Updated on February 9, 2024
5 min read

How Long Do Braces Hurt?

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Braces are orthodontic appliances designed to treat misaligned teeth and bad bites. They apply pressure to your teeth and oral structures, which can cause some initial pain or discomfort.

When you first get braces, they may feel painful or uncomfortable for a few days or weeks. However, as you get used to them, your mouth should stop hurting.

How Long Do Braces Hurt?

Your braces shouldn’t hurt for the entire time you’re wearing them. How long your braces hurt depends on what’s causing the pain or discomfort.

How Long Do Braces Hurt After You Get Them?

Your braces may hurt for a few days or weeks after placement.  

It’s normal to experience brief discomfort or pain when your orthodontist first places your braces. Braces apply the most pressure when first placed, so your teeth will likely be the most sensitive.

After a few days, the pain should subside. If it doesn’t, speak to your orthodontist right away.

How Long Do Braces Hurt After Tightening?

You’ll need to have your braces regularly tightened while wearing them. Your orthodontist will replace or adjust the archwire and elastics to keep your teeth moving in the right direction.

Because tightening your braces changes the pressure exerted on your teeth, you might feel pain or discomfort for 1 to 3 days afterward. Contact your orthodontist if the pain doesn’t go away within a few days.

Why Do Braces Hurt?

It’s normal for your braces to hurt sometimes, especially when you’ve just gotten them for the first time or had them tightened. People experience different levels of pain, though the cause is unclear.1

Knowing what to expect can help you identify when to contact your orthodontist about pain related to your braces. The most common reasons why your braces may cause discomfort are discussed below. 

1. They’re Moving Your Teeth

Braces exert force on your teeth and jaw to move them into different positions. As they move your teeth, you may feel discomfort.

The pressure and discomfort will likely peak when you first get braces. This tooth pain or discomfort typically lasts a few days to weeks.

2. You Just Had Them Tightened

You’ll have to visit your orthodontist approximately every 4 to 6 weeks to get your braces tightened. Routinely tightening braces allows them to continue to straighten your teeth.

Tightening or adjusting your braces can commonly cause discomfort or pain for a few days afterward. However, the pain will usually be less than when you first got your braces and will lessen with every following appointment. 

3. They’re Irritating the Inside of Your Mouth

While braces are designed to be as comfortable as possible, they are still bulky appliances. Braces may brush against the insides of your mouth or around your gums. This can cause irritation.

Over time, your mouth will get used to your braces. You may even develop calluses where the brackets, wires, or elastic bands contact. This can result in less irritation, discomfort, and pain.

4. A Wire is Sticking Out

Your orthodontist will place your braces in a way that minimizes how much they touch or irritate your mouth. However, an orthodontic wire can loosen or bend. This can cause it to poke your tongue, gums, or cheeks.

A poking wire can hurt and even damage the inside of your mouth. If you notice an issue with your braces, visit your orthodontist immediately. 

5. Food is Caught in Your Braces

It’s easy for food particles to get stuck in between your braces, gums, or teeth. If certain areas of your braces feel sore or tender, check for stuck food.

Good oral hygiene is essential when you have braces, but it can also be tricky. Ensure you clean your braces and teeth thoroughly so no food gets stuck.

Pain Relief for Braces Discomfort

If you’re experiencing discomfort from braces, you can try several methods for pain relief. The best ways to relieve braces discomfort include:

  • Orthodontic wax — Your orthodontist will send you home with a wax that can protect your mouth. Use the wax to cover any brackets or wires irritating your mouth.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers — Take OTC pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as directed by your orthodontist or pharmacist. You can take it before your braces are placed or adjusted to prevent pain.
  • Oral anesthetics — Rub a topical oral anesthetic onto your teeth and gums. It will numb the area to prevent or reduce pain.
  • Ice pack and cold compress — Apply an ice pack or cold compress to your cheeks to reduce swelling and pain. Sipping ice water can also help.
  • Rinse with salt water — Gargling with warm salt water can alleviate pain and inflammation in your mouth. It can also speed up the healing process if you have damaged tissue from braces.2
  • Tweak your diet — Eat soft foods, such as soups or mashed potatoes. Soft foods are shown to reduce pain.3 Avoid sticky, crunchy, or hard foods that can damage your braces or get stuck around your braces.
  • Practice good oral hygiene — Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to minimize irritation. Floss carefully around the wires and brackets to remove any food particles that could cause discomfort. Superfloss and floss threaders can be useful for people who have braces. 

It can also be helpful not to overthink the pain you’ll experience when getting your braces. Studies have shown that the amount of pain you think you’ll feel tends to influence the amount you actually feel.4

If you are especially sensitive to pain, consider clear aligners instead of metal braces. Clear aligners cause less pain than metal braces in the first week of treatment.5

When to See Your Orthodontist

Visit your orthodontist if your pain lasts over a week after getting your braces placed or tightened. 

Also, consult them if new pain or discomfort occurs in between appointments. Random tooth or gum pain could indicate a problem that requires prompt care. 


Braces may cause pain or discomfort. This is because they apply pressure to your teeth. It’s common for them to hurt for a few days or a week after getting them or having them tightened.

You can relieve teeth pain from braces with OTC pain relievers, orthodontic wax, cold compresses, salt water rinses, and more. Always consult your orthodontist if new pain occurs unexpectedly or continues for over a week.

Last updated on February 9, 2024
5 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 9, 2024
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. Lin, W., et al. “Factors associated with orthodontic pain.” Journal of Oral Rehabilitation, National Library of Medicine, 2021.
  2. Samidah, S., et al. “The effectiveness of 7% table salt concentration test to increase collagen in the healing process of wound.” Gaceta Sanitaria, National Library of Medicine, 2021.
  3. Rakhshan, H., et al. “Pain and discomfort perceived during the initial stage of active fixed orthodontic treatment.” Saudi Dental Journal, National Library of Medicine, 2015.
  4. Firestone, A., et al. “Patients’ anticipation of pain and pain-related side effects, and their perception of pain as a result of orthodontic treatment with fixed appliances.” European Journal of Orthodontics, National Library of Medicine, 1999.
  5. Cardoso, P., et al. “Pain level between clear aligners and fixed appliances: a systematic review.” Progress in Orthodontics, National Library of Medicine, 2020.
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