Power Chain Braces: Costs, Side Effects & Alternatives

Medically Reviewed by a
Licensed DDS

Table of Contents

  1. How Power Chain Braces Work
  2. Power Chain Braces Usage
  3. Power Chain Alternatives
  4. References

The term power chain means something very different to loggers and orthodontists. To a tree care professional, a tool powered via power chain cuts something down to create space. To a dental health professional, power chains pull things together to close up space.

If your smile is dotted with gaps, power chains could help to close them quickly. If you use them, you'll spend less time in the orthodontist's chair and more time enjoying your new smile.

But power chains do come with significant drawbacks, and some might prompt you to look for another solution.

How Do Power Chain Braces Work?

Your orthodontist uses brackets and wires to pull on your teeth and seat them in new positions. Power chains are added to that metal network to apply more force on misaligned teeth.

Power chains are made of elastic. If you pull them between your fingers, they'll spring back to their original shape when you let go. It's this tendency to snap back that makes them so valuable in orthodontics. Your doctor will stretch them, and as they try to return to their former form, they'll pull your teeth at the same time.

Power chains vary by:

  • Size. Some have very wide loops, so they can cross long distances. Others have smaller loops to connect items that are relatively close together.
  • Color. Companies make power chains in almost every shade you can think of.
  • Connection point. Some are made to link every tooth in your mouth. Some latch to every other tooth instead, and some attach to every third tooth.

If you need power chains, your orthodontist will connect them to your brackets, and the elastic will sit on top of the wires that make up your braces. They don't replace any part of traditional braces. Instead, they enhance the pulling and torque your braces can apply.

Power chains work with your braces to close up gaps in your smile and leave you with rows of perfect teeth, but some people don't need them and if you do, learn about the risks and benefits.

What Are Power Chain Braces Used For?

Scientists say our jaws are growing smaller, even though we have the same number of teeth our ancestors did. Sometimes, we just don't have enough room in our mouths for all the teeth that need to push through.

When faced with an overcrowded jaw packed tight with teeth, some orthodontists recommend extractions. Typically, they tell their patients that premolars (which sit behind the eye teeth) should come out.

Extractions are growing less common with time. Researchers say that the number of doctors recommending this option has dropped by about 20 percent within the last 32 years.

But if your mouth is very crowded, extractions can be an ideal way to make space.

After an extraction, you're left with a big gap that contains no teeth at all. Studies suggest that 80 percent of orthodontists use power chains to close gaps like this. They work quickly, and adding them to braces can shorten the amount of time you spend in care.

Typically, the cost of power chains is wrapped into the overall price you'll pay for braces. It's rare for orthodontists to use per-item pricing schemes. As a result, it's very difficult to say how much these items cost.

Power Chain Alternatives Are Available

Your orthodontist may map out your treatment plan during your very first visit. Planning like this allows for accurate estimates, so you won't be asked to pay more for chains if they're added later. But you may choose to avoid the technique altogether.

Chains can speed up your treatment plan, but they can be:

  • Uncomfortable. Elastic adds height to your braces, and that means they can interfere with lip and tongue placement. You might find it hard to close your mouth completely.
  • Time-consuming. Chains stretch out and stop working. You'll need many appointments with your doctor for new fittings and replacement sets.
  • Hazardous. Braces make dental hygiene difficult. Adding elastic can worsen the problem. Food can get stuck in the loops, causing cavities and decay. And an inability to brush can lead to gum loss.

You have several power chain alternatives to consider, including:

  • Extraction refusal. Some patients opt to keep all of their teeth. That decision can add months or years to your treatment plan. But without big gaps, you won't need power chains.
  • Standard braces. Wires and brackets can also move your teeth, even without the help of elastics.
  • Aligners. Mild or moderate smile adjustments can be tackled with the help of clear, plastic trays that slide over your teeth. You won't need brackets, wires, or power chains with this method.

References

Assessment of Lingual Orthodontics Practice Among Orthodontists: A Questionnaire Survey. (January 2018). International Journal of Research in Health and Allied Sciences.

Why Cavemen Needed No Braces. (May 2018). Stanford University Press.

Frequency of Orthodontic Extraction. (January 2016). Dental Press Journal of Orthodontics.

Oral Hygiene Behavior During Fixed Orthodontic Treatment. (September 2017). Dentistry.

To Extract or Not: In Today's Orthodontics Why Are We Extracting Premolars? (January 2014). Perio-Implant Advisory.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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