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Updated on July 18, 2022

Do Braces Hurt?

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Do Braces Hurt Your Teeth?

Braces work by putting pressure on your teeth, so it’s reasonable to wonder how much they’re going to hurt. Fortunately, they’re not as painful as many people fear.

Pain from braces is usually short-lived, and there are ways to avoid and alleviate it.

young woman showing her braces

How Long Do Braces Hurt When You First Get Them?

Getting braces put on your teeth usually doesn’t hurt, though it may feel uncomfortable.

During the process, your orthodontist will stretch your lips, which might cause your mouth to become dry. You’ll also feel the wires and brackets against your teeth and cheeks for the first time, which can take some getting used to.

Once the braces are on, your teeth and gums may feel more sensitive. Your lips and inner cheeks might also be sore from staying open throughout the process. This soreness should only last a few days. After that, any pain or discomfort should be minimal, if not gone entirely.

Braces Pain From Rubber Bands and Tightening 

Your orthodontist may add rubber bands to your braces in order to reinforce the pressure they put on your teeth. Like braces, these bands may cause some pain and discomfort. But this should subside quickly as your teeth get used to the pressure.

You’ll also need to visit your dentist periodically to have your braces tightened. This will keep the pressure consistent as your teeth align slowly.

After your orthodontist tightens your braces, you may feel new sensitivity and soreness, just like you did in the beginning. This pain should not last for more than a few days.

Does Braces Removal Hurt?

The process of having braces removed, just like the process of having them put on, usually doesn’t hurt at all. You may experience tooth and gum sensitivity for the first few days after having your braces removed.

In some instances, the initial use of a retainer may feel strange, especially with certain types of retainers. Most of the time, though, retainers should not cause any pain. If they do, there's a chance they do not fit properly.

Pain can sometimes result from improper retainer use. Be sure to follow your orthodontist’s instructions on how to use and care for your retainer.

6 Tips for Pain Relief From Braces 

Pain, soreness, or discomfort may come in the first few days after having braces put on, tightened, or removed. Discomfort might also occur after switching to a new retainer.

In all of these cases, any pain or discomfort is likely to be mild and subside within a few days. 

Thankfully, there are several ways to alleviate braces pain:

1. Orthodontic Wax

When you first get braces, your inner cheeks and lips will need to adjust to the new material. They may feel irritated at first. This is because they’re only used to touching your bare teeth. To help you adjust, your orthodontist might give you some orthodontic wax.

To use the wax, place a small amount over any brackets that scratch your cheeks or lips. This will cushion the braces against your inner mouth. It will also allow your lips and cheeks to be able to gently glide over the braces.

Orthodontic relief wax is perfectly safe to eat during use. Eating certain foods may cause the wax to loosen out of place or rub away completely, though. For this reason, you’ll want to reapply it after each meal.

After 1 to 2 weeks, you probably won’t need to use the wax anymore. Your mouth will likely have adjusted to the braces by then.

2. Oral Anesthetic

One quick and effective way to reduce braces pain is to apply an oral anesthetic. Topical oral anesthetics come in sprays, lozenges, and gels. They are available over-the-counter (OTC) at your local pharmacy.

To use, apply the anesthetic over the irritated area with your finger, a cotton swab, or a piece of gauze. Just make sure whatever you’re using to apply it is clean.

Consult your orthodontist if you have any questions or concerns about OTC anesthetics.

3. Pain Medication

OTC pain medications such as Tylenol may also help with pain from braces. If you use them, be sure to follow the instructions on the package accordingly.

Pain medications aren’t meant to be used regularly. If you experience pain for longer than a few days, contact your orthodontist immediately.

4. Take Care When Eating

Your orthodontist will direct you on how and what to eat with braces

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Avoid hard or crunchy foods, at least for the first few days after each appointment. Your orthodontist may clear you to resume normal eating after some time.
  • Avoid anything too hot or too cold if your teeth are sensitive to temperature, especially right after an appointment.
  • Avoid sticky foods that can get stuck on and between your braces and make your teeth harder to clean.
  • Be careful with foods you have to bite into, like apples, corn on the cob, or bone-in meat. These may also make your teeth harder to clean or even break brackets. Consider cutting these foods into smaller pieces to make them easier to chew.
  • Be mindful and proactive in meal-planning. Avoid certain foods if you’re concerned they might irritate your braces.
  • Keep soft, easy-to-chew foods available, such as eggs, mashed potatoes, and soups.

If you’re unsure about which foods are safe to eat, or if you have any general care questions, your orthodontist will be able to help.

5. Maintain Good Oral Hygiene

Whether you have braces or not, regularly brushing and flossing your teeth is important. In addition to being good for your overall dental and oral health, these practices will keep your braces clean and prevent food from getting stuck in them.

You may need to use extra care when brushing or flossing with braces. Your orthodontist will provide you with tips and instructions on how to brush and floss properly.

6. Other Tips

If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort from braces or retainers, there are some additional things you can try:

  • An ice pack can help numb your mouth and relieve irritation. Similarly, you may try rinsing your mouth with cold or warm water to reduce discomfort.
  • Gently massaging your gums with your fingers may also relieve braces pain. Try this immediately after applying an ice pack.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum can help stimulate blood flow in the area, which will reduce any inflammation from new or newly tightened braces.

Summary

Overall, pain and discomfort from braces or a retainer should be mild and short-lived. Luckily, there are things you can do to reduce any pain that occurs. 

By being proactive about your dental hygiene and what you eat, you can avoid unnecessary pain and discomfort.
When it comes to relieving and especially avoiding braces pain, it’s important to follow your orthodontist’s instructions. Listen carefully during your appointments, and be sure to follow up if you have any questions or concerns.

6 Sources Cited
Last updated on July 18, 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. What Does It Feel Like to Get Braces?” Beglin Orthodontics.
  2. How Long Do Braces Hurt?” Oakbrook Orthodontics.
  3. 10 Things to Know About Braces.” Manhattan Bridge Orthodontics.
  4. 10 Tips for Braces Pain Relief.” Overby Orthodontics.
  5. Does Getting Your Braces Off Hurt?” Smiles for Life Orthodontics.
  6. Why Does My Retainer Hurt?” Loudoun Orthodontics.
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