Can Braces Not Be Painful? + How To Manage Pain From Braces

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

One of the first things that most likely come to mind when you think of braces is the pain associated with them. Over the years, braces have for being painful and uncomfortable. But that’s not always the case. So which is more normal to feel?

Braces hurt because they move and reposition your teeth by applying pressure to them. While it’s normal to feel pain after getting braces, not feeling any pain at all is equally normal. The pain generally lasts less than a week. 

One misconception about braces-induced pain is that it’s a sign that the braces are effective. However, as experts have noted, people have varying levels of pain tolerance, plus there are several types of braces, and each can trigger different levels of pain and discomfort. 

How Do Braces Work?

Attractive girl with braces grimaces from pain in her teeth

To most, braces are dental appliances that promise to fix their smiles, but very few are familiar with the inner workings. On the surface, braces appear to exert teeth on your teeth and straighten them over time. However, there’s much more to it when looking at it from a biological viewpoint. 

The inner mechanisms of braces can be summarised into three processes; applying pressure, reshaping your teeth, and recalibrating pressure.

Applying pressure is generally the first step to getting your teeth straightened with braces, assuming you don’t need any pre-treatment like palate widening. Braces leverage three main components to exert pressure on your teeth, elastics, the archwire, and the brackets.

These components form a system to not only applies pressure to your teeth to get them to shift but also supports each other. The brackets are bonded to your teeth, providing an anchor for the archwires to pull and shift your teeth. 

The tissue and bones surrounding the roots of your teeth respond to the pressure by reshaping themselves, known as remodeling. This process is made possible by two biological functions; resorption and deposition.

With resorption, the bones surrounding your teeth are broken down and absorbed into surrounding tissue, and new bone is formed on the opposite side through a process called deposition. Resorption generally happens in roughly three days, but deposition is a lengthier process that can take up to three months.

Lastly, Orthodontists must readjust the braces to recalibrate the pressure applied. This is important because the pressure is a crucial aspect of the inner mechanisms of braces.

The right amount of pressure must be applied steadily to achieve optimum results. Excessive pressure will destroy the teeth and slow down the process, and insufficient pressure may not have any effect. 

Do Braces Hurt? 

A bit of pain and discomfort is to be expected when braces are first installed, and from then onward, you’ll likely only feel pain after every readjustment. 

What Does Braces Pain Feel Like?

People react to braces differently, so the intensity and the type of pain you’ll feel depends on the braces used, the severity of your dental issues, and your body’s natural response to the foreign devices.

Most people describe that pain as a dull pain that affects the entire mouth, head, and sometimes neck. The pain intensifies when you bite into something, speak, chew, or hit your head against an object. 

How Long Will Your Teeth Hurt After Braces are Put on? 

According to experts, braces’ pain and discomfort shouldn’t last longer than a week, and the pain should only be intense within 24 hours of getting them installed.

Following that, the pain should slowly dull away until it disappears entirely. Unfortunately, while braces pain is reported as being manageable to many, some people still find it hard to go about their daily activities.

In such cases, dentists often recommend over-the-counter painkillers (from Amazon). Anxiety pills may also be recommended, as stress contributes to the pain. 

While experiencing pain falls within the norms of getting braces, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that complications may arise. You should contact your Orthodontist as soon you notice a sharp pain shooting up your tooth, a stabbing sensation, or bleeding. These are often signs of complications. 

Are My Braces Working if They Don’t Hurt?

Why Do Braces Hurt?

Let’s first dive into why braces hurt, to begin with. Your Orthodontist will recommend braces if your teeth are misaligned. However, to realign them, a decent amount of force will need to be exerted on them, and that process can cause varying degrees of pain and discomfort.

The keyword here is varies, meaning that not everyone will respond to braces in the same way. Some people’s teeth are more sensitive than others. The degree of pain one experiences largely depends on the person’s level of pain tolerance.

You may not feel excruciating and unmanageable pain when your braces are first put in, but you’ll feel some discomfort, and that’s normal. 

Why Do Braces Stop Hurting Over Time?

Braces actively move your teeth to new locations by applying pressure, which puts your teeth under a bit of shock, affecting your blood flow and triggering an inflammatory response.

But, as your teeth grow more comfortable with the added pressure, the pain begins to dull. Most people notice improvements in pain and discomfort in as little as 48 hours. 

Readjusting Your Braces 

Your braces need to be readjusted from time to time to maintain their efficacy and ensure they’re moving your teeth in the right direction. Also, post-adjustment pain is to be expected as more pressure is applied to your teeth.

Again, people respond to post-adjustment pain differently, so don’t worry if you don’t experience any pain. So long as you feel the discomfort, you’re good to go.

When you go for braces retightening, your Orthodontist will remove the rubber bands and the archwire to examine your teeth. After that, a new archwire will be installed, and new elastic ligatures will be put in if your braces aren’t self-ligating.

You can expect a bit of pain following this procedure, but it’s also normal not to feel unmanageable pain.

How to Relieve Pain from Braces

While braces-induced pain is inevitable, there are various ways to make it more manageable. Here are four tips to help you get through the initial pain of having your braces put in or readjusted; 

Dental Anesthetics

Oral anesthesia is a local anesthesia specifically made for the mouth cavity. It numbs the entire area and, in doing so, relieves pain and tension caused by several conditions. Most dental anesthetics require a doctor’s prescription, but a few are available over the counter, like Orajel (from Amazon).

When using over-the-counter numbing medicines, it’s important to tread lightly and practice your doctor’s instructions, as the risk of side effects is high.

Eating Soft Foods

For the first week post-treatment, doctors recommend that patients opt for soft foods. Excessive chewing will only irritate the gums and teeth and worsen the pain.

Furthermore, while your teeth are still recovering, the entire mouth is ultra-sensitive to crunchy and chewy foods and hot and spicy foods. Examples of soft foods ideal for this situation include mashed potatoes, oatmeal, yogurt, eggs, smoothies, and noodles. 

Cold Compresses

Cold compresses are effective methods for decreasing inflammation and relieving pain. The cold temperature restricts blood circulation, which temporarily numbs the area.

Take an ice pack or anything freezing cold and lightly press it on the outside of your mouth closest to the affected area. 

Orthodontic Wax

Close-up portrait of a young woman applying orthodontic anti-scratch wax to the braces

Braces can sometimes rub on your gums and teeth, prompting irritation and inflammation, especially if you’re allergic to Nickel. Dental wax (from Amazon) is used to coat braces so they don’t cause cuts, sores, and irritation.


Pain associated with braces is inevitable for most, but there are instances when patients don’t feel any pain, and that’s also normal.

The pain usually disappears in days and only reappears after every readjustment. The best way to manage the pain is to avoid foods or activities that strain your teeth.

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