Braces serve a very important function for straightening teeth and aligning the bite, but they definitely require a period of adjustment. Along with getting used to the way they look, it is normal for younger and older patients to experience some temporary discomfort, particularly when they are first put on. The good news is that this discomfort will get better over time.
This guide will help you understand why braces hurt at first and sometimes after adjustments from your orthodontist. We’ll also share some practical tips to help anyone manage initial discomfort and make the experience of wearing braces as comfortable as possible.
Why Do Braces Hurt When You First Get Them?
There are a few reasons why braces cause some discomfort when they are first put on. The main reason is because braces need to apply pressure to the teeth and surrounding tissue in order to move the teeth into new positions over time.
Another reason why braces hurt at first is because the metal brackets of traditional brackets rub against the soft tissue inside the mouth, especially the inner lip right in front of braces. Even other types of braces, such as ceramic braces or invisalign, can cause some friction. Patients often report sore spots or very small cuts. As your mouth adjusts to wearing braces, the skin should toughen up and the discomfort should decrease.
Braces can also cause minor gum inflammation during initial adaptation, but it will improve quickly as you get used to wearing braces.
As the braces begin to work, orthodontists will need to periodically adjust the wires attached to the brackets to keep aligning the teeth. As these wires are tightened, it means they are applying more pressure to the teeth and surrounding tissues, leading to discomfort.
Most patients report pain from tightening as similar to when the braces were first put on. It may be slightly more or less intense depending on the extent of the adjustment, but it should pass in a short period of time.
Compared to having the braces put on, discomfort when the braces are removed is extremely minor. There may be some minor pressure while the orthodontist removes the brackets and adhesive, but this usually passes in a very short period of time. Additionally, teeth and gums may be a little sensitive for the next day or two, but this usually passes quickly.
Above all, most patients report the sensation of smooth teeth and removal of pressure an overall pleasant experience.
Tips for Managing Braces-Related Discomfort
For patients experiencing discomfort after getting braces or following an adjustment, orthodontists usually recommend the following tips:
- Apply an ice pack: Cold compression for 10 to 20 minutes at a time every couple of hours can help temporarily numb the area while relieving inflammation.
- Rinse with warm salt water: Gurgling with a warm saltwater rinse for 60 seconds can help improve blood flow to the area while helping to soothe, heal, and disinfect any small cuts or areas of soreness in the mouth.
- Use orthodontic wax: Your orthodontist will usually supply you with orthodontic wax that can be applied to the front of the brackets and help limit friction against soft tissue.
- Eat soft foods: Avoiding crunchy and hard foods can help avoid additional discomfort in an already sensitive mouth. Mashed potatoes, apple sauce, and ice cream are all commonly recommended foods.
- Use over-the-counter medication or oral anesthetics as needed: If pain and discomfort are distracting or disrupting activities, taking over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) or applying an oral anesthetic directly can help during the period of adjustment.
It is also important to follow all cleaning and care instructions given to you by your orthodontist. Taking care of your braces and committing to the process can help you avoid delays in treatment and get the best results in the shortest amount of time.
When to Contact an Orthodontist About Braces Pain
Braces pain should be minor and temporary. If pain seems unbearable or doesn’t improve after a few days after using the tips above, call your orthodontist. They can check to make sure the braces were put in correctly, or potentially loosen the wires if they are too tight. If there is recurring discomfort after adjustments, you can speak to your orthodontist about not tightening the wires as much, although this can lead to longer treatment times in some cases.
Ultimately, your orthodontist should work closely and collaboratively with you or your child to achieve a happy and healthy smile.
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