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Understanding Why Teeth Hurt During Orthodontic Treatment

Updated: Sep 28, 2023


Young girl with braces

Embarking on an orthodontic journey is a step towards a healthier, more confident smile. However, for many individuals, the path to straighter teeth comes with a side effect: discomfort. It's not uncommon to experience some level of pain or discomfort during orthodontic treatment, but understanding the reasons behind this sensation can help ease your concerns. In this article, we'll delve into why teeth may hurt during orthodontic treatment and offer some tips to manage the discomfort effectively.


The Mechanics of Orthodontic Treatment: To comprehend why teeth can hurt during orthodontic treatment, it's essential to understand the mechanics of how braces or aligners work. Orthodontic devices exert gentle pressure on your teeth, encouraging them to gradually shift into their desired positions. This movement involves the reshaping of the bone surrounding the teeth, causing the bone to break down and rebuild. While this process is crucial for achieving a straighter smile, it can lead to discomfort as your teeth adjust to their new positions.


Initial Placement and Adjustment Period: When you first get your braces or aligners, your teeth are not accustomed to the pressure being applied to them. This can lead to initial soreness as your teeth start to move. Similarly, every time our orthodontic team adjusts your braces or changes your aligners, your teeth experience a new level of pressure. This often results in temporary discomfort as your teeth adapt to the changes.


Soft Tissue Irritation: It's not just your teeth that can feel the effects of orthodontic treatment; your soft tissues, including your cheeks, lips, and tongue, may also experience irritation. The brackets, wires, or aligners can rub against these sensitive areas, causing minor sores or abrasions. While not directly related to your teeth, this discomfort can contribute to an overall sense of unease during treatment.


Inflammation and Bone Resorption: As your teeth shift, the bone surrounding them undergoes a remodeling process known as bone resorption. This involves the breakdown of bone tissue in response to pressure and the subsequent formation of new bone tissue as the teeth move. This cycle of resorption and new bone formation can lead to localized inflammation, which can result in discomfort. It's important to note that this inflammation is a natural part of the tooth movement process and is generally temporary.


Tips to Manage Discomfort: While experiencing discomfort during orthodontic treatment is normal, there are several strategies you can employ to manage the pain effectively:

  1. Over-the-Counter Pain Relief: Non-prescription pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can provide temporary relief from orthodontic discomfort. Consult Dr. Bloom before taking any medication to ensure it's safe for your individual situation.

  2. Orthodontic Wax: Orthodontic wax is a lifesaver when it comes to soft tissue irritation. Applying a small amount of wax to the brackets, wires, or aligners that are causing discomfort can create a protective barrier between the appliance and your cheeks, lips, or tongue.

  3. Saltwater Rinses: Rinsing your mouth with a warm saltwater solution can help soothe sore gums and promote healing if you experience any irritation.

  4. Cold Compress: Applying a cold compress or ice pack to the outside of your mouth can help reduce inflammation, providing temporary relief.

  5. Soft Diet: During periods of heightened discomfort, opt for a soft diet that minimizes the need for excessive chewing. This can alleviate pressure on your teeth and reduce any additional discomfort from chewing.

  6. Distraction Techniques: Engaging in activities that take your mind off the discomfort, such as listening to music, reading a book, or watching a movie, can help you cope with the sensation more effectively.

  7. Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps maintain oral health and can minimize dryness and discomfort in the mouth.

  8. Patience and Positive Mindset: Remember that the discomfort you're experiencing is a sign that your orthodontic treatment is working. Keeping a positive mindset and focusing on the end goal of a beautifully aligned smile can make the discomfort more manageable.

Consult Your Orthodontist: If your discomfort is severe, persistent, or accompanied by unusual symptoms, don't hesitate to contact the team at Bloom Orthodontics. They are the best resource for addressing your concerns and ensuring that your treatment is progressing as expected.


Conclusion: Experiencing discomfort during orthodontic treatment is a normal part of the process as your teeth shift and adapt to their new positions. The sensation arises from the mechanics of orthodontic devices, the bone remodeling process, and potential soft tissue irritation. By understanding the reasons behind the discomfort and employing effective management strategies, you can navigate this temporary phase with greater ease. Remember that the end result—a healthier, straighter smile—is well worth the minor discomfort along the way.

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