While they yield great results, orthodontic braces can also be uncomfortable, and even painful at times. Traditional orthodontic braces are composed of metal brackets on each tooth, with a wire running through each bracket. Over time the wire is tightened to apply pressure to the teeth, and guide them into alignment.
Pain can occur in the mouth, especially right after braces are put on or adjusted. The soft tissue in the mouth, such as your tongue or cheeks, may become sore if they are rubbed and irritated by the brackets. Your cheeks and tongue will be extra sensitive to this at first, but over time they will toughen and become used to the brackets.
In the meantime, orthodontic wax is a great way to protect your lips and tongue from painful rubs and abrasions. Once your braces are applied, your orthodontist will probably give you some wax. It can also be purchased over-the-counter at drug stores, where it can be found in the oral care section.
Applying Orthodontic Wax
Before applying orthodontic wax, make sure you wash your hands with antibacterial soap. This will avoid exposing any cuts or sores in your mouth to outside bacteria. This is also a good time to brush and floss your teeth. Flossing is difficult with orthodontic braces, but you can buy floss threaders to keep food out of your teeth and avoid plaque buildup.
Find the painful areas in your mouth by feeling around with your fingers, or by examining the tongue or cheeks to try and spot any red marks or abrasions. This will help you determine which brackets should be covered in wax.Before you apply the wax, pat dry the brackets with a cloth or tissue. The drier the area, the better the wax will stick.
Take a small ball of wax from the box and roll it in your fingers. The heat from your fingers will soften the wax, allowing it to be shaped. Make sure you don’t use too much wax! This can feel strange in your mouth, or result in the wax falling off.
Press the wax firmly over the bracket or wire that is causing pain. Press it around the area as tightly as you can with your finger. You may need to use your tongue as well to push and rub the wax into place.
Once the wax is in place, your mouth should quickly heal. There is a lot of blood flow in the mouth, which promotes quick healing. Reapply the wax as often as needed to protect the mouth. You’ll find that over time, the soft tissue in the mouth will become used to the braces, and you won’t have to use wax as often.
Be sure to take the wax off before brushing your teeth. And, if you accidentally swallow the wax, don’t worry! While it’s not very appetizing, it’s definitely non-toxic. If pain persists, or is severe, contact your orthodontist!