If you get braces to straighten your teeth, fix your bite, or correct another dental issue, your orthodontist might place molar bands (also known as orthodontic bands) on your back teeth.
Not everyone with braces will need molar bands. They’re designed to anchor archwires, which are connected to brackets attached to the surface of the other teeth. Adjustment of these archwires causes repositioning of your teeth.
Alternatively, molar bands can be part of an orthodontic appliance such as an upper jaw expander. This appliance helps expand a child’s upper dental arch to fix crowded teeth.
Here’s a look at why some people need molar bands, as well as tips on how to make these bands more comfortable.
The bands are typically made of metal or stainless steel. This makes them durable and also reasonably easy to fit to a tooth. Orthodontists can also weld other brace parts that are made of steel or metal to molar bands.
While molar bands are used with braces, only select people require them. Your orthodontist might recommend molar bands if you have a sizable gap to close, or if you need to realign your bite along with straightening your teeth.
Additionally, in situations where a bracket on back teeth can easily break when biting, molar bands are a better choice.
Molar bands are often recommended for people having corrective jaw surgery. This allows less risk of broken brackets, and the surgeon can tie a surgical splint to these bands.
Orthodontists also recommend molar bands in children whose teeth haven’t fully grown since the bands can go slightly under the gum.
Before getting molar bands, your orthodontist will place elastic separators, or spacers, between your teeth.
You’ll wear the separators for a few hours to a few days to slightly separate your teeth. This makes room for each molar band.
Your teeth may feel a bit tender after you get your separators in. This is because the separators are moving your teeth.
When you return to the office, your orthodontist will place each molar band around a molar tooth and secure it with a bonding agent (glue).
Having a band placed around your molar isn’t usually painful. There’s often little to no discomfort, because the separators have opened up space between your teeth. Some people, however, do experience some pressure or pinching during the process.
Also, you might have some soreness around your teeth or gums a few hours after getting a molar band. This discomfort is temporary and will subside with time.
When you get braces, you’ll need to follow up with your orthodontist on a regular basis. Make sure to remind your orthodontist if you notice that a band is loose.
If you have your braces tightened on these appointments, you may also have some temporary soreness.
If you have any sensitivity or discomfort after getting molar bands, here are ways to ease the pain:
- Avoid hard, crunchy foods. In the days following the placement of molar bands, avoid hard, crunchy foods such as popcorn, hard candy, and ice. You have to avoid these anyway to prevent breaking your brackets. Stick with soft foods like bread, mashed potatoes, Jell-O, and oatmeal.
- Take pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain relievers called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such ibuprofen (Advil), can help reduce inflammation. Take this medication as directed.
- Apply topical oral medication. You can also apply a topical oral pain reliever directly to sore gums and teeth. Follow the instructions on the packaging of the medication that you’re using.
- Use a soft or extra-soft bristle toothbrush to go easy on sensitive gums.
- Apply soft wax to dental bands to ease discomfort from bands rubbing against your gums. This is the best option if the pain comes from cuts and bruises on your gums and insides of your cheeks.
Sometimes orthodontists opt to use brackets to anchor archwires in place. The design of brackets makes it easier to brush and floss between your back teeth, resulting in better dental hygiene.
However, orthodontists often prefer to use molar bands because they’re stronger and not as likely to loosen over time.
Another benefit is that orthodontists can add additional parts to molar bands, such as appliances that expand or reposition the upper or lower jaws.
One downside of using molar bands is the risk of tooth decay. Since a molar band completely encircles the tooth, it can be difficult to brush or floss the area. A cavity can develop if food becomes stuck between the tooth and the band.
To prevent this from happening, most orthodontists use glues that have fluoride in them to reduce the risk of cavities.
Brushing and flossing more often can help prevent tooth decay, but there are no guarantees.
Molar bands are part of some orthodontic treatments involving braces, but they’re not necessary for everyone.
Your orthodontist might recommend molar bands if you have a sizable gap to close or need to realign your bite along with straightening your teeth.
While helpful when straightening teeth, molar bands carry the risk of tooth decay because they make it difficult to brush or floss the area.
If you experience any pain, discomfort, or sensitivity that doesn’t improve within days of getting a molar band, contact your orthodontist.