In an old blog entry I explained what ligatures were. Metal ligatures are the fine metal wires that go around the brackets in the area of their wings, and secure the wire to the bracket. Elastic ligatures, also called “O-rings” or “rubber bands”, do the same thing, but they are made of latex, silicone or some other elastic product. They have the advantage over metal ligatures in that they are quicker to attach.
In the image below, you can see the same canine ligated with elastic ligature and metal ligature:
You can clearly observe the problem we have when using elastic ligatures; the wire cannot stay inside the slot of the brackets, because as it rotates, the force exerted by the orthodontic wire is greater than the force that the ligature can sustain. This canine, ligated with elastic ligature, will not be rotated at the next visit, and we will have lost a whole month. The canine ligated with metal will be rotated and in its proper place at the next visit, allowing us to make progress in the treatment. This lost time, if it happens 3 or 4 times during a treatment, means the treatment will take 3 or 4 months longer, and only because we made the mistake of ligating the wire with “O-rings”.
The main advantages of metal ligatures are:
1. More efficient– since they do not give way as do elastic ligatures (as seen in the image).
2. More hygienic– The elastic is made of a porose material that accumulates a lot of plaque and retains waste.
3. They create less friction– Friction between the wire and the ligatures slows down certain movements in the treatment; if we ligate with “O-rings”, we create more friction and the movements will be slower.
The only logical reason to use elastic ligatures during the whole treatment is the ease in “changing the rubber bands” (something that benefits the orthodontist, but not the patient). With elastic ligatures, it takes less time to place the wire, but as we have seen, the treatment takes longer. Therefore, they are not the best way to ligate the wire if we want to give the “best” possible treatment to our patients.
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