The appointment has been set, and you are finally getting braces so you can begin the process of getting the straight teeth you have always wanted! Part of you may be scared, though. You have heard that getting braces is painful and you don’t get to keep eating the foods you love. All sorts of questions may run through your head. Will braces hurt the whole time you have them on? Why do they hurt? How bad is the pain? Is there anything that will stop it? What can you eat? Let’s try to answer some of your questions.
The good news is that it doesn’t hurt at all when braces are applied to your teeth, so you do not need to be afraid of the appointment. It is normal to experience some discomfort a few hours after the braces are placed. Every person is different, so the discomfort you feel will be different than that of your friends and family members who have undergone orthodontic treatment. Many people experience the most discomfort in the first three days after the braces are applied, but you may be uncomfortable for up to a week. Every day it will get better until you no longer notice it.
What is normal pain? There are two ways you may feel pain. The inside of your lips and cheeks may hurt from rubbing against the braces. They will toughen up after a week or two. During this time, you can use dental wax on the surface of your brackets to provide some protection and even prevent this type of irritation.
The second way you may feel discomfort is because the braces are beginning to do the work of moving your teeth into the correct position. To understand why this causes discomfort, you need to know a bit about the biology of your teeth. You have ligaments in your tooth sockets, attached to your bone on one side, and to the outer portion of the root of your tooth, called cementum, on the other. These ligaments anchor your tooth to the bone, and also allow your tooth to move a bit each time you bite down, to help withstand the enormous pressure of biting. Braces use force to move your teeth in their sockets, causing tension on ligaments of some sides of the tooth and compression on others. The tension and compression signal the bone to form differently, so your tooth can move into its new position.
At the beginning of the process, your teeth are furthest from the desired position, so the braces are exerting the most force on them. The pressure is what causes discomfort in your teeth and jaw. It may also cause inflammation in the tissue surrounding your teeth, causing your entire mouth to feel more sensitive. As teeth move, the pressure becomes less because your teeth are moving closer to where they need to be. After a few days, your body will also get used to the sensation and the discomfort will start to go away.
Once braces are no longer putting force on your teeth, your orthodontist will need to adjust them to keep your teeth moving into the proper alignment. Braces are usually adjusted every 5-8 weeks. The adjustments may also cause some discomfort but, for most people, it is not as bad as when braces are first applied.
There are a few types of discomfort that signal something is wrong. Although rare, contact your orthodontist if you have extreme sensitivity to hot or cold, or the discomfort does not start to subside after a few days.
There are quite a few strategies to help you feel more comfortable. It is okay to take a pain reliever in the proper dosage for your height and weight shortly before having braces applied or adjusted, so the medicine is already working when your discomfort begins. However, taking anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen for too long can delay efficient tooth movement, so be sure to discuss it with your orthodontist to determine what is best for you. If you are having trouble sleeping, one dose of a pain reliever may help the discomfort so you can sleep. Certain dental rinses and gels are also designed to reduce discomfort and your orthodontist can help you pick the best option for you.
As mentioned before, you can put dental wax on your brackets to keep them from irritating the inside of your lips and cheeks until they toughen up. It is a good idea to keep some on hand as long as you have braces, in case a wire becomes loose and you need to protect your lips or cheek. Just don’t forget to remove the wax before brushing your teeth. If your braces do cause irritation or sores on the soft tissues of your mouth, you should rinse with lukewarm saltwater, twice a day. Mix one teaspoon of salt with eight ounces of water, then swish it around your mouth for up to one minute. You can also rinse with chamomile or green tea to reduce inflammation. Just be sure that the water is not too hot!
Cold also helps pain and discomfort. An ice pack on the outside of your mouth can numb the sensations and reduce inflammation so you feel more comfortable. Drinking ice cold water, juice or smoothies can work the same way. You can also try eating cold foods like ice cream, frozen yogurt, or chilled fruits and vegetables. However, do not bite into or chew frozen foods or ice. This can damage your braces and your teeth and lengthen your treatment time.
Be sure to eat soft foods for a few days. Eating hard, crunchy or sticky foods can actually worsen and prolong the discomfort. Even after you adjust to the new sensation of wearing braces, you will need to modify the way you eat. Cutting food into bite-sized pieces, chewing with back teeth, and not biting into things with your front teeth will become your new normal.
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry and Orthodontics, our in-house orthodontist, believe it is important to provide individualized, attentive, gentle, and kind orthodontic care for people of all ages. He balances making progress in your treatment with lessening pain and discomfort.
Moving forward with your orthodontic treatment is absolutely worth any discomfort you may feel. The time will fly and before you know it, you will have the beautiful smile you deserve and a healthier mouth that will last you a lifetime!
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.