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Do Braces Hurt? Understanding Discomfort and Pain Management

Apr 10, 2024

When you're thinking about getting braces to improve your smile, a common question that arises is, "Do braces hurt?" It's natural to be concerned about discomfort or pain during orthodontic treatment. Knowing how to handle braces-related discomfort and having effective pain management strategies are essential for a smoother orthodontic experience. 

As per the American Dental Association, irregular bites start to show up between 6 and 12 years of age when children begin getting their adult teeth. Orthodontic procedures usually commence between 8 and 14 years old. However, there are cases where adults may also opt for braces.

Let's take a closer look at this topic to address common concerns and offer valuable insights for those considering or currently wearing braces.

Does getting braces hurt? 

Each person's experience with braces is unique, but here's a general overview of what you might expect during different stages of the treatment process. Let's find out, "Do braces hurt or not?"

Getting Braces: 

Before getting braces, some individuals may need to wear spacers or separators between their teeth for about a week or two. Initially, these spacers might feel tight and sore, similar to the sensation of food stuck between teeth, but the discomfort is usually temporary.

When the orthodontist first places the braces, there's typically no immediate pain. The process involves attaching bands around the back molars, which may cause temporary discomfort due to pressure or pinching but is not painful.

After the bands are set, the orthodontist cleans or "etches" the teeth using a slightly sour-tasting solution. Subsequently, they apply glue to the front of the teeth (top or bottom set, or both). While some individuals may not like the taste or texture of the etch and glue, these steps should not cause pain.

Next, the orthodontist individually mounts brackets on each tooth using a blue light to harden the glue. This part of the process is generally painless.

Finally, the orthodontist connects all the brackets with a wire and attaches each end of the wire to the bands around the molars at the back of the mouth. Elastic bands are then added to secure the wire in place.

Wearing braces 

When braces are initially placed, there's often no pain or discomfort. However, within a few hours, the gentle pressure exerted by the braces on the teeth begins to take effect.

The gradual pressure applied by the braces to align the teeth can cause discomfort and pain, lasting anywhere from a day to about a week.

During the first week, individuals may experience:

  • Sore gums
  • Scrapes or sores inside the cheeks from metal brackets rubbing against them
  • Potential tongue cuts if the tongue touches the braces
  • Soreness in teeth, especially when eating

As the body adjusts, individuals may become less aware of the braces. However, periodic tightening by the orthodontist is crucial for the braces to be effective.

During braces tightening, the orthodontist may:

  • Replace current wires
  • Add or adjust springs
  • Tighten bands to increase pressure on the teeth

Typically, braces are tightened monthly or as needed based on progress.

After tightening, individuals may feel discomfort similar to when they first got the braces, though it might be less intense. Pain is usually felt in the teeth and gums, while the cheeks and tongue have adapted to the braces, reducing abrasions in those areas.

Removing braces

While the duration can vary for each person, braces typically remain on for about 1 to 3 years. When it's time for removal, some discomfort may occur as the orthodontist takes them off.

The orthodontist begins by removing the brackets, bands, and wires, followed by a thorough cleaning to eliminate any remaining glue.

Next, the orthodontist fits the individual with a retainer, which helps maintain the teeth in their new positions post-braces.

Depending on the case, individuals may wear a removable retainer for a specific duration, either during the day or at night. The retainer should not cause additional discomfort.

Certain retainers are permanent and require the orthodontist to affix them to the teeth, similar to braces.

During the braces or retainer phase, maintaining proper oral hygiene can be challenging, potentially leading to cavities and tooth decay, which is painful.

Maintaining a clean mouth with good oral habits and avoiding sticky, sugary foods can significantly reduce the risk of cavities and tooth decay.

Tips for Pain Relief

When first getting braces or following brace tightening, many individuals experience mild-to-moderate discomfort or pain. While this discomfort subsides within a few days, there are several methods you can try for pain relief:

  • Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Use a warm saltwater rinse by mixing 1 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water.
  • Consume soft foods such as soup, ice cream, or yogurt, which require minimal chewing.
  • Opt for cold beverages or foods to numb the discomfort.
  • Apply a cloth-covered ice pack to the face for soothing relief.
  • Use topical anesthetics on the gums, such as a finger or cotton swab, for temporary relief.
  • Consider using soft wax provided by your orthodontist or purchased from a pharmacy to prevent braces from irritating the inner cheeks.
  • Avoid sticky foods, gum, and items that can get caught in or dislodge the braces.
  • Maintain proper oral hygiene by cleaning your teeth and braces thoroughly to prevent tooth decay.

When to visit the orthodontist? 

Here are some indicators of when to visit the orthodontist:

  • Regular Appointments: Keep up with scheduled visits for brace tightening as recommended by your orthodontist.
  • Dislodged Braces: If braces become dislodged, wires loosen, or bands come off, contact your orthodontist for an appointment.
  • Loose Wire or Bracket: Place wax on the wire or bracket to prevent irritation until your orthodontist appointment.
  • Persistent Severe Pain: Contact your orthodontist if you experience intense pain lasting beyond a few days or not relieved by pain relievers. This could indicate an issue with the braces or another underlying condition that needs attention.
  • Cheek or Tongue Irritation: Notify your orthodontist if wires or brackets cause repeated irritation to your cheeks or tongue despite using wax.


Do Braces Hurt? Experiencing discomfort or pain with braces is normal, especially during the initial stages or after adjustments. However, understanding what to expect and following proper care guidelines can significantly minimize any discomfort. Remember, the end result of a beautiful, healthy smile makes the temporary discomfort well worth it.

Ready to begin your journey towards a confident, beautiful smile? Book an appointment online with Afroz Burges, DDS, in Pearland, TX, today! New patients can call us at 281-547-2632, and all other callers can reach us at 713-340-2889. Don't let concerns about braces and discomfort hold you back from achieving the smile you deserve!


How much do braces hurt? 

Getting braces doesn't typically cause pain, but it's normal to experience minor discomfort. Some patients may feel soreness or aching in their jaw as their mouth adjusts to the braces.

Do Brace Hurt after tightening?

Brace tightening can cause some discomfort or pressure on the teeth and gums, but it is usually manageable and temporary. Most people describe it as a mild to moderate sensation rather than intense pain.

How can I manage braces pain? 

Pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help manage discomfort. Using a warm saltwater rinse, eating soft foods, and applying wax to brackets can also provide relief.



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