How much do braces hurt is a great question. And whether it’s you getting braces or a loved one, the process can make you a little nervous. In fact, two of the frequently asked questions include: How much do braces hurt and why do braces hurt after tightening?
Okay, let’s be truthful here: In answering your questions on how much do braces hurt, the answer is – braces can hurt somewhat. Though the process of putting them on is mostly painless, the job of braces is to move your teeth. As they do, your mouth becomes extra sensitive, and pain is often the result.
The good news is that the pain is manageable. If you know what to expect, and you follow your orthodontists’ plan, the entire process will be quicker and less painful.
What to Expect: When and How Much Do Braces Hurt?
Getting your braces put on for the first time
There should be little to no pain when braces are first applied to your teeth (or those of your loved one). That said, the process does take a while—typically 1-2 hours—and can be unpleasant, especially for younger kids. It is also possible that your gums and lips will be a little sore afterward, just as they might be after a typical trip to the dentist. In short, you or your loved one might be uncomfortable when first getting braces put on, but few patients report actual pain.
Right after getting your braces
At this stage your teeth have not yet moved from their positions, so they will not be overly sensitive. You will, however, have to adjust to your new life with braces. Eating will be trickier, for example; it’s best to start out with softer foods (think soups, yogurt, cheese, mashed potatoes, etc.). Some patients also report having to get used to the wires and elastics in their mouth, especially when there are sharp edges, as these can cause irritation. A little balled-up wax can soften any sharp spots; just ask your orthodontist for some.
The first few week after getting your braces
As your teeth begin to shift, you will experience some pain and discomfort in your mouth. If the pain begins to affect your daily routine, you can take over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol). That said, modern braces are specifically designed to be lightweight and gentle, and so pain is rare.
After the first week
As your teeth begin to settle in, any pain you might have experienced will lessen. (So, the answer to the question “How much do braces hurt when you first get them?” is “Usually no more than a week!”). Still, it’s not time to celebrate just yet: That lack of pain sensation also signals that your teeth have gotten as far as they can go with your current configuration. This means that soon your orthodontist will want to tighten your braces.
Tightening your braces, and afterward
It is not uncommon for your braces to hurt again after tightening. When your braces are tightened, they are applying new force to your teeth to keep them moving into position. This can make them sensitive once again. For the first few days after getting your braces tightened, it might be a good idea to go back to those soft foods.
If you feel intense pain or pain that differs from what is described above, it might be a sign that something is going wrong. The best thing to do is to contact your orthodontist immediately to see if there is a problem that needs addressing. Some warning signs can include:
- Sudden, sharp pain in a tooth or spot on your gums
- A poking or stabbing sensation (often from a protruding wire)
- Brackets become loose or fall off
- One or more teeth chip and begin to hurt
- Pain that lasts more than five days after tightening
- Extreme sensitivity to hot or cold foods
Tips for Dealing With the Discomfort of Braces
Braces can be uncomfortable, but most people find ways to manage the discomfort.
If you often find yourself wondering, “how much do braces hurt,” here are a few tips to try:
- Try frozen treats like popsicles. The cold will help numb your mouth. (Kids love this idea, by the way.)
- Try a topic analgesic like Anbesol. It might feel weird, but it can numb the pain.
- Use over-the-counter medication in moderation. Again, ibuprofen and acetaminophen seem to work best.
- Use the orthodontist’s wax to cover sharp edges or wires that bother you.
- Rinse with warm salt water; it’s good for helping heal cuts and sores in your mouth.
- Brush and floss regularly and keep up a healthy oral health routine.
- Read up on foods to avoid with braces, as well as foods that are braces-friendly.
- Also avoid acidic drinks, like orange juice and tomato juice. Some people report that these make the irritation worse.
- Exercise your mouth by chewing. Yes, the more you use your mouth, the more quickly your teeth will fall into their new spaces!
- If all else fails, have your orthodontist “un-tighten” your braces. As a last resort, you can have your orthodontist release some of the tension. Your mouth will likely return to normal in a few days.
The Happy Tooth Does Braces Better
If you or your child needs to get braces, come to a dentist that understands the anxiety and will do everything possible to make the process pain-free and stress-free.