top of page

How to Manage Discomfort During Orthodontic Treatment

Updated: 2 days ago

Orthodontic treatment is a transformative journey to achieve a perfect smile. However, like many valuable pursuits, it's not without its challenges. One common concern among patients using aligners is the discomfort they may experience.

While the end result is undeniably worth it, the intermediate stages can be daunting. This article provides insights and strategies to manage and mitigate any discomfort you might feel during your orthodontic journey with aligners.

The intention is to make the process as smooth and comfortable as possible, ensuring you can focus on the exciting outcome.

Table Of Contents

1. Understanding the Nature of the Discomfort

2. Over-the-counter Pain Relievers

3. Regular Aligner Maintenance and Cleaning

4. Cold Compress Application

5. Orthodontic Wax Usage

6. Saltwater Rinses

7. Avoiding Certain Foods

8. Consistent Wearing Schedule

9. Gentle Massaging

10. Conclusion

How to Manage Discomfort During Orthodontic Treatment

Understanding the Nature of the Discomfort

At first, aligners might feel a bit odd or even cause a little unease. This is because aligners work by slowly shifting your teeth. During this movement, your teeth and the surrounding tissues undergo changes, leading to some discomfort.

Think about how your muscles might feel sore after a workout – it's a sign they're adjusting to a new routine. In a similar way, your mouth is getting used to the aligners. Recognizing that this is a typical reaction helps you mentally prepare for it.

Over-the-counter Pain Relievers

At times, using aligners might cause some pain, and it can get tough to bear. When this happens, there's a solution available right at your local pharmacy: pain relievers you can buy without a prescription.

Both Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are popular choices that many people use for different types of pain. They can help reduce discomfort caused by aligners.

But here's the key thing to remember: just because you can buy them easily doesn't mean you should take them carelessly. Before you even think of taking one, give your dentist or orthodontist a quick call.

Regular Aligner Maintenance and Cleaning

Dirty aligners can trap food bits and bacteria, which can not only be unhygienic but can also cause discomfort. So, what's the best way to clean them? First, always rinse your aligners with cold water after taking them out.

This removes any immediate debris. Then, use a soft toothbrush to brush them gently. This ensures they stay clear and free from any residue. But remember, avoid using hot water; it can change the shape of your aligners.

For those who are often on-the-go or want a faster cleaning solution, there are cleaning sprays, like Smilesaver, available. This particular spray boasts of getting your aligners clean in just about 30 seconds, offering both convenience and effectiveness.

Cold Compress Application

When your mouth feels sore from aligners, a simple home remedy can offer comfort: using a cold compress. This method helps in two main ways. Firstly, the coldness numbs the sore spot, which in turn eases the pain.

Secondly, it reduces swelling, if there's any. To use a cold compress, you don't need anything fancy. Take some ice cubes or a chilled gel pack and wrap them in a soft cloth.

Then, gently press this wrapped pack to the sore area outside your mouth. Ensure you don't keep it on for too long at once; short breaks between applications are a good idea.

Orthodontic Wax Usage

When you're adjusting to new aligners, a common hiccup you might face is the edges of the aligners rubbing against your mouth's inner sides. This can lead to sore spots on the inside of your lips or cheeks. It's like when a shoe rubs against your heel.

But there's a solution: orthodontic wax. It's a soft, malleable substance specially designed for oral use. When you place a bit of this wax over the sharp or rough edge of your aligner, it forms a protective layer. This layer stops the aligner's edge from causing further discomfort.

Saltwater Rinses

Dealing with the initial discomfort of aligners? One easy and effective remedy you can try at home is a warm saltwater rinse. Here's why it's helpful: saltwater can act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent.

When you rinse with it, it can calm down any swollen or irritated areas in your mouth. Plus, if you've got tiny cuts or sores, perhaps from the edges of the aligners, the saltwater rinse can promote quicker healing.

Preparing the solution is straightforward. Just dissolve half a teaspoon of common table salt in 8 ounces of warm water. Once the salt is completely dissolved, swish the solution around in your mouth gently.

Avoiding Certain Foods

When you start with a fresh set of aligners, the initial days require a little extra care. One way to ensure comfort is by being mindful of what you eat.

While one of the perks of aligners is the freedom to enjoy a broader range of foods compared to traditional braces, it's still good to exercise caution initially. Crunchy or hard foods can exert more force on teeth that are just starting to adjust. This added pressure can escalate discomfort.

So, it's a good idea to steer clear of foods like hard candies, nuts, or crisp apples during the first days of a new aligner. With time, as your teeth settle, you can gradually reintroduce these foods.

Consistent Wearing Schedule

Starting with new aligners can be a bit challenging, especially if they cause some discomfort. It's natural to think, "Maybe I should give my mouth a break and take them out for a while." However, this approach might not be in your best interest.

Why? Well, for aligners to work effectively, they need to be in your mouth for the recommended hours each day. If you start taking them out frequently, you're giving your teeth a mixed message. It's like pausing a workout each time you feel a little sweat.

The consistent pressure from the aligners helps your teeth move to their desired positions. Moreover, if you wear them sporadically, you could end up extending your treatment duration.

Gentle Massaging

While aligners do a remarkable job straightening teeth, they can sometimes cause discomfort, especially in the areas where they exert pressure on the gums. So, what can you do at home to get some relief? A straightforward solution is to use your fingertip for gentle massages.

By applying a soft, circular motion to the affected areas, you help increase blood circulation. Enhanced blood flow can often alleviate some of the soreness.


Navigating the journey with aligners can be challenging due to discomfort. However, with strategies like cold compresses, saltwater rinses, and gentle massages, relief is within reach. Remember to maintain a consistent wearing schedule and clean them regularly.

Avoiding hard foods can also minimize pressure. Stay patient and consult your dentist for tailored advice. Your perfect smile awaits!


Q: What is orthodontic treatment?

A: Orthodontic treatment is a dental procedure that involves the use of braces, aligners, or other appliances to correct misaligned teeth and jaws.

Q: How long does orthodontic treatment usually last?

A: The duration of orthodontic treatment varies depending on the complexity of the case, but it typically lasts between 1 to 3 years.

Q: Does orthodontic treatment cause discomfort?

A: Yes, orthodontic treatment can cause some discomfort initially as the teeth and jaws adjust to the braces or aligners. However, any discomfort is usually temporary and can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.

Q: Can I still eat normally during orthodontic treatment?

A: While some dietary restrictions may apply, you can generally continue to eat a wide variety of foods during orthodontic treatment. However, it is recommended to avoid sticky or hard foods that may damage the braces or aligners.

Q: How often do I need to visit the orthodontist during treatment?

A: Regular visits to the orthodontist are necessary for adjustments and monitoring progress. Typically, appointments are scheduled every 4 to 8 weeks.

bottom of page