Do Braces Hurt?

You want a smile worthy of Hollywood but are afraid braces hurt. Equally important, you’re not sure a mouthful of metal is right for you. What are your options? At Rollins & Petersen Orthodontics in Mesa, AZ, we recommend a different type of braces: Invisalign. This more discreet treatment option – which is ideal for adults – is also virtually painless.


Do Braces Hurt?

In truth, they do not hurt while being applied to your teeth. You may feel some slight tenderness in your gums after, but this will subside within a day or two. These appliances work by applying gentle pressure to your teeth so they move into more optimal positions. This can make your mouth slightly more sensitive than usual.

To help you understand what’s happening to your teeth, we’ll describe the actions in more detail. The archwires pull or push the brackets, which in turn gradually move your teeth with them. Your gums accommodate this movement by replenishing soft tissue where teeth were and making room in the spaces they’re moving to.

Periods of Adjustment

While adjusting, your mouth may feel some discomfort. It’s important to note most patients do not experience pressure or discomfort until they bite hard or chewy food. You should also know the discomfort doesn’t persist; as tissues grow and move, your mouth will feel better, usually in under a week. Eating soft foods, especially those that are cold, will help.

A Nearly Painless Option for Braces: Invisalign

If you can’t reconcile yourself with wires and brackets, we’re happy to tell you about a different kind of braces: Invisalign. Unlike braces, this series of clear aligners gets removed during eating and brushing. You, in turn, enjoy greater convenience and more comfort. These apply far more gentle pressure than regular braces.

From a patient perspective, this means less irritation to your gums. In addition, you don’t need to worry about cutting the inside of your mouth with wires or brackets because there are none. The trays are made of flexible plastic free of gluten, latex, BPS, and BPA. They rub smoothly against your gums without causing the soft tissue friction that metal does.

How Retainers Work

Your treatment, just as with braces, begins with a consultation. Once you’re cleared for Invisalign, we will digitally scan your teeth to craft a concise treatment plan. A 3D imaging system takes a series of pictures to provide a sophisticated look at your mouth and eliminate the guesswork involved with results. In fact, you’ll see how your mouth will look after treatment before you wear your first tray.

These images are used to customize your aligners. They’re made specifically for you, ensuring a proper fit over each tooth that is snug enough to move teeth but gentle enough to minimize discomfort. Keep in mind that trays are made to be worn approximately 22 hours a day; they are thus intended to be non-irritating and should only be taken out when eating and brushing – as mentioned earlier.

Bi-Weekly Changes

Because the aligners do not have wires or brackets, they must be changed every two weeks to keep teeth moving. This is similar in effect to having braces tightened. Each tray moves your teeth approximately 0.25 mm. The time you need to wear Invisalign may be different from that of another patient, but most treatment plans are for 12 months.

Comparing Appliances

Aside from being a more painless option, Invisalign is beneficial for specific lifestyle factors and patient desires. For children who play sports, these aligners certainly make more sense. They safeguard teeth without putting kids at risk for sores caused by loose or jutting wires. Trays are also less likely to sustain damage during rough contact sports.

Clear aligners are far less invasive than metal brackets. What we mean is that they make less of a visible statement. For kids who already have to shoulder burdens like keeping pace with schoolwork, handling peer pressure, and meeting parental expectations, trays eliminate the awkward and self-conscious feelings traditional orthodontia can bring.

Trays Are Often Better Choices for Adults

Adults also tend to prefer less-conspicuous aligners. Braces tend to be associated with a very specific period in one’s life – namely, adolescence. Adults who choose to improve their smiles often want a more subtle option, one that doesn’t instantly alert colleagues and friends that they’re undergoing treatment.

Easier Oral Hygiene Maintenance

One of the most frustrating aspects of metal brackets is their tendency to trap food. Because these brackets are affixed to the teeth, you cannot remove them to ensure you brush and floss in all the places necessary. Instead, you have to work around the metal, but even diligence can leave behind tiny particles that may cause tooth decay and cavities.

Trays eliminate these obstacles because you remove them before brushing. Not only does this improve your overall oral hygiene, but it also means you don’t have to limit your diet to certain foods. Brackets and wires preclude foods that are:

  • Crunchy
  • Sticky
  • Hard
  • Chewy


More Food Choices

You can continue eating all of your favorite foods with these aligners. While we don’t encourage you to go on a sugar binge, you can still nibble on carrot sticks and enjoy a chocolate chip cookie or caramel candy in moderation. Brackets and wires are put in danger with these kinds of foods, meaning patients eat at them at their own risk.

But removable trays are kept out of harm’s way as you eat. This is a considerable selling point among people who want to improve their smiles without infringing too severely on their lifestyles. You simply pop out the trays before a meal or snack and then snap them back into place. Of course, you must brush your teeth between these steps, but many patients see this as a positive effect because it further improves oral health.

Metal Is Better for Bad Tooth Alignment

None of this is to say that braces are bad, because they’re not. They pose more limitations but also work on more acute dental problems. Severely misaligned teeth, for instance, need the rigorous corrective strength metal can provide.

Additionally, trays lack the ability to move rounded or cylindrical bicuspids because there’s less tooth to grip. Traditional brackets and wires, on the other hand, are securely affixed to teeth and work by pulling. They therefore need nothing to grip and offer more versatility in treatment. In short, braces work where Invisalign doesn’t, including correcting these issues:

  • Severely rotated teeth
  • Acute malocclusions
  • Badly aligned teeth
  • Deep-rooted molars with gaps between them


Doesn’t Require Patient Willpower

The fact that trays can be removed is viewed as a double-edged sword by some. Nothing except a desire for a better smile forces patients to wear their trays. But if appliances are not consistently worn, the gradual process of moving teeth gets interrupted. As little as one or two interrupted days can have serious consequences on results.

This point is especially important for younger children, who might be tempted to remove their trays while in school and not replace them. The same is true of adults who feel they may not follow their regimen as directed. For these groups, traditional metal appliances make more sense because they are on until we remove them.

Moves the Whole Tooth

Trays apply most of their pressure to teeth at the top, but metal exerts pressure equally on the whole tooth. It moves even the root so the entire tooth is placed into a more favorable position. This is what makes them well-suited to more severe oral issues.

Longer History

Metal appliances have been used for centuries to correct misalignments, and they’ve been proven effective throughout that time. While the appearance of braces has changed considerably since those early days, they’ve only gotten better. Today’s patients can choose from different colors – a boon for younger people – and know they’re in good company; at any given time, over 4 million people in the U.S. have metal on their teeth.

Which Is Right for You?

Because of it’s more painless nature, we recommend Invisalign whenever possible. Your candidacy depends on five major points, starting with a straightforward case. The system of temporary trays works best on these conditions:

  • Crooked, gapped, or crowded teeth
  • Underbites
  • Crossbites
  • Overbites
  • Open bites

If you’re unsure whether your particular concern falls into one of these categories, don’t worry. Our team will assess your case and then make the appropriate recommendation.

You Have All of Your Adult Teeth

It is more difficult to predict how children’s teeth will grow in, so having all of your adult teeth is a crucial point of treatment. In addition, some adults still have one or two lingering baby teeth. If this applies to you, you may need additional work before starting trays. For younger patients who want Invisalign, they will need to wait until the rest of their adult teeth come in.

You Have Strong Oral Hygiene Practices

You need a healthy mouth before starting treatment with trays, and you must be committed to maintaining this health throughout treatment. Equally important, you must be willing to care for your trays so they don’t acquire bacteria. This means taking out your trays each morning to clean them and then doing the same before bed.

You must also rinse your aligners each time your remove them, such as at lunch or a mid-day snack. This prevents a build-up of plaque and saliva. To properly clean your aligners, a soft-bristled toothbrush and clear anti-bacterial soap can sufficiently eliminate stuck particles. This will keep aligners looking clean and clear while you wear them.

You Don’t Smoke

With your trays in for most of the day, you won’t be able to smoke or use tobacco. Not only will doing so stain your trays, but it can also interfere with your results. If you frequently remove your aligners to smoke, you may need longer treatment. Quitting tobacco use now will improve your overall health and allow you to improve your smile.

You’re Responsible

We discussed earlier the need to employ willpower with removable trays, but it’s a point worth repeating. Taking them out for times other than eating and brushing will delay treatment. You’ll also need to remember to pack your trays if you go on vacation or remove them while in a restaurant (lost trays are a very real problem).

A Different Approach to Improving Your Smile

If you want a nearly painless way to improve your smile, plastic trays may be the solution. Convenient, comfortable, and all but invisible, these aligners are ideal for self-conscious teens and adults who don’t want to draw unnecessary attention. Call Rollins & Petersen Orthodontics in Mesa, AZ, today to schedule your consultation.