One of the most commonly asked questions about braces is whether placing them causes any pain or discomfort. The honest answer is that braces do not hurt at all when they are applied to the teeth, so there is no reason to be anxious about the placement appointment. There will be mild soreness or discomfort after the orthodontic wire is engaged into the newly placed brackets, which may last for a few days to a week. Most patients experience some discomfort the first 4 days to a week after their braces, expanders, and/or wires are placed and after a wire adjustment and/or an activation appointment. Your lips and cheeks may need one to two weeks to get used to the braces on your teeth. All the appliances and wires that we use are cutting-edge, and exert very light, continuous, and biologically sound forces that greatly decrease any soreness associated with orthodontic treatment. But, some mild, and rarely moderate, discomfort is still to be expected. Each person will gradually adapt to the discomfort associated with the orthodontic tooth movement. Over the counter pain relievers (Advil/Motrin work well) normally taken for headaches plus rigorous regimen of salt water rinses can be used to greatly ease the discomfort.
Here is an overview of what you can expect when getting braces:
The placement of braces will not be painful in the slightest. In the first few hours after the braces are placed it may take longer to eat meals, but this is largely because it takes some time to adjust to wearing the braces and to learn to chew with them. In some cases, the teeth may feel more sensitive than usual. Hard, difficult to chew foods should be avoided in favor of a softer, more liquid-based diet (shakes, soups, yogurt, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, etc..) for the first few days after placement of braces. As the day progresses you may begin to feel slight discomfort as the teeth begin to move.
Two to three days after placement
The first several days after placement of braces can be a little uncomfortable. This is because the teeth are beginning the realignment process and are not used to the pressure of the archwire and elastic ties. We will provide and show you how to use relief wax/silicone to apply over the braces as necessary. Wax/silicone creates a smooth surface and alleviates irritation on the inner cheeks and lips. Additionally, over-the-counter pain medication (ibuprofen ie. Motrin and Advil usually works best if no allergies exist) may be taken as directed in combination with a rigorous regimen of salt water rinses to relieve the soreness.
Five days after placement
After five days to a week, any initial discomfort associated with the braces should be gone or much improved. The teeth will have gradually acclimated to the braces, and eating should be much easier. Certain hard foods may still pose a challenge to the wearer, but normal eating may be resumed at this point. Make sure to avoid any foods considered to be brace breakers!
Regular orthodontic appointments are necessary for archwire changes, to change the elastic (colors) or metal ties around the braces, to make adjustments to the braces, and to monitor orthodontic treatment progress. Braces work by gradually moving the teeth into a new and proper alignment, so gentle activations may be applied during your regular adjustment visits. The first several days after an orthodontic adjustment or when you get a new wire may be slightly uncomfortable, but remember that this discomfort will quickly fade.
Dealing with discomfort
All orthodontic discomfort can be effectively managed. Over-the-counter pain medication (ibuprofen ie. Motrin and Advil usually works best if no allergies exist) and orthodontic relief wax/silicone will help alleviate any soreness and discomfort following placement of braces and orthodontic adjustment visits. If possible, begin the pain reliever before the soreness begins and continue it every few hours (per the manufacturer’s recommendations). Other effective and useful remedies are rigorous salt-water rinses (warm water combined with as much salt as you can tolerate, rinsing 6-12 times a day) and to chew sugar-free gum, as this increases blood flow to the supportive structures surrounding the teeth which helps to reduce orthodontic soreness/discomfort and can also encourage the teeth to move/align quicker.