When braces are first applied, it can take several days to get used to the new appliances. During this time, the mouth may feel tender or sore. While soreness is rarely problematic enough to warrant additional dental care, contact your orthodontist if soreness becomes highly uncomfortable.
Causes of Orthodontic Soreness
When braces are initially applied or the archwire is changed during an orthodontic adjustment appointment, teeth start to gradually shift toward their new destination. This initial movement causes adjacent tissue to become inflamed. This inflammation causes fibers that join the teeth to the jawbone and gums (periodontal ligaments) to swell. The swelling in turn leads to compressed nerve fibers, which are the true cause of orthodontic soreness.
What Can Be Done to Ease Soreness?
It is important to remember that orthodontic discomfort generally decreases within a few days. After the initial affixation of braces, it can take between one and two weeks for the tissues of the tongue, cheek and lips to adapt to the new orthodontic device. There are several home remedies, however, that will help ease initial discomfort:
Orthodontic relief wax is usually provided at your appointment and can be applied to the braces as required. If the soreness is being caused by braces rubbing on the cheek, lip or tongue, the wax provides a smooth, effective buffer between the two. Roll a pea-sized amount of wax into a ball and place it the protruding and bothersome part of the appliance. Press the wax into place to efficiently cover any irritating wires.
Salt Water Rinses
Warm salty water is an excellent remedy for sore lips, gums and cheeks. The salt water mixture actually extracts excess fluid in inflamed tissue by way of osmosis, alleviating pressure on the nerves and easing soreness. To utilize this remedy, add a teaspoon of salt to around half a cup of lukewarm water. Swish the water around the mouth without gargling for one minute before spitting it out.
Chewing on Soft Foods
To further ensure comfort, you can also chewing on soft foods that won’t damage your braces. Apple and cheese slices work nicely, as do small celery slices. The chewing action compresses the fibers that fix the teeth and gums together (periodontal ligaments), thus pumping out the fluid accumulation that causes soreness.
Not only do berries contain high levels of antioxidants, they can also substantially reduce intraoral swelling. Cherries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries all contain natural anti-inflammatory properties which reduce soreness. Cherries are preferable because they are soft enough not to damage the braces and do not contain small seeds which tend to stick between the braces.
While it is unlikely that orthodontic soreness will warrant over-the-counter pain medications, some patients choose to alleviate soreness this way.
If you have any questions or concerns about orthodontic soreness, please contact your oral health provider.