Orthodontic treatment can have a serious impact on the way that your smile looks. Not only can braces help with a range of malocclusion and dental problems, but they can also improve your confidence and self-esteem. While braces are highly beneficial to patients with orthodontic issues, they can also sometimes be painful.
Often, braces are most uncomfortable both when they are first placed, and each time they are tightened. Some patients tolerate this discomfort well and rarely need any pain relief, while others benefit from home remedies that can help in reducing pain and discomfort so that orthodontic treatment is more comfortable. Learning more about the options available to help with orthodontic pain can help you be prepared.
Here are some things you can do at home to relieve your orthodontic pain:
Most oral anesthetics, commonly referred to as topical anesthetics, contain an ingredient known as benzocaine. Benzocaine helps to numb the area where it is applied and can help sooth orthodontic-related pain and discomfort. Some products include clove oil or menthol to provide even more pain-relieving benefits.
It is important to follow all instructions on the label of your topical anesthetic to ensure you’re using it properly. The product can be applied either with a cotton swab or with a clean finger. Most products have to be applied directly to the area that is causing you pain and should be reapplied every few hours.
Ice Packs and Cold Foods
Ice packs are ideal for reducing inflammation and swelling that comes as a result of having braces. You can apply a homemade ice pack directly to your cheek, allowing it to penetrate through and reach the area where the braces are placed.
It’s important to avoid chewing or sucking on ice, as this can break your braces and create the need for an emergency orthodontic appointment. Cold foods like ice cream and smoothies can provide significant pain relief in areas where the braces are causing discomfort. When using an ice pack, you may want to place it over a washcloth to prevent the cold from being too extreme for you.
Over-the-Counter Pain Medication
Over-the-counter pain medication is ideal for reducing pain and discomfort related to braces. Two of the most common medications used are acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil). Advil, in particular, can reduce swelling, which can be beneficial for patients who have mild to moderate inflammation as a result of the braces having been placed or tightened. Read all instructions on the medication’s label before taking anything and avoid NSAIDs if you are on blood thinners or have heart disease or are pregnant.
Orthodontic wax is beneficial for protecting soft tissue in the mouth that is being scraped or irritated by the braces. You may need orthodontic wax for wires that feel sharp or that are irritating certain areas of the mouth. Wax can be applied to brackets that are coming into contact with the inner cheeks or lips.
The wax can be broken off into small pieces and applied to virtually any area of the mouth. Orthodontic wax can be found in most drugstores and stores selling dental products. It is clear and safe to use for oral application. If you find yourself having to use orthodontic wax for overly sharp areas of wiring or bracketing, make an appointment with your provider.
Warm Salt Water Rinses
Warm salt water rinses help with a variety of dental problems. They help with infections and abscesses in the mouth as well as issues with impacted wisdom teeth and pain. If your braces are causing you pain or discomfort, a warm salt water rinse can help to alleviate the pain and reduce swelling and inflammation.
To make your own saltwater rinse at home, use 1/2 teaspoon of regular table salt to a cup of warm water. Stir the salt into the water until it dissolves and use it similarly to how you’d use a mouthwash. You can do a warm salt water rinse as often as needed as it is safe and effective for orthodontic patients.
Switch to Softer Foods
Eating only soft foods can relieve much of your pain and discomfort when wearing braces. Hard foods like veggies, fruits, candies, and pretzels can cause discomfort and pain. Likewise, hard and chewy foods can cause brackets to dislodge or wiring to break making caring for your braces more difficult. Switching to a soft food diet can help in reducing pain, swelling, and tenderness. Some of the best foods to eat when you have braces include:
- Ice Cream
- Mashed Potatoes
It’s important to stick to a soft food diet after having your braces first placed as well as after having them tightened. Avoiding hard, crunchy, sticky, and chewy foods for the remainder of your orthodontic treatment can help to prevent discomfort and an emergency trip to the office.
Finding the Right Solution for You
Orthodontic pain and discomfort is completely normal and should be expected with braces. While some lucky patients don’t experience any soreness at all, it’s not uncommon to have some level of tenderness after having braces placed or tightened. The key to using pain relief at home is finding what works best for you. Some patients stick strictly to topical anesthetics while others find relief in ice packs and warm salt water rinses. You may find that using a mixture of home remedies works best for you and provides a greater source of relief to any discomfort you’re experiencing.
It is also important to note that orthodontic and dental emergencies can and do happen. If you’re experiencing a great deal of pain or are using orthodontic wax for an area of wire that is sharp, loose or dislodged, it’s crucial to call the office immediately. Orthodontic emergencies can be handled quickly and can help to provide the most significant level of pain relief if there is more of an insidious problem rather than just typical tenderness and soreness. As you become used to wearing braces, you may find that you need very little pain relief or none at all until treatment is complete and the braces can be removed.