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Changing Your Braces Wire – How Long Will It Hurt?

Getting braces is a common rite of passage for many people, and while the end result is often worth it, the process of getting there can be quite painful at times. So if you’re wondering how long will your teeth hurt after changing your braces wire, you’re in the right place.

Sometimes, your orthodontist may replace your current wire with a new one, which is designed to apply different forces to your teeth and move them into their desired positions. Wire change doesn’t happen at every appointment, so it’s good to know why some adjustments hurt and others don’t.

In this article, we’ll discuss what causes the pain associated with braces wire changes and what you can expect during and after the procedure.

When is it time to change that wire?

Braces wires come in different materials and shapes, and your orthodontist will change them based on your individual treatment plan.

Typically, the first wires used are round Niti wires, which are designed to correct crooked teeth, rotations, and teeth that sit outside the arch. Round wires are the very first wires used on your teeth when first getting braces. Despite being thin and flexible, they cause considerable pain because your teeth aren’t used to braces yet.

The following round wires (if your orthodontist decides to use multiple sizes) shouldn’t be as painful, and if you’re lucky, you might not feel any discomfort at all.

The next wires are rectangular Niti wires, which correct tooth angles and make everything super straight. Rectangular wires are much thicker so that they work properly inside the braces slot. Switching from round to rectangular wires is often felt by the patient, and this might trigger some pain, similar to the one you had when you got braces.

However, your teeth should already be loosened up inside the bone, so the pain won’t be as intense and it won’t last as long. Your orthodontist may use several sizes of rectangular Niti wires or just one wire left in place for multiple months.

Finally, steel wires are used for final adjustments of the bite, closing gaps, and wearing rubber bands. They are the “working wires” and if your case is complex, you’ll wear these wires for a long time. The steel wires themselves won’t hurt as much as they’re quite passive.

However, expect pain from the forces applied by power chains, rubber bands, and closing gaps.

If you’re curious about the various shapes, sizes, and materials of the wires we use, as well as the sequence we use them in, be sure to check this article.

Will the wire change procedure hurt?

The actual wire change procedure does not hurt, as the orthodontist is trained to do it gently and without causing discomfort.

It’s actually impossible to force wires inside braces because the additional force will make the brackets come loose. This is also the reason why we change wires gradually and not just skip to the last one.

Expect the pain to start at home, a few hours after the wire has been changed. There’s more than one type of pain, so make sure that you won’t be suffering because of a pokey wire stabbing your cheeks. The best way to avoid this is to check how your wire feels while you’re still in the orthodontist’s office.

How long will I feel pain after the new wire is in?

When the new wire is inserted, it applies new forces to the teeth, which causes them to move. This movement also affects the bone around the teeth, which is known as bone modeling.

These changes can cause pain and discomfort, which varies from patient to patient, their bone structure, and their tolerance to pain. Generally, the second wire will not hurt as much as the first wire, but the pain can still last for a few days.

When both arches have the wire changed, the pain will be more intense than if just one arch is changed, so keep that in mind.

After 24 hours, the pain will typically be at its peak and will start to subside after 72 hours. However, some teeth may still be sore for up to a week. If one tooth is particularly sensitive or feels much looser than the others, be sure to tell your orthodontist about it.

Once your new wires are in, you’ll go to your next appointment for tightening or activating that wire. Your braces will feel tight again, but you shouldn’t feel the same pain all over again.

If you’re anxious about changing wires because the pain was so bad last time, just ask your orthodontist when you’re getting new wires, and how many wire changes are left in your treatment. These things are not exact, but we can approximate them.

Tips to manage the pain after a braces wire change

Managing braces pain after a wire change can be a challenge, but there are some things you can do to alleviate the discomfort. Here are some tips on how to manage braces pain after a wire change:

  1. Take over-the-counter pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Make sure to follow the recommended dosage and consult with your doctor if you have any concerns.
  2. Eat cold foods: The trick about Niti wires is that they’re heat activated. This means they become stronger at body temperature, and soft and bendy when cooled. At every wire change, stock your freezer with ice cream, frozen yogurt, and even ice cubes (don’t chew on them, though!), and try to keep your mouth cold as much as possible to numb the pain.
  3. Eat soft foods: Eating soft foods like yogurt, soup, mashed potatoes, or smoothies can help to reduce discomfort and make chewing easier. Avoid crunchy, hard, or sticky foods that can put pressure on your teeth and break your braces. Your blender will be your new best friend.
  4. Take it easy: Avoid strenuous activities that can put pressure on your teeth, such as playing sports or chewing gum. Rest and relax as much as possible to give your mouth time to adjust to the new wire. If you must play sports, be sure to wear a braces mouth guard for protection.
  5. Rinse with salt water: Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water can help to soothe sore gums and reduce inflammation. Some people swear by this, but it won’t help unless your gums feel tender and/or your wire is poking you. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt with 8 ounces of warm water and swish it around your mouth for 30 seconds before spitting it out.
  6. Use orthodontic wax: If you have braces hooks that are causing discomfort while your teeth are moving into new positions, you can use orthodontic wax or Ortho Dots silicone to cover the sharp edges. You can try wax on pokey wires too, but it’s not very effective – read more tips on how to handle pokey wires here.

Remember, some discomfort is normal after a wire change, and it should subside within a few days. If the pain is severe or persistent contact your orthodontist immediately. Severe pain during orthodontic treatment is not normal, and it’s often a sign of periodontal disease, abscess, or deep cavities that need a root canal.

Conclusion

Changing braces wires is an essential part of the orthodontic treatment process, and it is normal to experience some pain and discomfort afterward. In times like these, it’s important to remember the bigger goal and what determined you to get braces in the first place.

Remember to pay attention to pokey wires before leaving the office and be prepared to manage the pain for a few days after the wire change. By understanding the process of changing braces wires and what to expect, you’ll be better prepared for this important step in achieving your dream smile.

Whether you’re new to braces or a braces veteran, taking care of your teeth and gums during orthodontic treatment is crucial. That’s why I’ve put together a list of orthodontist-recommended tools that will make caring for your braces a breeze:

  • An awesome mid-range electric toothbrush. Rotating electric brushes are much more effective, in my opinion, than sonic ones. You can keep your teeth white by using whitening replacement heads.
  • A countertop water flosser to blast out food debris between teeth. I know handheld models are tempting, but you’ll need a lot of water. You can almost replace flossing with this and your gums will be healthier.
  • Braces accessories to get into all the nooks and crannies: straight or angled interdental brushes, floss threaders, orthodontic wax or silicone. For pain management, have gel ice packs handy, Orajel, and Mouth Magic (a cool soothing solution for mouth sores).
  • For clear aligner patients, a tool like PUL helps both remove and seat your aligner or retainer. Don’t forget to use a cleaning product like crystals to keep your trays fresh and hygienic.

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