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It’s colder out. And with the drop in temperature, you might have noticed your teeth hurting with braces pain. Rest assured, it’s actually quite normal for braces to hurt when it’s cold out and thankfully we’ve got some easy steps you can take to help alleviate painful braces.

In this post, Dr. VanderWall and the team at VanderWall Orthodontics will cover braces  pain from the cold, why it happens, some other reasons for braces pain, and what helps with addressing braces discomfort.

Why Do My Braces Hurt So Much In the Cold?

First things first, let’s talk about why some people experience braces pain in colder weather. The most common reasons why braces hurt when it’s cold out include:

Teeth Expanding and Contracting

When your teeth are exposed to extreme cold, they expand and contract. Normally you wouldn’t notice your teeth growing and shrinking such a tiny amount, but with braces, this can cause tooth sensitivity — making your braces feel uncomfortable or painful. 

Teeth Grinding

Constant clenching, grinding or chattering your teeth together from the cold can lead to wear and tear on your enamel. In turn, your teeth lose their much-needed protective layer, making them more susceptible to infection or more sensitive to hard foods.

Lack of Vitamin D

In the winter, you don’t get as much vitamin D from the sun as in other months which can impact your teeth health. Vitamin D is crucial for bone density — helping you absorb calcium better by moving it from your gut and depositing it into your teeth and bones. Unhealthy teeth can feel more sensitive to temperatures: cold or hot.

Other Reasons For Braces Pain

Now, let’s pause for a minute from talking about your braces hurting when it’s cold out and mention a few other causes for braces pain. Sometimes the cold isn’t the reason — or only reason — you’re experiencing painful braces during the winter months. If you’re back inside and warmed up again but wondering, “Why do my braces still hurt?” your braces pain could be from one of the following:

Tightening or Adjustments 

Have you recently had your braces tightened or adjusted? If so, this might be why you’re experiencing braces pain. “How long do your teeth hurt after getting braces tightened?” you might be wondering. Typically, we’ve found that braces pain after getting your braces adjusted lasts for only a few days. Most of our braces patients say discomfort goes away completely between 1-5 days after their adjustments.

Brand New Braces

Do new braces hurt? Simply put, yes. Most braces-wearers find them uncomfortable or their teeth and gums feel tender at first. And it’s no surprise, considering braces give you a beautiful new smile by applying steady pressure to encourage tooth movement. The science behind braces reveals a lot of breaking down and building up of oral tissue around every tooth, which understandably can cause some mouth pain.

As your Raleigh, Durham, and Cary orthodontist, we’d be concerned if you weren’t feeling any discomfort or braces pain after first getting braces! Braces pain when you first get them is most often a sign they’re doing their job. And how long do new braces hurt? The good news is that the pain from new braces typically fades after just a few days.

What Helps with Braces Pain

So how to deal with braces pain? That’s the million-dollar question! When you’re asking yourself, “Why do my braces hurt so much?” it’s fair to say that what really matters is finding out what helps with your braces pain, and fast. 

Here, are a few tips for how to deal with braces pain. Whether it’s from the cold, adjustments, or other reasons, these tried-and-true methods will help:

1. Eating Soothing Foods

Be kind to yourself when you’re experiencing painful teeth and braces by eating soft foods. Try foods and drinks like:

  • Ice water
  • Popsicles, ice cream, or drinkable yogurt
  • Smoothies
  • Soft-boiled veggies
  • Eggs
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Soft, easy-to-bite pasta like mac and cheese

2. Ice Packs

Place ice packs against your cheeks (on the outside against your face) to reduce inflammation and provide some numbing relief.

3. Over-the-Counter Pain Medicine

Over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen helps alleviate braces pain quickly. If you’re heading into an adjustment appointment and you know you might feel discomfort, take the pain relief about an hour before your appointment. You’ll feel less braces pain during and after your adjustment. 

Just remember that over-the-counter pain relief shouldn’t typically be used for prolonged periods. If you’re still dealing with braces pain after 5-6 days, contact Dr. VanderWall.

4. Oral Anaesthetics:

A topical gel numbs your gums so you can’t feel your braces pain as much. Pick up Oragel or Anbesol at the drugstore, and use a cotton swab or a clean finger to rub a small amount of the gel on your gums and sensitive teeth. These numbing gels last from 15-45 minutes at full strength, slowly decreasing in efficacy after that. They typically completely wear off after about two hours. You can reapply several times a day to keep braces pain at bay.

5. Orthodontic Wax for Braces
When you first got braces, your orthodontic team at VanderWall Orthodontics introduced you to orthodontic wax. For braces pain, orthodontic wax is a must-have in your braces tool kit — right along with expected items dental floss, a toothbrush, and fluoride toothpaste.

What exactly is orthodontic wax for braces? It’s a special wax that creates a barrier between your brackets and your lips, cheeks, and gums — wherever the brackets might rub inside your mouth. How to use orthodontic wax? Take a small piece and mold the wax to fit. Then place it over your braces brackets to prevent the protruding part of your brackets from irritating — or further irritating — your mouth.

Of course, orthodontic wax for braces is non-toxic, so no need to worry if you swallow some by accident. Remember to take it off before brushing and flossing your teeth, and preferably before eating. Feel free to reapply orthodontic wax for braces-wearing that won’t bother your sensitive oral tissue.

6. Gum Massage
Try a gum massage to relieve braces pain — you don’t “knead” anything except clean fingers, a few minutes of free time, and maybe some ice.

Gently rub your sore gums in a circular motion with your fingers. Massage them only long enough to relax your swollen gums. If you want to go for max relief and are okay with cold on your teeth, rub your gums with a bit of ice before massaging them to numb them a bit, too.

7. Chew On Something Soft
Studies show that part of braces pain is sometimes a lack of blood flow in your mouth and jaw. Chewing can stimulate blood flow and alleviate braces discomfort. Try chewing on soft bread or a banana (nothing hard, crunchy, or gummy).

8. Warm Salt Rinse
Gargling with warm salt water helps heal any sores or cuts in your mouth from your braces brackets.

9. Good Oral Hygiene
The best defence is a good offence, so they say. When it comes to braces pain, maintaining excellent oral hygiene with braces goes the distance against tooth decay and gum inflammation. These two issues can definitely cause tooth pain. 

Make sure to brush, floss, and use a braces-friendly mouthwash to get rid of food debris and plaque for sparkling clean teeth throughout your braces treatment.

10. Stay Out of the Cold
It goes without saying that if your answer to, “Why do my braces hurt so much?” is the colder weather, then try to stay warm and/or indoors. And when you do head out into colder temperatures, bundle up — like with a scarf up to your jaw and lower face.

The Bottom Line

If you find yourself asking, “Why do my braces hurt?” maybe it’s the colder temperatures of winter. Or maybe you recently got braces or had them tightened or adjusted. Whatever the reason, now you’re well-informed on the many ways you can address your braces pain. Try out the options above, or ask your expert orthodontics team at VanderWall Orthodontics for more tips. We’re here to help you navigate your smile transformation as comfortably as possible. Contact us for more information or to schedule an appointment at our Raleigh, Durham, or Cary, NC office.

Dr. Clay VanderWall

Author Dr. Clay VanderWall

Dr. VanderWall attended Kalamazoo College, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Health Sciences. He spent a semester doing research at the Dental Research Center of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where he wrote his Senior Individualized Project (SIP). He furthered his studies at the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Dentistry, receiving his Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1999. He graduated with honors and was inducted into the national dental honor society, Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU). He also received the Pierre Fauchard Academy Student Award and was a recipient of the Health Professions Scholarship from the United States Navy.

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