6 Steps to Brace Against Orthodontic Discomfort

Photo of twins wearing braces

Many patients approach orthodontic treatment with some anxiety, often pertaining to the uncertainty about whether braces will hurt and how much. While it is true that braces can at times be uncomfortable, the majority of one’s treatment usually includes minimal or no pain.

Your teeth are most likely to be sore after the orthodontist initially applies braces, and for a few days after each adjustment. But with some simple strategies you can keep the pain at bay.

Eat Cold or Frozen Treats

Applying cold can help numb the pain after an adjustment, and even reduce the swelling in the gums and tissues. Several minutes of contact with the cold will produce the best results, so this might be the time to allow your child more than one treat. It is a great idea to have plenty of popsicles in the freezer while you or your child is wearing braces. If you are worried about too many sweets, try purchasing sugar-free popsicles or icy snacks. You also can have your child apply cold compresses to the sides of his face.

Use Orthodontic Wax

Many orthodontists will provide a special type of wax after each adjustment. Applying this wax to the braces, teeth and gums helps reduce friction between your appliance and the mouth, which quells the discomfort. You can apply the wax across your braces or on specific teeth that are acting up. Remove some wax from its container and squish it with your fingers to make a small mold to fit over the tooth. Don’t worry if your child accidentally swallows some as it is nontoxic. It is a good idea to apply wax after meals, but remember to remove it before brushing.

Rinse With Warm Salt Water

Another quick and simple, yet effective, remedy is to prepare a warm salt water rinse when your child is experiencing discomfort. Salt has natural healing properties, as well as the capacity to limit bacteria growth in the mouth. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of warm water and have your child rinse thoroughly. Repeat this process every few hours.

Practice Good Dental Hygiene

Believe it or not, the pain one will get from braces typically increases if the mouth is not appropriately cleaned. Parents cannot stress the importance enough to their children of following your orthodontist’s’ instructions for cleaning the teeth, as well as braces. Brackets and other orthodontic appliances allow plaque to build up in the teeth and gums, which can cause painful inflammatory responses in addition to cavities.

Eat Soft Foods

Your orthodontist will provide a list of foods to avoid throughout your braces’ treatment to prevent damage to appliances. But while crunchy and sticky snacks might be off limits throughout your time in braces, it is most important after adjustments to find soft foods that are easy to chew and swallow. Try adding yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese, tuna, eggs, smooth peanut butter, mashed potatoes, and canned fruits and vegetables to your grocery list.

Topical Medications

A number of over-the-counter topical ointments can help alleviate pain after adjustments. These are typically anesthetic, such as Anbesol and Orajel, and numb the area they are applied to for a few hours. The active ingredient in these products is usually benzocaine, which causes numbness in the area where it is applied by blocking nerve pain signals. Follow the instructions on the label as to how often it is safe to re-apply these numbing agents, as serious side effects can occur with overuse.

Our friendly staff at each of Orthodontic Associates’ nine locations around Baltimore is happy to answer any questions you have about alleviating discomfort from braces. We strive to make your time in braces as seamless as possible, and look forward to making you smile.


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