If you have braces you know they aren’t generally painful. That said, when you are most likely to experience discomfort is following the initial appointment when you get your braces on, and then at appointments where the wires are “tightened”. Here we look at what causes the discomfort, with our top tips to relieve any pain you may experience from your braces.
What Causes Pain From Braces?
Braces put pressure on your teeth as they slowly ease them into the best position for a winning smile. Unfortunately, this is part of wearing braces. The good news is usually the pain doesn’t last.
You can first expect pain the day your braces are applied because all of a sudden you’re going to feel that pressure. There is a more pronounced feeling because a) You aren’t used to your braces and b) There is more force in the beginning because your teeth are in the worst position in the early months. The pressure will ease more and more each day as you become accustomed to the feeling.
Rubber bands also add pressure that can be painful. Braces treatment is done in stages, first moving the crowns of the teeth in the first year, and then the roots in the second year. This ensures the teeth and roots are eased into place for the best results.
The goal is to gradually ease your teeth into place with as little discomfort as possible. You will also experience pain after a tightening because of course more force is being applied to your teeth. Each adjustment adds a bit more pressure to get your teeth into the ideal position. It doesn’t last long, and each painful period leads to the rewards of a perfect smile. There is no way around the pain, but we do have solutions to help ease the discomfort.
Over-The-Counter Pain Medicine
An obvious choice is your basic over-the-counter pain medication. Whatever you typically take for headaches, will also help with the pain of braces. A good rule of thumb is to take your pain medication about an hour prior to your appointment so it starts to work by the time the pain sets in. This can also keep you more comfortable when the adjustment is being made.
Oral anesthetics are “topical solutions” you apply directly to the areas where you are experiencing pain. Products such as Orajel or Anbesol are designed to desensitize your teeth and gums. It can really make a difference in your comfort level.
Use Orthodontic Wax
Most dentists will send you home with orthodontic wax to protect your lips, gums, and cheeks. It covers the brackets, so you don’t experience irritation against the soft tissue in your mouth. The wax can be molded to your brackets to smooth things out and keep you comfortable. Just remember to take it off when it’s time to brush your teeth or before you eat.
The chill of ice packs reduces inflammation which in turn reduces pain. Ice packs can be applied alternating on and off for 15 minutes at a time to provide comfort. Apply the packs to your face wherever you feel pain. It’s also a natural pain reliever so if you are not due to take your over-the-counter pain medications yet, this is a good way to help you make it through until it is time.
If you don’t have ice packs, you can use the trusty bag of frozen peas or corn. If you don’t have either you can sip on ice water to help reduce pain. Just keep in mind if your pain includes tooth sensitivity this is not a good option.
Gargling with warm salt water helps heal any cuts you might have from your braces. If you find cuts don’t seem to heal, or sores develop, call your dentist to let them know.
Only Eat Soft Foods
Sticking to soft foods when you are experiencing pain can help avoid irritating the pain further. If you choose hard foods like candy you’ll just make things worse. Instead, choose things like soup, yogurt, mashed potatoes, and scrambled eggs until the pain subsides.
You can help relax your gums with a nice gum massage. To get the full benefits, first rub your gums with an ice cube. Then use your (clean!) finger to gently rub your gums in a circular motion.
Use Guided Imagery
This might sound silly, but if you can keep your perfect smile in mind, you might be able to get through the pain more easily. Although the pain is troublesome, it is fleeting, while your new smile is with you for life. Focusing on positive images has also been shown to help reduce pain.
Take A Proactive Approach
There are two ways to take a more proactive approach to pain management:
1. Brushing and Flossing
The cleaner your teeth and braces are, the less likely there will be excess irritation. If you have debris and food particles between your teeth or braces, it will add to the pain, especially in the gums. Proper brushing and flossing keep your mouth clean so there aren’t any additional irritants to add to swelling of the gums. Regular dental checkups also remove excess plaque and tartar that can add to gum irritation.
2. Discuss Other Options
If you are worried about pain, discuss all your other options to help straighten your teeth before you commit to traditional braces, such as:
ClearCorrect or Invisalign Aligners: These braces do not use wires to straighten teeth so tend to be more comfortable. Instead, they use virtually invisible aligners made of clear acrylic molded to the exact shape and size of your teeth. No adjustments are required, as the system works by replacing the aligners every few weeks at home.
You see the same results, but without the adjustments and wires. Although you will probably experience “discomfort” when you put in a new set of aligners, you can insert them at bedtime. Take over-the-counter pain medication and the worst of it will happen while you sleep.
FASTBRACES®: This technology is like traditional braces, but completes your treatment in as little as 100 days. So, although you still go through the same procedure, you only have to worry about intermittent pain for months as opposed to years. The treatment is faster because instead of first moving the crowns and then the roots, the roots are moved into an upright position from day one.
Although there isn’t a solution we can guarantee that will be completely pain-free, these tips on how to relieve braces pain will help, and we hope you’ll agree that the beautiful new smile you’ll have in the end will be worth it.