Are you one of the 4 million people in the U.S. who are using braces to correct crooked teeth, close gaps or realign an over- or under-bite? One Orthodontic.org study revealed as much as 80% of teenagers will seek orthodontic care; however, there has been a recent resurgence in adults choosing to do the same. But no matter your age, braces do have a tendency to cause moderate to severe discomfort.
This is especially true during the first several days after getting braces put on for the first time, and upon each tightening (usually every four to six weeks). Generally, the pain is due to the pressure which gets applied and the subsequent movement of your teeth. Although this movement is the ultimate goal, soft tissues around the teeth and gums can easily become inflamed. You may also experience pain or soreness in your jaw and/or small cuts on your inner cheeks and lips from metal brackets and wires.
While taking over-the-counter pain relievers right before you get your braces tightened can help, we also recommend the following when you’re experiencing discomfort as a result of your braces. If you are experiencing sharp tooth pain, swelling or pain in the gums, bleeding or another symptom make an emergency dental appointment.
It is important to note that severe pain in the gums while undergoing orthodontic treatment is not normal, so you should alert your dentist if you experience pain that lasts more than a few days. However, it is not uncommon for small bits of food to get trapped under a bracket or lodged below the gum line. If you notice this happening, you can use an interdentally toothbrush (Proxabrush) to dislodge it. You can also use a warm salt water rinse to address any damage or soft tissue sensitivity. As a preventative, we also ask that you brush your teeth and gums after each meal, including snacks.
If you’re feeling discomfort in the TMJ (or jaw joint) you’re not alone. You may even notice some irregular pops and clicks as teeth and jaw structures shift. This is no cause for alarm. These symptoms happen naturally as things move into alignment. Be sure to discuss any discomfort during your regularly scheduled tightening, and monitor the situation in case the pain increases.
It’s not at all uncommon for brackets, rubber band hooks and wires to irritate soft tissues such as cheeks, lips and gums. Fortunately, a small pea-sized piece of dental wax can be smoothed over individual brackets or any sharp wire ends which may be loose or broken to help prevent sores. (For existing sores, you can promote healing by rinsing with warm salt water several times a day.) Even when using dental wax, it is important to continue brushing after food intake. The wax may be applied to your braces as often as is needed and is harmless if swallowed.