Braces are used to treat dental problems like malocclusion (bad bite), crooked teeth, and crowding. Orthodontic treatment can take months or even years to complete, with teeth moving into their proper positions over time. In order for treatment to progress, your orthodontist must tighten braces on a regular basis.
What happens during a braces adjustment appointment?
Following the fitting of braces, everyone requires follow-up appointments. It allows your orthodontist to monitor your teeth’s progress to ensure they’re moving in the right direction, at the right angle, and at the right rate.
The term “tightening” most likely refers to a historical practice of straightening teeth with steel wires. Fine steel wires would be used to tie the orthodontic wires into place, and in some cases, the wire would be gradually engaged in the bracket by “tightening” these fine wires. This has historically been a difficult process. Wires used in modern orthodontics are much softer and generally have incredible springiness, and they are clipped in with a cover or an elastic with significantly less force than when steel wires were used. Your orthodontist will unclip the cove or remove the elastics around the brackets during appointments and gradually increase the size of the wire or activate the wire to slowly move the teeth into position. Although the process of placing larger, stiffer wires may feel more difficult than placing the first wires, you will notice the teeth gradually moving into place.
Is there anything I should do differently after my adjustment appointment?
Following this appointment, your orthodontist will give you instructions on anything that has changed. For example, you may need to wear elastics for the first time, in which case they will show you how to put them on and take them off to eat and brush your teeth, but new wires may cause mild discomfort (usually does not exceed 1-2 days).
When braces are adjusted, will I be sore?
Your teeth may feel sore for a few hours to a few days after your orthodontist adjusts your braces. After this period, your teeth will become accustomed to the new archwire, and the discomfort will be gone. You may not feel any pressure after some appointments, but you may feel it after others.
Things you can do to alleviate the discomfort
Over-the-counter pain relievers are recommended if needed.
If your teeth are sore and you’re at home, apply a cold/ice compress to the outside of your jaw and lower cheeks. The cold compress can help to reduce inflammation. Drinking ice cold water can also help relieve sore gums and reduce inflammation.
You could also apply an oral numbing gel to your gums. To desensitize sensitive areas of the mouth, apply the gel with a clean finger. Even gently massaging the gums with your finger can help relieve soreness by increasing blood flow to the area.
Diet of soft foods
Eat soft foods until your teeth have adjusted to the new wire if your teeth are sore. It will be easier to consume any food that does not require chewing. Some good soft food choices are:
- Potatoes mashed
- stews and soups
- Tender meats cooked slowly
- Smoothies and milkshakes
- Sorbets of fruit
Brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice daily is important, even if your teeth are sore. You don’t want plaque to build up on your teeth because it can lead to discoloration or decay.
Consider the end result
Braces “soreness” appointments are usually the initial appointments (because that’s the start of when your teeth are moving). Your teeth are still getting used to wearing braces and moving in the gums during the first few appointments. Later appointments in your treatment will undoubtedly be more comfortable.
Keep in mind how great your teeth will look once you’ve completed treatment. As you enjoy perfectly aligned teeth that should last a lifetime, the discomfort will fade away.
If you have any problems with your braces, don’t wait until your next follow-up appointment. If the archwire breaks, the wire pokes into your cheek, or a bracket falls off the tooth, call your orthodontist right away. They will let you know if you need to come to the office right away or if there is something you can do at home to solve the problem.
Choosing an Orthodontic specialist in Texas
The doctors at the Texas Association of Orthodontists are dedicated in helping transform and improve the smiles of children, adolescents, and adults. Search our online directory of members to find a specialist near you and take the first step toward improving your smile!