Should I try to fix orthodontic discomfort at home?

When you think of braces, do you think about pain? These days, orthodontic treatments and technologies are more comfortable than ever. However, it is common to encounter some mild soreness during your treatment. While sometimes unpleasant, this is a good thing—it means your teeth are straightening and treatment is working!

Though unlikely, you may run into discomfort aside from mild, temporary soreness. Read on to learn what to expect, how to address normal discomfort, and when to call an expert for help.

Good soreness vs. bad pain

Following the installation of any new appliance, soreness and tenderness (think: muscles after a good workout!) can be expected. This discomfort is caused by the force of your teeth moving in your mouth, and it may be felt generally or in a specific tooth. Following an adjustment, this discomfort may return, but it should subside soon. To alleviate soreness at home, drink cool water or suck on ice (don’t chomp!); eat soft foods; and, if needed, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, like TYLENOL®.

This “good soreness” shows your treatment is working, and it should be temporary and mild. It is different from “bad pain” that could signal something is wrong. If at any point your teeth or gums feel sharp or shooting pains, begin bleeding, feel extreme temperature sensitivity, or feel pain that worsens over time rather than subsiding, contact your orthodontist immediately.

Palatal expanders

The first few days following the palatal expander installation may be slightly uncomfortable as you adjust. When the expander is turned, it is normal to feel pressure on your teeth, palate, or even in the nose as the device applies force to widen the palate. This pressure may cause slight discomfort, but it is not painful and does not last. If the expander becomes loose, breaks, or triggers “bad pain,” schedule an appointment.


Soreness is typical following braces installation and adjustments, but irritation to the inner lips and cheeks may also cause discomfort as brackets rub against the inside of your mouth. This can be solved by covering brackets with orthodontic wax. Should you notice a protruding wire after an appointment, put wax on it. If the wire is too long and continues to poke, come back to the office and have the excess snipped. If bands or brackets become loose or if a bracket or wire breaks, do not attempt to fix them at home. Come in for help right away so we can fix the problem.


Because Invisalign is an alternative to traditional braces, you can expect the same soreness from moving teeth that you would encounter with braces, but without bracket discomfort. You may feel temporary soreness with every new tray. If your aligner’s edge feels rough against your gums, use a thin layer of wax to help or gently smooth the edge with a nail file or emery board.


If you forget to wear your retainer for a while, it may be tight when you put it back on. Wear it for a few extra hours each day or, if your teeth have shifted too much, schedule an appointment for a replacement. Forcing teeth into a far-too-tight retainer is not only painful but also damaging for your smile!

You may experience discomfort if your fixed retainer becomes loose or dislodged and the wire protrudes, but do not attempt to put it back into place yourself. The wire may snap, and you may chip your teeth. Only a professional should attempt to glue it back.

Petty & Bielik Orthodontics is here to help

If you experience discomfort and are uncertain about what to do, contact us. We are happy to answer any questions you may have. Be sure to call as soon as possible if your equipment breaks or if you believe something is wrong, and we will get you scheduled for an appointment to address the problem right away. Learn more on our blog.

Book a free orthodontic consultation today.