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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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Your orthodontist will direct you on how and what to eat with braces.
Here are some general guidelines:
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.
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.
If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort from braces or retainers, there are some additional things you can try:
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.