the orthodontic band over its tooth and ask you to do a bite test to ensure a good fit. Once fit is assured, your tooth will be polished before the band is cemented in place as part of your orthodontic treatment plan.
How Do You Care For Your New Orthodontic Band?
Orthodontic bands can withstand bite force better than brackets, but extreme pressure does cause the cement to crack over time. This won’t harm the tooth’s enamel, but it may cause the bracket to loosen and influence the architecture of the braces. So, you’ll want to keep pressure on the band to a minimum by using a mouth guard if you grind your teeth at night, avoid chewing on ice and inanimate objects, and avoiding hard and sticky foods and candies.
If your band does come off or loosen, alert your orthodontist immediately. A loosened band can slip off and become a choke hazard. If you can’t get a severely loosened band seen about immediately at either your orthodontist or physician office, try to gently lift it off with a pair of clean tweezers or visit your local emergency room if you feel there’s any risk of it completely coming off while you’re asleep.
To avoid tooth decay, practice meticulous oral hygiene and care. You may want to invest in a water flosser to push food up and away from between your orthodontic hardware. Staining is also a concern when part of your tooth is covered by an orthodontic band, meaning you’ll want to avoid whitening toothpastes and staining foods like wine, soda, tea, coffee, and tomato sauce during your treatment.