Effect of Pain Relievers on Tooth Movement

young school girl smiling with braces

One of the most-asked questions before someone gets braces is “will it hurt.” The simple answer is that braces usually are painless much of the time, but you can expect to have soreness and discomfort when the braces are first applied and after each adjustment. For how long and how much depends on what a particular adjustment is treating and the patient’s pain responses.

The source of the discomfort is the body’s inflammatory response from the mechanical pressure being applied to the teeth. Therefore, you might assume that taking anti-inflammatory drugs would be an effective way to cope with the discomfort from braces. But sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad.

Recent studies suggest that consistent use of these medications actually can contribute to the slowing down of tooth movement. In fact, some short-term pain relief might be the cause of a longer term in braces.


According to the NIH, there are many medications that can impact the rate of tooth movement; however, they found that a common culprit is anti-inflammatory drugs.

Numerous studies point to the effectiveness of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) in controlling the type of discomfort associated with tooth movement. And, as these are available as over-the-counter medications, most people do not consider that they could have a possible downside. Yet they can.

How Do NSAIDs Slow Tooth Movement?

Pain relieving pills coming out a bottleStudies showed that the NSAID drugs hinder chemical reactions that are necessary to follow up and start the restructuring the structures around the teeth after the mechanical process of applying pressure to them.

The NSAIDs reduce the amount of procollagen—an important part of collagen formation, which is used in the strengthening of many of the body’s tissues as well as bone and the periodontal structure rebuilding.

The NSAIDS medications in question include:

  • Ibuprofen (e.g. brand names Advil, Motrin)
  • Naproxen (e.g. brand names Aleve, Naprosyn)
  • COX-2 inhibitors (e.g. brand names Celebrex, Mobic)


Acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) is a recognized pain reliever, but it doesn’t reduce inflammation and so is not considered an anti-inflammatory. And as such, it does not affect tooth movement. making it a good pain reliever for pain with braces.

It is important to note that the discomfort from adjustments is usually short lived. And if you are looking for other ways to lessen the discomfort, there are more natural alternatives to look into. From smoothies and ice cream to gargling salt water, and frozen teething rings to ice cubes, you can experiment with other remedies if you are concerned with using NSAID’s or other pain relievers.

It is important to talk to your orthodontist about how you should use NSAIDS during your orthodontic treatment, especially regarding the amount, appropriate ages, and side effects before deciding on which medication to take.

Your discomfort management while in braces will be designed around your overall treatment plan. It is important to seek specific advice on the dose and length of time that it is OK to consume NSAIDS without affecting your orthodontic treatment.

Call one of our nine locations in the Baltimore region to receive more information about how Orthodontic Associates can make your time in braces as comfortable as possible. We look forward to making you smile.


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