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Updated on July 14, 2022

Power Chain Braces

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What are Power Chain Braces?

Dental braces are orthodontic devices that gradually shift teeth into proper alignment. They work by putting pressure on the teeth over time.

Braces consist of brackets (one on each tooth) connected to wires that follow the arch of your mouth. The brackets and wires are connected by small elastic bands or O-rings called ligatures.

With traditional braces, each bracket is connected to the archwire by one ligature. Power chain braces connect each bracket with a series of ligatures linked together.

orthodontist fitting braces

How Do Power Chains Work? 

With any set of braces, the tension between the ligatures, brackets, and wires pulls the teeth into alignment. 

Power chains consist of a chain of connected ligatures, rather than one ligature per bracket. This means that instead of each ligature acting separately, the whole elastic chain works to apply pressure alongside the archwire.

Benefits of Power Chains

Power chains for braces are known to:

  • Exert more pressure — by applying more force to the teeth, power chains can help move them into proper alignment more efficiently.
  • Perform a variety of functions — like braces in general, power chains can reduce spaces between teeth and turn back rotated teeth. The extra force they provide can also help fix midlines that are off-center or close large gaps between missing teeth. They ensure teeth stay snugly together.
  • Allow for ease of application — your orthodontist can cut the exact length you need from a spool of power chain elastic.

Side Effects of Power Chains

Like other elastomeric ligatures, power chains can weaken and lose tension over time. The extent of this weakening depends on the material and type of power chain.

A power chain might weaken from chewing or teeth shifting. Temperature changes in the mouth can also cause the elastic material to degrade. This loss of tension and strength may require orthodontists to replace power chains from time to time.

In general, power chain braces come with the same risks as other kinds of braces. They can cause pain and discomfort when first applied or during adjustments, though this will subside as the teeth adjust to the pressure.

Braces can also make teeth more difficult to clean, which is a risk factor for tooth decay and gum disease. Braces are also known to cause root resorption in some patients, which makes tooth roots shorter and less stable and can lead to tooth loss.

However, once the orthodontic treatment is complete, these risks decrease. Straight teeth are much easier to clean than crooked and/or crowded teeth. Any root resorption will stop once the braces are taken off.

After any kind of braces come off, be sure to follow your orthodontist’s instructions and wear the retainer(s) as directed. Otherwise, you can experience relapse as the teeth naturally shift back into their original positions.

Types of Power Chains

Power chains come in three types: closed, short, and long. An orthodontist can help determine which type is best:

1. Closed

Closed power chains connect at every bracket. The elastic rings making up the power chain connect directly to each other with no space in between.

2. Short

Short power chains connect at every other bracket and have a short piece of elastic between each ring.

3. Long

Long power chains connect at every third bracket, so there is more distance between each ring.

Who Needs Power Chains?

Anyone who is a candidate for traditional metal braces can choose power chain braces instead. This includes children, teens, and adults.

Everyone’s orthodontic treatment needs are different. Some people have severely misaligned teeth, while others only have mild to moderate alignment issues. 

Whether or not you need braces, with or without power chains, is a determination you and your orthodontist can make depending on your needs, budget, and lifestyle.

How Long Do You Wear Power Chains? 

As with braces in general, treatment time varies from person to person. It can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 24 months. The severity of teeth misalignment is primarily what determines treatment length. Orthodontists also take age and other factors into consideration while creating treatment plans. 

Power Chain Maintenance

To keep your power chain braces as clean and effective as possible, you’ll want to:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene — brush, floss, and rinse carefully after each meal, as braces make oral hygiene more difficult and time consuming. 
  • Avoid hard, crunchy, and sticky foods — these foods can get stuck around your braces and cause cavities or gum disease as well as damage your appliance(s).
  • Wear a mouthguard — these devices protect braces from impact during contact sports.
  • Follow your orthodontist’s instructions — be sure to contact your orthodontist if you have any problems or concerns with your braces.

Alternative Treatment Options

Power chain braces are one of several options for crooked or misaligned teeth. Other orthodontic devices exist, including but not limited to traditional metal braces.

Each of these orthodontic treatments have advantages and drawbacks. Discuss your options and preferences with your orthodontist.

Traditional Braces

Traditional metal braces work in much the same way as power chain braces, applying pressure to the teeth with a series of brackets.

Rather than using power chains, braces may use a single, separate O-ring to secure each bracket to the archwire.

You can also opt for self-ligating braces, which don’t require elastic ligatures at all. Instead, the brackets are specially designed to connect directly to the archwire.

Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces, also known as clear or invisible braces, work similarly to traditional ones. The difference is the brackets are made of ceramic rather than metal.

These braces are less noticeable, since the ceramic material is transparent or tooth-colored. However, they also break more easily and take longer to align teeth.

Clear Aligners

Clear aligners offer another way to align teeth. They’re less invasive than braces, and like ceramic braces, they’re almost invisible.

Clear aligners vary in quality. They are thin, plastic trays that move teeth in small increments. The trays are made in a lab and created specifically for your teeth, whether through an orthodontist or online supplier. They need to be changed frequently as your bite changes.

To know which of these options is right for you, talk with your dentist or orthodontist. You can  also find out how much your insurance provider will cover.

6 Sources Cited
Last updated on July 14, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Braces.” American Dental Association.
  2. Mohammed, H. et al. "Effectiveness of nickel-titanium springs vs elastomeric chains in orthodontic space closure: A systematic review and meta-analysis." Orthodontics & Craniofacial Research vol. 21,1 : 12-19. doi:10.1111/ocr.12210
  3. Weissheimer, André, et al. "In vitro evaluation of force degradation of elastomeric chains used in Orthodontics." Dental Press J. Orthod. vol. 18,1 . doi:10.1590/S2176-94512013000100014
  4. Braga, Emanuel, et al. “Experimental Evaluation of Strength Degradation of Orthodontic Chain Elastics Immersed in Hot Beverages.Journal of Indian Orthodontic Society vol. 53, no. 4, Oct. 2019, pp. 244–248, doi:10.1177/0301574219867540.
  5. Dindaroğlu, Furkan and Servet Doğan. "Root Resorption in Orthodontics." Turkish Journal of Orthodontics vol. 29 : 103-108. doi:10.5152/TurkJOrthod.2016.16021
  6. Cheng, HC et al. "Surface Treatment on Physical Properties and Biocompatibility of Orthodontic Power Chains." Bioengineering Materials in Dental Application vol. 2017. doi:10.1155/2017/6343724
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