Guide to Braces

Do Braces Hurt/What to Expect

One of the most commonly asked questions about braces is whether placing them causes any pain or discomfort. The honest answer is that braces do not hurt at all when they are applied to the teeth, so there is no reason to be anxious about the placement appointment. There will be mild soreness or discomfort after the orthodontic wire is engaged into the newly placed brackets, which may last for a few days to a week. Most patients experience some discomfort the first 4 days to a week after their braces, expanders, and/or wires are placed and after a wire adjustment and/or an activation appointment. Your lips and cheeks may need one to two weeks to get used to the braces on your teeth. All the appliances and wires that we use are cutting-edge, and exert very light, continuous, and biologically sound forces that greatly decrease any soreness associated with orthodontic treatment. But, some mild, and rarely moderate, discomfort is still to be expected. Each person will gradually adapt to the discomfort associated with the orthodontic tooth movement.

Here is an overview of what you can expect when getting braces:

Placement day

The placement of braces will not be painful in the slightest. In the first few hours after the braces are placed it may take longer to eat meals, but this is largely because it takes some time to adjust to wearing the braces and to learn to chew with them. In some cases, the teeth may feel more sensitive than usual. Hard, difficult to chew foods should be avoided in favor of a softer, more liquid-based diet (shakes, soups, yogurt, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, etc..) for the first few days after placement of braces. As the day progresses you may begin to feel slight discomfort as the teeth begin to move.

Two to three days after placement

The first several days after placement of braces can be a little uncomfortable. This is because the teeth are beginning the realignment process and are not used to the pressure of the archwire and elastic ties. We will provide and show you how to use relief wax/silicone to apply over the braces as necessary. Wax/silicone creates a smooth surface and alleviates irritation on the inner cheeks and lips. Additionally, over-the-counter pain medication (ibuprofen ie. Motrin and Advil usually works best if no allergies exist) may be taken as directed in combination with a rigorous regimen of salt water rinses to relieve the soreness.

Five days after placement

After five days to a week, any initial discomfort associated with the braces should be gone or much improved. The teeth will have gradually acclimated to the braces, and eating should be much easier. Certain hard foods may still pose a challenge to the wearer, but normal eating may be resumed at this point. Make sure to avoid any foods considered to be brace breakers!

Broken Braces

All Retainers need to be replaced.  Retainers are for life.  Broken or loose braces are generally not considered an urgent problem in most cases. There are times when a loose brace may cause some problems, however, so it is best to call our office when the problem occurs and ask for our recommendation. When a bracket comes off of a tooth, it is still normally attached to the wire with an elastics tie. This will prevent the bracket from being swallowed, but it may move or spin around on the wire. If this is a problem for the patient, a little wax pressed against the bracket will keep it from moving around.

Poking Wire

Many times as the teeth move in the early phase of treatment, the wire used to straighten the teeth has no place to go except out the back of the molar band area. Also, if spaces are being closed or if the bite is being corrected, the wire will begin to get longer at the back of the braces. Fortunately, most times this can be handled at home very simply with some orthodontic wax. It is important to try and dry the area first (with a paper towel), then roll up a piece of wax into a ball. Place the ball of wax into the area of the poking wire. The wax will smooth the area and keep the tissue from getting caught on the end. If wax does not resolve the pain, our office should be called so that the wire can be clipped.

Orthodontic pain and discomfort

As was previously discussed, pain and discomfort is a normal part of orthodontic treatment. Some patients will be surprised by this fact, even though they have been warned of the possibility. The pain tends to occur about 4-6 hours after the braces are placed or after an adjustment appointment. Over the next day or two, the pain will progressively become worse. Then, after days 3-5, the pain will begin to subside. Dr. Moreau recommends over the counter pain medication just prior to and after the adjustment appointments. This allows the medication to already be in the system before the pain begins, improving the effectiveness. The braces have a tendency to feel rough against the cheeks, lips, and tongue, especially soon after the braces are placed. This will sometimes lead to soreness and cause discomfort. The tissues will develop a callous over time, so this becomes less of a problem while treatment progresses. In the initial stages of treatment, wax can be used in areas that are particularly painful. However, limiting the use of wax will help the patient build up the callous tissues. Temporary pain relief can also be obtained with topical anesthetics.


Significant dental injuries while in braces can be traumatic to the patient. Immediate care should be sought from a physician and dentist in those cases. In some cases, the braces have been known to actually prevent loss of teeth, since the braces and wires had provided stability.

Lost/Broken Retainers

There are a number of variables that determine whether this is an urgent situation or not. For example, if the braces had recently been removed, there is a greater chance that the teeth will shift and move if a retainer is not replaced relatively quickly. However, every patient may differ with the potential amount of relapse. Also, certain types of tooth movements may have a greater tendency for relapse than others. For example, a space between the upper front teeth may have a greater tendency to reopen in some patients, so it may be important to replace the retainer. If a patient has been out of braces for a long period of time, and the teeth are in a relatively stable position, the chance of significant shifting may be low.

Swallowing Braces and Appliances

Swallowing braces or other appliances used during orthodontic treatment tends to occur relatively infrequently. This is because the braces and bands are normally still attached to the wire if they become loosened from a tooth. However, if it does occur, it is best to seek advice from the dentist, the orthodontist or physician right away. Fortunately, the braces and rubber bands used for orthodontic treatment are quite small, and the patient will usually pass them without difficulty.

Foods to avoid with braces

  • Hard candy
  • Popcorn
  • Chewy, sticky candy
  • Chunky peanut butter
  • Nuts
  • Caramel
  • Gooey chocolate bars

There are also foods you should use caution with, such as corn on the cob and apples.  It’s best to cut the corn off of the cob and eat it with a fork and apples can be cut into slices before you eat them.

As a rule, you should also keep soda and sugary drinks to a bare minimum as these cause tooth decay.  If you choose these, it’s best to rinse afterward with water.  Water is always the best choice for a healthy beverage.

With Invisalign, brushing and flossing is the same as done before your treatment started.