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Braces are a type of appliance that use pressure to adjust the positioning of your teeth and jaw. They can help to prevent things like gum disease, tooth decay, and jaw problems.

When you get braces, small brackets are cemented to your teeth. A wire runs through the brackets and is secured to your back teeth. This wire is periodically adjusted to help gradually move your teeth and jaw into a new position.

If you’re considering braces or already have them, you may have heard of something called a power chain. This is an elastic chain that your orthodontist can use to apply additional force.

Read on to learn more about power chains, who may need them, and more.

Typically, tiny elastic bands called ligatures are used to hold the metal wire of your braces in place within the brackets. In this case, each bracket would have its own individual ligature.

A power chain is made up of many connected elastic rings, which gives it a chain-like appearance. When a power chain is applied to your braces, it replaces the individual ligatures and can connect several brackets together.

Let’s explore some of the potential benefits of using power chains with braces.

Power chains are versatile

Power chains can be used along with braces to address a variety of treatment needs:

Some of your teeth may be connected by a power chain while other teeth may use individual ligatures. In this way, your orthodontist can work to address the different treatment needs in various areas of your mouth.

Like individual ligatures, power chains also come in a variety of different colors.

They exert more force

Power chains are stronger than individual ligatures. Your orthodontist can use them to apply more force to an area, if necessary.

They’re easy to apply

Applying a power chain to your braces is relatively simple. Your orthodontist will first remove the individual ligatures from their brackets. They’ll then replace them with the rings of the power chain.

Power chains are distributed on a spool. Because of this, you orthodontist can easily cut the length of the power chain that they need for your braces.

The force exerted by power chains diminishes over time. This can be due to factors like:

  • the type of power chain
  • the specific material that they’re made of
  • movement, due to things like chewing food or the shifting of your teeth
  • environmental factors in your mouth, such as temperature, moisture, and contact with saliva

Because of this, your orthodontist will occasionally need to replace your power chain. This can be done during an adjustment appointment.

Overall, the risks of power chains are similar to those of having braces. They can include:

  • Gum disease: Food can become trapped in and around your braces. When it isn’t cleared away with brushing and flossing, it can lead to plaque formation, which in turn can cause irritation and inflammation of your gums.
  • Tooth decay: Plaque buildup can also lead to tooth decay. This can include the earliest stage of tooth decay (demineralization) or progress to cavity formation.
  • Short tooth roots: Roots hold your teeth firmly in your jaw. Because braces gradually move your teeth, you may have shorter tooth roots than someone that didn’t have braces. This can lead to less stable teeth.
  • Lost correction: While braces with power chains can help to align your teeth and jaw, you can lose this corrective effect if you don’t diligently wear your retainer after your braces are removed.

Are power chain braces painful?

Occasionally, you’ll see your orthodontist to have your braces adjusted. During these visits, the wire running through your brackets will be tightened to apply more pressure. This allows your teeth to gradually move into new positions.

A power chain can also be replaced or added to your braces during an adjustment. When this happens, the orthodontist replaces the individual ligatures in your brackets with the rings of the power chain.

It’s normal to experience pain or discomfort after your braces are adjusted, including after a power chain is added or replaced. This typically only lasts for a few days after the adjustment.

You can help to ease pain from your braces or power chain by taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Note: While other OTC pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) may seem like good options, they actually slow down tooth movement and should be avoided.

Many people get braces, which can include power chains, when they’re younger. This is typically between the ages of 8 and 14. The facial bones of individuals in this age group are still growing, making the teeth easier to move.

However, adults can get braces and power chains, too. In fact, about 1 in 5 people receiving orthodontic treatment are over the age of 21.

Power chains can be used in a variety of different situations. They’re most often used to close gaps between teeth or to generally ensure even spacing between teeth. They can also be used to help better align your teeth and jaw.

At the end of the day, whether a power chain is used depends on your individual treatment needs. Your orthodontist can evaluate the alignment of your teeth and jaw to determine if you need braces, with or without power chains.

How long will I need to wear power chains?

According to the American Dental Association, most people have braces for 1 to 3 years. The exact length of time that you have braces can depend on your individual situation.

Similarly, how long you’ll need to wear a power chain can vary depending on your treatment plan. Some people may need to wear power chains for several weeks while others may have them for several months.

Generally speaking, there are three different types of power chains for braces. These are:

  • Closed (continuous): There’s no space between the rings in the power chain. Instead, each ring is linked directly to the next ring in the chain.
  • Short (open): Each ring in the chain is separated by a short distance.
  • Long (wide): The rings of the power chain are separated by an even longer distance.

What type of power chain is used will depend on your treatment plan. It’s possible that different types of power chains may be used at various stages in your treatment.

Taking care of your braces and power chains is very important. In order to accomplish this:

Brush after each meal

Food can collect around your braces and power chain, leading to plaque buildup. Try to brush your teeth after each meal. If you’re unable to brush your teeth, rinse your mouth with water.

Brush gently

Use a toothbrush with soft bristles. Try to be gentle in order to reduce stress on your braces and power chain.


In addition to removing food from in between your teeth, flossing also helps remove food from your braces and power chain. You can use a small tool called a floss threader to help you floss with braces.

Rinse after cleaning

Thoroughly rinsing your mouth after brushing and flossing can help to further dislodge any stubborn food particles. You can rinse with water or a fluoride-based rinse.

Check your braces in the mirror

After cleaning your teeth, carefully examine your braces and power chain in the mirror. Look for breaks or any areas that appear loose or damaged.

Avoid certain food types

Some types of food are more likely to damage your braces and power chain. Aim to avoid the following types of food:

  • Sticky foods. Sticky foods can become stuck to and pull on your braces and power chain.
  • Hard foods. Biting into hard foods, such as apples or corn on the cob, can lead to breaks in your braces or power chain.
  • High-sugar foods. Foods that are high in sugar can promote the formation of plaque.

It’s possible that your power chain may break. This can happen anywhere along the chain. It’s likely that you’ll notice a break when you’re cleaning your teeth.

Call your orthodontist promptly. This is important because a break in your power chain can make it less effective, potentially impacting your orthodontic treatment.

It’s likely that you’ll need to visit your orthodontist to have your power chain replaced. This can be accomplished during a short office visit.

Power chains are made of an elastic material and consist of many connected rings. They’re added to braces to apply more force to an area of your mouth. They’re often used to close gaps between teeth, but can also help align your teeth and jaw.

Because the force that a power chain exerts will decrease over time, your orthodontist will need to replace them regularly. Pain or discomfort from a new power chain can be eased by using OTC pain medication.

Good oral hygiene is important when you have braces with power chains. Always brush, floss, and rinse following a meal. If you notice a break in your power chain at any time, contact your orthodontist at your earliest convenience.