How to treat the discomfort of new orthodontic braces:
Investing in braces is well worth it to create a beautiful, healthy smile you’ll be able to enjoy for years to come. However, braces pain is uncomfortable, especially right after your orthodontist has adjusted your braces. While most braces pain is short-term and highly treatable, it can be very miserable. Taking a few simple steps to relieve your pain makes a big difference in your general day to day comfort.
Use an ice pack or grab a cold drink
Applying an ice pack or sipping on a cold drink works just like applying a cold compress to an injury. Ice or an icy drink significantly helps decrease swelling and inflammation as well as general pain. Ice water, popsicles, and freeze pops are all perfect options for soothing your painful mouth.
A frozen teething ring may seem a little unorthodox but is another great option for relieving braces pain. A teething ring often offers some relief on its own, but it’s most effective when it’s frozen. Simply place the ring in your mouth, position it in the area with the most pain, and chew on it gently. Rotate the teething ring to other areas of the mouth with pain as needed until your discomfort subsides.
Gargle or swish with warm salt water
In some instances, you may develop sores on your gums or cheeks as they grow accustomed to your braces. Swish with warm salt water for 60 seconds or gargle with warm salt water for 10-15 seconds to decrease irritation and relieve general soreness.
Massage your gums
A massage helps ease muscle pain in virtually any part of the body. The gums are no exception. Simply take one finger and gently rub the area around the gums. For further relief, run an ice cube on your gums before massaging them. Massaging swollen gums also helps relax the gum tissue, so the braces are slightly more comfortable.
Eat softer foods
Following a braces adjustment, your teeth and gums may be overly sensitive, making it painful to eat crunchy or hard foods, such as chips, pretzels, and raw vegetables. Opt for softer foods and drinks, including soups, yogurt, mashed potatoes, pudding, and smoothies, which don’t require as much chewing.
Use orthodontist wax
Orthodontist wax offers a type of barrier between the inside portion of the lips and cheeks and the braces bracket to minimize gum irritation. You can apply orthodontist wax to your gums, teeth, and braces to reduce friction and consequently, pain. Break off a small piece of wax and form it into a small mold. Place the mold on the irritated area. Leave the mold on until you’re ready to brush and floss your teeth. Re-apply the wax as needed. It’s okay if you swallow the wax accidentally, as it’s non-toxic.
Use a heating pad
A heating pad or warm washcloth may provide some relief if you’re suffering from severe pain and haven’t gotten any relief from an ice pack or frozen treat. Apply the heating pad to the painful area in or around the jaw. You may use the heating pad multiple times per day to maximize relief.
Take pain relief medication
An over-the-counter pain relief medication is an ideal short-term solution for braces pain relief when nothing else is working. Limit pain relief medication to periods when you really need it and always take the proper dosage.
Practice better oral hygiene
Many people experience severe pain following braces adjustments because they have poor dental hygiene habits. Cleaning your teeth and your braces regularly it critical for your well-being and general comfort level. Brush and floss your teeth immediately following meals to remove food particles, reducing plaque buildup. Brush each tooth carefully, using several brushing strokes in each direction. After using your regular toothbrush, take an interproximal brush to work in between the teeth and braces. When you floss your teeth, feed the floss in between the braces, working carefully without forcing the braces’ arch wire.
A braces adjustment is almost always followed by some level of discomfort. The exact discomfort will vary quite a bit from one braces wearer to the next. If common symptom relief techniques aren’t working or you’re experiencing unusual side effects, consult with your orthodontist or another dental professional.
Dr Gerald O’Connor is the principal dentist and owner of Killiney Dental. Dr O’Connor graduated with an honours dental degree from University College Cork in 1998. He has since worked as a general dental surgeon in the UK and Ireland and has over 20 years experience in the dental field, with a particular interest in cosmetic and restorative dentistry. Dr O’Connor is an active member of the Irish Dental Association, sitting on its Quality Patient Safety Committee, and is a Irish Dental Council registered dentist.