A COMMON QUESTION we hear from patients is “will it hurt?”

First of all, modern braces are much more comfortable than they were 20 years ago. So don’t listen to silly stories from your uncle Fred. However, your mouth is a very sensitive place, so some patients experience a little bit of discomfort in the beginning or after their braces are tightened.

But you do want to know what kind of discomfort is normal, and what you should be talking to your orthodontist about. Sometimes, what you are experiencing means something is wrong, and your orthodontist can take a look to fix it.

If you are experiencing discomfort for more than 2 or 3 days, you may want to reach out and ask your orthodontist if you could come in for them to have a look.

So What’s Normal?

Everyone feels different. You may experience a mild aching pressure. Some people feel like their teeth are loose, and others can be irritated by the hard brackets rubbing against their cheeks and lips.

Usually, people feel that their jaw is sore and tight like they have done a workout for their teeth. Others feel more of a sharp jabbing sensation when they move their jaw. It all depends on the person, and how tight your braces are.

The good news is, all of this gets much better VERY quickly.

When you get your braces put on, those first few days after placing braces may be the hardest. It may take a week or two for things to feel normal, and it can take up to a month for you to get to the point where you don’t even notice your braces.

For the first weeks of having braces, you may experience rubbing from the braces on your cheeks as your mouth adjusts to the addition in its environment. The discomfort that comes with starting braces is different than tightening.

The discomfort with tightening lasts longer while new braces may take more time to adjust to.

After each tightening appointment, you may experience a day or two of discomfort, but it will go away quickly the longer you’re in braces since your teeth are put into their place, there is less movement to be made, so soon enough you will be a tighten pro!

What Can You Do To Minimize Discomfort?

  1. Plan meals with soft food for when you start treatment, and each day that you go in for a tightening. Some great soft foods for tightening days are pureed soups, yogurt, smoothies, cottage cheese, pudding, Jell-O, and baked or mashed potatoes, among others. Prepare your meals so you do not have to eat a steak or a chewy meal on the day of your tightening and the days after, as well.
  1. Don’t be stingy with the wax. Use it to cover a bracket or hook that’s rubbing against sensitive skin. The spots where the braces are rubbing and causing discomfort is where the skin is too soft and uncalloused. The wax will help prevent pain while the rubbing creates tougher skin in that spot.
  2. For pain and headaches, we may recommend taking a mild painkiller like Tylenol. The tightness in your jaw that comes with the tightening of your braces can cause temporary headaches, so combating that should be a tool in your toolbox. Some may take a mild pain reliever like Tylenol or Advil (make sure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients), while others will wrap their head in a hot or cold towel (depending on your preference.)
  3. DON’T pick at your braces. This can greatly increase your treatment time if you cause damage to them. (plus, that will make them cost more, too.) It can be hard not fiddling with them especially when they are bothering you, but resisting the urge to pick at them can prevent you from having weeks, if not months, added to your timeline.

Here are a few more tips about curing the post-tightening blues!

You can try massaging your jaw to loosen the tenderness in your muscles that surround your jaw. Doing this can help to relax the pressure, and disperse the lactic acid build-up that causes muscular soreness.  Easing this bothersome feeling can help you speed up the timeline of getting rid of your discomfort.

Everyone who has had or currently has braces knows the annoying parts, especially the tightening. If your friends have braces, talk to them about it! Give them a call and ask them what they do when they feel sore after a tightening. Sometimes the best remedy for discomfort is talking to someone who is going through it too.

If your parents went through having braces as a kid, ask them about their experience, and what they did to help ease their discomfort during tightening days. If your mom or dad had braces, they will certainly understand the discomfort you may be experiencing, and they can sympathize with your situation and help support you through it.

Or maybe go and tell someone (like a parent, close family friend, sibling, or friend)  that you need to complain for a minute, and just get all the annoyance off your chest! Letting it all out can help your mood, which might help you to forget about the bothersome tightness.

Hang In There! It’s Worth It!

If you have just started with braces and you’re feeling uncomfortable, hang in there— it will get much better! And if you are seasoned alumni of braces, let us know your take on braces discomfort below. Do you have any tips to add?

At best, tightening is another orthodontist visit. At worst, it is simply an annoyance and then a bit of discomfort. Do not panic over it, you will learn how to handle it in no time!

Once you get a handle on how to prepare and deal with tightening days, you will feel like you are in control, and your braces experience will be much easier. The plus side of all this? You can eat Jell-O for dinner once a month!