Those who currently or once wore braces will testify that the monthly tightening procedure is a real kick in the teeth. Often, the discomfort can literally feel as if you've survived an aggressive rugby scrum without a mouthguard. Thankfully, this is all good pain and means your teeth are ordering themselves nicely to give you a stunning smile. To overcome the pain, here are a few tips.
Take pain relief medication before your appointment
Show that awful throbbing sensation who's boss by taking pain relief medication at least an hour before your appointment. Getting a head start on the pain will help lessen the intensity of the discomfort and swelling during your appointment. Ibuprofen is a great choice for dental pain of any kind since the anti-inflammatory properties bring down swelling and soreness. An extra-strength paracetamol-based pain reliever will work just as well too.
To give the meds more of a fighting chance, avoid any caffeine drinks the day of your appointment and drink plenty of water beforehand. Staying hydrated will help to lessen headaches and general facial aches that may follow the procedure.
Distract yourself while in the chair
A bland dentist room ceiling may not offer much distraction, but you can help yourself feel less anxious with a few techniques. Try to concentrate on your breathing, inhaling and exhaling in a steady rhythm. Staying calm and relaxed will create less pain for yourself. Additionally, bring a music player with you to listen to an album or an audio book. If you forget this, most rooms will have music playing or a TV screen for you to watch, so try your best to focus on these throughout your appointment.
Practice plenty of after-care
Before leaving the chair, check thoroughly using your tongue to make absolutely sure that the new wire feels comfortable inside your mouth. If the wire ends are long enough to come into contact with the inside of your cheeks, this can cause small cuts and mouth ulcers. Let your orthodontist know if they feel uncomfortable so they can trim the wires down for you before you leave.
If an exposed wire only becomes apparent to you after the appointment, don't panic. You can actually clip any excess wire yourself using clean toenail clippers. You could also try bending the wire back away from your cheek lining using a pen or eraser end of a pencil. Otherwise, you can cover any sharp, excess wire using dental wax until you're able to schedule an appointment. Just ensure you replace the wax with a new strip after eating and brushing to avoid spreading bacteria around your mouth.
Also, as well as continuing with your dose of pain relief meds, you should use an oral anaesthetic gel to relieve further discomfort at home. These gels will numb tender areas for up to two hours. You could team this with an antiseptic mouthwash as part of your daily mouth-cleansing routine. A quick swish of lukewarm salt water morning and night will help soothe sore gums and promote the healing of nasty scrapes inside your cheeks.
Eat like a baby
No, this don't mean smear food across every available surface. Rather, your post-tightening diet should consist of very soft foods and you should eat quite delicately for at least 24 hours afterwards. If your jaw is normally working overtime during meals and snacking, slow things down and limit yourself to foods that don't require a lot of chewing. Keeping your mouth open throughout each appointment can be quite taxing on your jaw muscles anyway, so show a little tenderness where your mouth and teeth are concerned. Try the following (minus the airplane noises):
- Eat smoothies, soups, applesauce, puddings and jelly cups. Frozen yoghurts and popsicles can be quite soothing on sore spots in the mouth. Sucking on ice cubes is recommended too, but refrain from chewing them and avoid cold drinks while your mouth is still so sensitive.
- Use a small plastic fork and spoon while eating. Nothing can bring about a pain twinge like accidentally clanging steel cutlery against sensitive teeth.
- Mash up larger meals and cut chewy foods into manageable chunks.
Hopefully, the above tips can brace you against monthly tightening pain. If your mouth still feels tender after a week, be sure to arrange an appointment with your orthodontist who will be happy to suggest extra methods of pain relief.