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A bite stick is an orthodontic tool used to help properly place the bands in a set of braces. Braces are a dental device composed of small brackets mounted on the teeth. These brackets have wire strung between them, which forces the teeth to mold to a desired configuration. Plastic or metal bands are sometimes used as a mounting surface for the brackets, and must be placed around each individual tooth. These bands can be made of stainless steel or a variety of colored plastics.
Before being positioned, the bands are sized to the teeth. Bands come in 50 different sizes, and insuring that the right one is selected is essential in making sure the bands do not slip. Before applying these, the teeth must first be completely dried. This is generally done with cotton pads and a suction tube to ensure all liquid in the mouth is collected.
The first band will be set in place by an orthodontist, who can use a bite stick to help push the band onto the tooth. It is a thin, plastic tool with a triangular metal protrusion at one end. This metal is typically grooved and, when the patient bites down, the metal head will drive the band onto the tooth. These implements must be able to endure a great deal of impact pressure, as the bands are tightly fitted around the teeth. The bands are then coated with dental cement, which hardens about five to ten minutes after they are in place.
A bite stick is typically made of heat-resistant plastic, which allows it to endure multiple sterilization cycles. Most will withstand temperatures of up to 450° F (216° C). They can also be subjected to cold or steam sterilization in an autoclave.
Bite sticks must also be able to function after sterilization in solutions, for example, peracetic acid and hydrogen peroxide. Typically, a bite stick will be able to withstand 50 such sterilization cycles with no degradation to shape or color, before being discarded. Prior to the introduction of high-grade plastics, wooden, single-use bite sticks were the norm.