Do Braces Hurt?
One of the most commonly asked questions about dental braces is whether placing them causes any pain or discomfort. The honest answer is that braces do not hurt at all when they are applied to the teeth, so there is no reason to be anxious. In most cases, there is mild soreness or discomfort after the orthodontic wire is engaged into the brackets, which may last for a few days.
There are two common types of fixed dental braces used to realign the teeth: ceramic fixed braces and metal fixed braces. Both types of fixed appliances include brackets that are affixed to each individual tooth and an archwire the orthodontist fits into the bracket slot to gently move the teeth into proper alignment. Elastic or wire ties will be applied to hold the wire in place. Some orthodontists may use technology brackets which do not require a rubber or wire tie to secure the wire.
Fixed dental braces are used to treat a wide variety of malocclusions, including overbite, underbite, crossbite, and overcrowding. If the orthodontist has determined that the malocclusion has been caused by overcrowding, it is possible that teeth may need to be extracted to increase the amount of available space to properly align the teeth.
What To Expect When Getting Braces
Here is an overview of what you can expect when getting braces:
- Placement Day – The placement of braces will not be painful in the slightest. It may take longer to eat meals, but this is large because it takes some time to adjust to wearing the braces. In some cases, the teeth may feel more sensitive than usual. Hard, difficult to chew foods should be avoided in favor of a softer, more liquid-based diet for the first few days after placement of braces.
- Two Days after Placement – The first several days after placement of braces can be slightly uncomfortable. This is because the teeth are beginning the realignment process and are not used to the pressure of the archwire and orthodontic elastic bands. The orthodontist will provide relief wax to apply over the braces as necessary. Wax helps provide a smooth surface and alleviates irritation on the inner cheeks and lips. Additionally, over-the-counter pain medication (e.g., Motrin® and Advil®) may be taken as directed to relieve mild soreness.
- Five Days after Placement – After five days, any initial discomfort associated with the braces should be completely gone. The teeth will have gradually acclimated to the braces, and eating should be much easier. Certain hard foods may still pose a challenge to the wearer, but normal eating may be resumed at this point.
- Orthodontic Appointments – Regular orthodontic appointments are necessary to allow the orthodontist to change the archwire, change the rubber or metal ties, and make adjustments to the braces. Fixed braces work by gradually moving the teeth into a new and proper alignment, so gentle pressure needs to be applied constantly. The first several days after an orthodontic adjustment may be slightly uncomfortable, but remember that this discomfort will quickly fade.
- Dealing with Discomfort – Over-the-counter pain medication and orthodontic relief wax will help alleviate any mild soreness and discomfort following the placement of braces and orthodontic adjustments. Another effective remedy is to chew sugar-free gum, as this increases blood flow which helps reduces discomfort and can also encourage the teeth to align quicker.
What Is A Malocclusion?
A malocclusion is an incorrect relationship between the maxilla (upper arch) and the mandible (lower arch), or a general misalignment of the teeth. Malocclusions are so common that most individuals experience one, to some degree. The poor alignment of the teeth is thought to be a result of genetic factors combined with poor oral habits, or other factors in the early years.
Moderate malocclusion commonly requires treatment by an orthodontist. Orthodontists are dentists who specialize in the treatment of malocclusions and other facial irregularities.
The following are three main classifications of malocclusion:
- Class I – The occlusion is typical, but there are spacing or overcrowding problems with the other teeth.
- Class II – The malocclusion is an overbite (the upper teeth are positioned further forward than the lower teeth). This can be caused by the protrusion of anterior teeth or the overlapping of the central teeth by the lateral teeth.
- Class III – Prognathism (also known as “underbite”) is a malocclusion caused by the lower teeth being positioned further forward than the upper teeth. An underbite usually occurs when the jawbone is large or the maxillary bone is short.
Reasons For Treating A Malocclusion
A severe malocclusion may lead to skeletal disharmony of the lower face. In a more extreme case, the orthodontist may work in combination with a maxillofacial dentist to reconstruct the jaw. It is never too late to seek treatment for malocclusion. Children and adults alike have completed orthodontic realignment procedures and have been delighted with the resulting even, straight smile.
Here are some of the main reasons to seek orthodontic treatment for a malocclusion:
- Reduced Risk of Tooth Decay – A malocclusion often causes an uneven wear pattern on the teeth. The constant wearing of the same teeth can lead to tooth erosion and decay.
- Better Oral Hygiene – A malocclusion can be caused by overcrowding. When too many teeth are competing for too little space, it can be difficult to clean the teeth and gums effectively. It is much easier to clean straight teeth that are properly aligned.
- Reduced Risk of TMJ – Temporomandibular jaw syndrome (TMJ) is thought to be caused by a malocclusion. Headaches, facial pains, and grinding teeth during sleep all result from excessive pressure on the temporomandibular joint. Realigning the teeth reduces pressure, and eliminates these symptoms.
How Is Malocclusion Treated?
A malocclusion is usually treated with dental braces. The orthodontist takes panoramic X-rays, conducts visual examinations, and takes bite impressions of the whole mouth before deciding on the best course of treatment. If a malocclusion is obviously caused by overcrowding, the orthodontist may decide an extraction is the only way to create enough space for the realignment. However, in the case of an underbite, crossbite, or overbite, there are several different orthodontic appliances available, such as:
- Fixed Multibracket Braces – This type of dental brace consists of brackets cemented to each tooth, and an archwire that connects each one. The orthodontist adjusts or changes the wire on a regular basis to train the teeth into proper alignment.
- Removable Devices – There are many non-fixed dental braces available to treat a malocclusion. Retainers, headgear, and palate expanders are amongst the most common. Retainers are generally used to hold the teeth in the correct position while the jawbone grows properly around them.
- Invisalign® – These dental aligners are removable and invisible to the naked eye. Invisalign® works similarly to fixed dental braces but does not impact the aesthetics of the smile.
Why Straighten Teeth?
Straighter teeth perform chewing, biting, and speaking functions more effectively than crooked teeth. In addition, a straight smile boosts confidence, is aesthetically pleasing to look at, and can help stave off a wide variety of dental ailments.
There are several types of malocclusion including overbite, underbite, crossbite, and overcrowding. Each of these alignment problems negatively impacts the functionality and cosmetic appearance of the teeth.
Here is a brief overview of some of the main disorders associated with crooked teeth:
- Periodontitis – Periodontitis or gum disease begins with a bacterial infection. The bacterial infection is caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Crooked teeth are hard to clean effectively, which means that debris, plaque, and bacteria can build up in hard-to-reach areas. Straight teeth are much easier to clean and are at less risk of contracting gum disease.
- Temporomandibular Disorder (TMJ) – Crooked teeth can lead to improper jaw alignment, which in turn causes a painful condition known as TMJ. Severe headaches, jaw pain, lockjaw, and the grinding of teeth characterize this debilitating disorder.
- Tooth Injury – Straight teeth create a strong wall, which means injuries are less likely to occur. Crooked teeth are weaker and often protrude, making them far more vulnerable to external injury.
- Uneven Wear – Crooked teeth cause some of the teeth to work harder than others when biting and chewing. Straight teeth share the workload evenly, meaning less risk of injury and better aesthetics.
Teeth can be straightened using either orthodontic braces or customized aligning trays. Orthodontic braces are usually affixed to the teeth for a set duration. The brackets and archwires are tightened regularly by the orthodontist and removed when treatment is complete. Fixed braces can be placed on the front side or backside of the teeth and are effective for most types of malocclusion.
Aligning trays are fully removable and are used where the malocclusion is less severe, and the teeth need to move a shorter distance. These trays are replaced every few weeks for the duration of the treatment and have proven to be equally effective for straightening teeth.
If you have questions about orthodontics and straightening teeth, please ask your orthodontist.