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Orthodontic bands are used to attach orthodontic hardware to some patients' mouths. The bands are metal rings that run along the entire circumference of a single tooth. Not all patients require the use of these bands, though they are a common feature of braces. Special tools are used to attach, form and remove bands from a patient’s mouth.
In most cases when a patient requires the use of orthodontic bands, the bands will be placed on the patient’s back teeth. The molars are usually used, though it is not uncommon for an orthodontist to place a band around a premolar instead. Once the bands are attached to the back teeth, they form a stable foundation to which wires can be attached to move the front teeth around. Other hardware, such as brackets, can also be attached directly to orthodontic bands.
Placing an orthodontic band around a patient’s tooth is a simple procedure that does not cause much discomfort in the patient’s mouth. A local or topical anesthetic may be used to decrease the pain, though the process does not cut into the gums or cause any long-lasting pain, aside from some mild pressure. The tooth that is to be banded needs to be separated from the other teeth in the area through the use of a wedge that will be removed again once the bands are in place. This allows the orthodontist enough space around the tooth to slide the metal band into place.
To function properly, orthodontic bands need to be specially fitted to a patient’s teeth. Banding instruments are used to first place a metal band around a tooth. Once the band is around the tooth, it needs to be specially shaped and fitted so it rests securely and snuggly around the tooth. For extra security, a special cement is used to keep the band from slipping. After the band is in place, it forms a secure base from which to move the rest of the teeth around.
Occasionally, orthodontic bands can come loose. This needs to be reported to an orthodontist and fixed quickly so the orthodontic hardware can continue to work properly. Wear and tear can cause the bands to loosen, though chewing on sticky foods can also damage the integrity of the bands. Chewing on non-food items, such as the ends of pens or pencils, on the back molars can also cause orthodontic bands to slip.
I don't think bands are quite as common as they used to been back in the Dark Ages when I had friends who wore them. The worst cases I remember were those who had the double brackets with two bands on each teeth -- the genuine "railroad tracks." And the days my friends went to the orthodontist to get their braces tightened were bad days. Most of them would come to school the next day with sore mouths and soup in a thermos for lunch.
I also remember the rubber bands that attached to the upper and lower brackets. Several of my friends kept tiny zip top pouches in their purses with a variety of tiny rubber bands in case one popped on them. I don't think those are as common, either.
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