Talk to pretty much anyone who is thinking about getting braces, and the number one question is always the same: are braces painful? It’s a great question, because aside from the way they look, the biggest thing stopping most people from getting braces is the idea that they’re going to be painful. The short answer? Yes, braces do hurt, but it’s not the constant discomfort that you might expect. The long answer? Read on to find out.
No pressure without pain
Before we answer this, it’s helpful to remember what braces are actually supposed to do: their job is to move and straighten your teeth. So, it’s natural to experience a little bit of pain. But what is that pain like? Well, it’s essentially an ongoing, low-level pressure that makes your gums and teeth more sensitive. However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll experience pain on a constant basis. You’re much more likely to feel a noticeable sensation while you’re eating. At other times it will be virtually unnoticeable.
The procedure where the dentist affixes the braces to your teeth isn’t likely to hurt at all. There will be some pressure from the elastic bands, while the bonding glue may taste unpleasant, but there’s no real pain involved. Younger kids may find the procedure a little difficult, as it typically lasts around 1.5 to 2 hours, but very few patients claim to experience actual pain when their braces are first put on.
The first week
In the immediate aftermath of your procedure, you may experience sores on the inside of your cheeks, in addition to cuts on your tongue. Plus, there’s the general discomfort of an unusual device being placed inside your mouth. As your braces start to do their job and your teeth begin to shift, you may feel some level of pain and discomfort. However, it’s unlikely that this pain will affect your day-to-day activities, although if it does over-the-counter medicine may help to reduce your symptoms. After you begin to get used to your braces, the soreness and discomfort will subside, and your braces will start to feel more natural.
After you get them tightened
Getting braces isn’t a one-time procedure, and at some point, you will need to head back to your orthodontist to get them tightened. Orthodontists tend to stagger the teeth-straightening process for one simple reason—if they didn’t, the pain would be almost unbearable, and you could end up damaging your teeth for good. After you get your braces tightened, you will feel more pain than usual, but it will subside after a couple of weeks.
Braces pain relief strategies
Although it’s inevitable that braces will hurt at some point in your orthodontic treatment, there are plenty of ways that you can get braces pain relief.
Orthodontic wax protects your lips, cheeks, and gums from the brackets of your braces, creating a barrier that stops them from irritating the inside of your mouth. Plus, it’s non-toxic, so you don’t need to worry about accidentally swallowing it.
Over-the-counter pain medicines are a good option for the pain you may experience after your braces are first put in, while they may also come in handy after a tightening session.
A warm, salt-water rinse can help to clear up any cuts or sores caused by the sharp ends of your braces to the inside of your mouth.
Oral anesthetics, such as Anbesol or Orajel, can be applied directly to the sensitive areas of your mouth for braces pain relief.
For a clearer picture of braces pain, talk to your orthodontist!
Medically reviewed by Dr. Natalie Pennington, DDS, March 2019