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Getting braces to correct a dental problem is a big decision. If you’ve opted for conventional metal or ceramic brackets, you’ve got one more decision to make, and it’s a fun one: What color are they going to be?

Conventional braces have several components. Strong metal bands encircle your back molars, anchoring the archwires that run from tooth to tooth. The upper and lower archwires are attached to brackets on the front of each tooth using rubber bands. And that’s where things can get colorful.

The rubber bands — also called elastic ligatures — come in every color in the rainbow, and then some.

Since dentists recommend that kids begin orthodontic treatment somewhere between ages 8 and 14, most of the color choices are aimed at kid clients. Still, some adults might opt for a whimsical, short-term splash of color for a special event.

Rubber bands (ligatures) in braces.Share on Pinterest
The rubber bands (or ligatures) that connect the archwires to the brackets come in a variety of colors.

So many. In fact, many orthodontists offer clients a color wheel that displays a full spectrum of color options. These usually look something like an artist’s palette.

Since you’re going to be sporting these elastics until your next appointment, most orthodontists don’t mind letting you take a few minutes to choose a shade.

How often your orthodontist adjusts your braces will vary depending on how quickly your teeth move, but for most people, adjustments happen once every six to eight weeks. Every time your orthodontist tightens your braces, you’ll have a chance to choose new colored bands.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider what colors you’d like to try at your next orthodontic adjustment:

1. Complement your skin tone

Bold jewel tones are often a good choice for darker skin tones. Fair skin might call for cooler colors. Your hair and eye color also come into play. If your eyes are a striking shade, emphasize them with a matching braces color.

No matter what you wear, your skin and eye color will remain the same, so it’s smart to ensure that your elastics set them off.

2. Color correct your teeth

Certain band colors can brighten the look of your smile. Darker colors can make your teeth look whiter, while white and yellow shades may make them look dull or stained.

You’ll probably want to avoid brown and some green hues, since they can make it look like you’ve got food wedged in your teeth.

3. Highlight your favorite color

If, like Elle Woods in the movie “Legally Blonde,” you have a signature color (“Whoever said orange was the new pink was seriously disturbed.”), your braces might be a fun place to show off that self-expressive shade. Your teeth might be shifting, but you are still the one and only you.

4. Celebrate the season

Changing your braces color to suit the season is a playful option. Neons are a popular choice for summer, as are ocean and sand color combos. In spring, mint green, petal pink, and robin’s egg blue work well together.

And in autumn, school colors could be a cool choice — unless you’re snapping on all black bands to mourn the end of vacation.

You can even tie your ligature color to a special event like prom or a holiday. Just keep in mind the timing of your next appointment. If your adjustment is mid-month, you probably won’t want black and orange Halloween bands until the middle of November.

5. Metallicize

Matte may still be fashionable in lip color, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sparkle elsewhere. Glittery silver, gold, and metallic color options can add shine to your smile and can be especially appropriate for special events.

6. Get ready for game day

Alternating team colors is a popular option for sports fans of all genders. You’ll be showing team spirit every time you smile.

The American Association of Orthodontists reports that 1 in 5 people wear braces during their adult years. And while lots of adults are unabashed accessory enthusiasts, most probably wouldn’t consider braces a place for self-expression.

To keep it subtle, consider an elastic color that matches your brackets. If you’re wearing metal brackets, that probably means pale grey or silver. Clear elastics may seem like the least visible option, but in the time between appointments, clear elastics can be stained by coffee, tea, red wine, or soft drinks.

A 2016 study tested four brands of elastic ligatures and found that all of them became stained over the course of a month. How much the original ligature color changed depended on:

  • the brand of rubber band
  • the pigments in foods and drinks consumed
  • brushing habits
  • the presence of bacteria that became embedded in the elastic itself

While some discoloration is to be expected, it’s important to note that clear and light-colored bands may be more susceptible to color change.

When you first get braces, you might be inclined to obsess a little bit about keeping them clean. Nobody wants to glance in the mirror and see food particles crammed in the crevices around their brackets.

But how you look is actually the least important reason to be vigilant about brushing and flossing.

Because there are so many new places for bacteria to hide in your mouth once you have braces, it’s especially important to practice good oral hygiene so you can avoid plaque, cavities, gingivitis, and long-term tooth discoloration.

Your orthodontist will demonstrate good brushing and flossing technique for you. You may want to practice once or twice before you leave the office. And you might want to invest in special devices like floss threaders or a Waterpik to make it easier to keep them clean.

Shop online for floss threaders and water flossers (Waterpik is one well-known brand).

Braces are an important step toward developing a healthy, beautiful smile. Enhancing your braces with colorful elastics can make the process of getting that new smile more enjoyable.

When choosing braces colors, consider your own skin, hair, and eye color; your wardrobe; and any special events coming up on your calendar. You may want to avoid pure white and colors that might stain easily.

Otherwise, varying your rubber band colors is a fun way to express your personal style, celebrate holidays, and add freshness and flair to your orthodontic experience.