Side Effects of Wearing Braces

braces side effects
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Starting orthodontic treatment with braces is an important decision that comes with various considerations and potential challenges. Braces are an effective method to correct dental misalignments, but they can introduce new experiences and adjustments for the wearer.

This article provides detailed information about the possible side effects and specifics of wearing braces. From the initial discomfort caused by brackets rubbing against the soft tissues of the mouth to the importance of adjusting dietary habits, we cover the various aspects of the braces experience.

Side Effects of Wearing Braces

General Discomfort During Initial Days

Wearing braces can cause some discomfort during the first few days. The pressure of the braces slowly pulling the teeth into alignment can create pain and soreness, which may last anywhere from a day or two to about a week. This is a normal part of the initial adjustment period, and it’s essential to manage it with over-the-counter pain relievers and soft foods to ease the pain.

Mouth Sores and Irritations

Wearing braces can sometimes cause mouth sores and irritations, particularly during the initial stages. The brackets and wires may rub against the cheeks, lips, and tongue, leading to discomfort. Applying orthodontic wax to the offending areas can help alleviate this issue and reduce irritation.

Discomfort may also occur during regular tightening appointments, as the braces apply pressure on the teeth to gradually shift them into proper alignment. Mild pain or sensitivity is normal following adjustments, but patients can usually manage the discomfort with over-the-counter pain relievers and ice packs.

Worth Knowing

To use wax for braces, make sure your hands are clean, then break off a small piece of wax, roll it into a ball, and flatten it between your fingers. Carefully apply the flattened wax directly over the braces bracket or wire that is causing the discomfort. Press firmly to ensure the wax stays in place and effectively covers the source of irritation.

Jaw Pain

Orthodontic treatment can also cause jaw pain. This discomfort often stems from the gradual movement of teeth, realigning them within the jawbone, and sometimes the modification of the jaw’s position itself. As braces exert continuous pressure on teeth to guide them to their desired locations, the surrounding ligaments and jawbone are also subjected to this tension. For some patients, this results in sensations ranging from mild discomfort to pronounced pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and associated muscles.

See also: 11 Things to Help with the Pain of Braces: Expert Tips and Strategies

Difficulties with Eating

Braces can make eating challenging, especially at the beginning. During the initial phase, you might feel like you’re relearning the basics of consumption. Soft foods become your best friends, offering solace to sensitive gums and teeth. It’s a good practice to cut down food into manageable sizes, allowing easier and safer mastication. While it might be tempting to indulge in that chewy caramel or munch on some hard nuts, it’s paramount to exercise caution. Hard, sticky, or chewy foods are notorious for causing potential damage, often dislodging or sticking to the braces.

Speech Impediments

Some individuals might experience temporary speech impediments while wearing braces. As braces work diligently to shift the teeth and jaw to their desired positions, they inadvertently challenge the tongue’s accustomed resting and moving patterns. This change can manifest as a slight lisp or difficulty pronouncing certain syllables.

While this might seem daunting at first, it’s essential to remember that it’s often a fleeting phase. Just as the teeth gradually adapt to their new positions, the tongue, with its inherent adaptability, retrains itself in response to these dental changes.

Worth Knowing

Research featured in the Angle Orthodontist indicates that fixed braces on the front teeth can impact speech differently among patients. Some might experience a short-term change, while others may notice alterations lasting up to two months. Around 40% of individuals report no impact on their speech at all.

Temporary Bite Changes

As the braces work to straighten teeth and align the bite, patients might experience temporary bite changes. Particularly for those with pronounced initial misalignments, there might be phases during the treatment where the bite feels unfamiliar or even marginally uncomfortable. This sensation, while potentially disconcerting, is a transient phenomenon inherent to the process of orthodontic realignment.

It’s crucial for patients to understand that such temporary deviations are indicative of the braces effectuating the requisite changes. As the course of treatment advances, and as the dental structures gravitate toward their optimal positions, these bite irregularities typically attenuate, culminating in a well-aligned and functional bite.

Food Sticking to Braces

One common nuisance for those with braces is food sticking to the brackets and wires. Certain types of food, such as sticky or hard candies, can get lodged in the braces, making it difficult to keep the teeth clean. To prevent this, it’s essential to maintain a good oral hygiene routine and avoid problematic foods. Incorporating habits like rinsing the mouth after meals, regularly brushing and flossing, and using specialized tools such as interdental brushes can help keep braces clean and free of stuck food particles.

Tooth Decay

The presence of brackets and wires introduces complexities to the maintenance of optimal oral hygiene. The intricate structures of these orthodontic devices can inadvertently act as retentive sites for food particles and bacteria, potentially complicating the teeth-cleaning process. Consequently, there’s an elevated risk of plaque accumulation, which, if left unchecked, can escalate to tooth decay.

Such dental challenges underscore the importance of rigorous oral hygiene practices for individuals undergoing orthodontic treatments. To mitigate the risk of decay and ensure the longevity of the treatment’s positive outcomes, it is imperative for patients to not only be meticulous in their daily dental care but also adhere scrupulously to the guidance and recommendations proffered by their orthodontic specialists.

Worth Knowing

Research published in Clinical Oral Investigations indicates that orthodontic appliances can make oral hygiene challenging, fostering conditions for biofilm buildup that may result in gingivitis and white spot lesions. While gingivitis is often temporary, white spot lesions can progress to cavities, necessitating professional treatment. Such complications affect 15% of orthodontic patients, leading to an annual expense exceeding $500 million and necessitating the efforts of 1,000 full-time dentists in the USA.

Gum Disease

Braces may also contribute to gum disease, as insufficient cleaning can lead to inflammation or infection in the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. This issue may become more severe if not treated, eventually resulting in the gum and bone tissue pulling away from the brackets. Regular cleaning and dental checkups can help identify and manage gum disease early to prevent any permanent damage.

Root Resorption

Root resorption is a potential side effect of braces, where a tooth’s roots may shorten during orthodontic treatment. The genesis of this issue often lies in the pressure applied to teeth as they are guided into their correct alignment. The biomechanics involved in tooth movement can, in certain instances, inadvertently result in a diminution of the root structure.

While the prevalence of this complication is relatively low, and a majority of reported cases are mild, it nevertheless warrants vigilant oversight. Continuous monitoring of tooth movement and making requisite adjustments to the treatment strategy become imperative.

Decalcification of Teeth

Decalcification, or the loss of minerals from tooth enamel, can occur when braces make it difficult to adequately clean teeth. The intricate structures of braces can inadvertently create niches where dental plaque may accumulate, thereby complicating thorough tooth cleaning. Over time, this can manifest as unsightly white lesions on the teeth. In aggravated scenarios, these demineralized areas may progress to cavities or even culminate in tooth loss if left unchecked.

To combat the potential ramifications of decalcification, individuals undergoing orthodontic treatment should maintain proper oral hygiene practices. Regular usage of fluoride toothpaste, which aids in the remineralization process, and unwavering adherence to guidelines provided by the orthodontic specialist are instrumental. By following such a diligent regimen, patients can effectively mitigate the risks associated with decalcification, preserving the integrity of their enamel throughout their orthodontic journey.


Certain metals used in orthodontic appliances, particularly nickel, can serve as allergens for some individuals. Exposure to these metals can elicit a spectrum of reactions in those predisposed to such allergies. Symptoms can vary, encompassing localized sensations like itching and redness, to more pronounced responses such as swelling and oral discomfort. On infrequent occasions, these reactions might escalate to systemic manifestations.

How to Prevent Side Effects?

Regular Dental Check-ups

For individuals wearing braces, regular dental check-ups stand as a cornerstone of effective orthodontic care. Initially, these appointments offer clinicians a window to meticulously evaluate the ongoing course of treatment, ensuring teeth are moving and aligning as envisioned. Building upon this, the insights gleaned from real-time assessments enable orthodontists to make informed and timely adjustments to the braces, striking a balance between treatment efficacy and patient comfort.

Furthermore, these routine visits play a critical role as early warning systems, promptly identifying and addressing potential complications or side effects. This proactive approach substantially curtails the risk of extended issues, safeguarding the integrity of the intended orthodontic outcomes.

Considering the continual shifts in tooth positioning throughout the treatment, experts typically recommend a 4-6 week interval between check-ups to maintain an optimal treatment progression.

See also: Dental Cleanings with Braces

Good Oral Hygiene Practices

The nexus between orthodontic interventions, particularly braces, and the imperativeness of exemplary oral hygiene is one that is profoundly intertwined. To circumvent potential side effects that may arise due to braces, a systematic and meticulous oral care regimen is paramount. This regimen encompasses several key components:


The act of brushing stands as the primary line of defense against dental maladies. It’s advised to brush one’s teeth no less than twice daily and after every meal, preferably utilizing a soft-bristled toothbrush. This ensures gentle yet effective cleaning, specifically tailored to the nuanced needs of individuals with braces. Special attention should be accorded to the areas surrounding the brackets and wires, as these can become repositories for food particles and plaque.


The presence of braces introduces complexities in flossing, making conventional methods less effective. Hence, the employment of specialized tools like floss threaders or water flossers becomes crucial. These instruments are designed to navigate the intricate spaces between teeth and the braces apparatus, ensuring thorough plaque removal and minimizing interdental debris.


An integral component of holistic oral care, particularly for those with braces, is the use of an antimicrobial mouthwash. This serves to not only freshen the breath but also plays a pivotal role in curtailing plaque buildup and mitigating bacterial proliferation.

Proper Diet

A well-balanced diet is essential for maintaining dental health while wearing braces. Be mindful of your food choices and avoid:

  • Sticky Foods: Such food items pose a challenge as they tenaciously adhere to braces, often becoming enmeshed with intricate components. This tenacity not only complicates oral hygiene practices but elevates the risk of orthodontic damage and potential tooth decay due to lingering residues.
  • Sugary Drinks: Beverages replete with sugars can be deleterious in the context of orthodontic care. The excessive sugar content can undermine the adhesive integrity binding the braces to teeth. Moreover, persistent exposure to sugary mediums escalates the risk of tooth decay, complicating the orthodontic journey.
  • Hard Foods: Indulging in hard food items is fraught with risks when wearing braces. Such foods have the potential to exert undue pressure on the braces, leading to dislodged or broken brackets. This not only compromises the treatment’s efficacy but can extend the duration required to achieve the desired dental alignment.

Incorporating healthy foods like vegetables, lean proteins, and dairy products will support overall dental health and help prevent potential side effects related to braces.

Such dietary choices not only replenish essential nutrients for tooth strength but also mitigate potential adversities associated with braces. Embracing these guidelines ensures that while the braces endeavor to perfect dental alignment, the overall oral ecosystem thrives in a state of health and resilience.

Dealing with Side Effects

Braces are invaluable for improving dental health and aesthetics, but they also come with various potential side effects. These range from initial discomfort and mouth irritations to more pronounced issues like jaw pain and tooth decay. Further challenges, such as speech difficulties, temporary bite alterations, and uncommon allergic reactions, highlight the intricacies of undergoing orthodontic procedures. However, by maintaining regular dental visits, adhering to rigorous oral hygiene routines, and making wise dietary decisions, patients can effectively address these concerns.


Ke, Y. et al. A comparison of treatment effectiveness between clear aligner and fixed appliance therapies. BMC Oral Health. 2019. doi: 10.1186/s12903-018-0695-z Available online at:

Olsen, J., Comparison of Patient Factors Influencing the Selection of an Orthodontist, General Dentist, or Direct-To-Consumer Aligners for Orthodontic Treatment. Virginia Commonwealth University. (2019). Available online at:

Yijin Ren, Y., Jongsma, M., Mei, I., Van der Mei, H. C., Biofilm and Orthodontic Therapy; Clinical Oral Investigations 18(7), 2014. DOI: 10.1007/s00784-014-1240-3. Available online at:

Müller, L. K., Jungbauer, G., Jungbauer, R., Wolf, M., Deschner, J., Biofilm and Orthodontic Therapy; Monogr Oral Sci. 2021:29:201-213. doi: 10.1159/000510193. Available online at:

Iza Wojnarowski

Content contributor

Iza is a dedicated content contributor for Toothific. Having worn braces twice and currently using Invisalign to correct a mild overbite, Iza brings a unique perspective to her writing. She spends her time staying updated on the latest dental trends and treatments, ensuring her readers have the most current information for their dental care needs.

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