It’s a popular myth. We, as Orthodontists, do not deliberately set out to torture children. In reality we also torture adults. We know that our patients think we were all trained by the Marquis de Sade, but that also isn’t true. Yes, Orthodontic treatment requires moving teeth and jaws. To do that we harness Wolff’s Law. In the 19th century the anatomist and physician Dr. Julius Wolff discovered that when pressure is applied to bone, bone dissolves away. When tension is applied to bone, new bone is laid down. That’s what we do in Orthodontics. We use braces, aligners, elastics, springs, etc., to apply light continuous force through the teeth to the bone. As the teeth move, the surrounding bone remodels.
In the early 20th century the biochemist and physician Dr. Hans Albert Krebs described the metabolic cycle in which your body takes food and converts it into energy. This is the biochemical pathway that allows you the energy to throw a baseball, read a book, or energize the movement of teeth. One of the byproducts of the Krebs Cycle is a chemical called adenosine di-phosphate, or ADP. ADP is an irritant to sensory nerve endings, so the more energy expended, the greater the buildup of ADP, which your body interprets as soreness. That’s why your shoulder gets sore when you pick up a football and start throwing it around after not touching it all spring and summer. That’s why your teeth get sore when your Orthodontist periodically adjusts your appliances.
So what to do? It’s going to hurt after treatment stars, after an adjustment, and for what seems like no reason at all. While you can’t totally eliminate discomfort, you can dramatically reduce the severity of your discomfort. We want to do a number of things. We want to mobilize fluid, carrying away tissue fluid containing that nasty ADP. As a side benefit, mobilizing fluid will also reduce swelling. And we want to block the sensory nerve pathways that carry the “pain” signal to your brain. Try the following:
- 1 200mg Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) 4x/day. Works best if it has something to dissolve in, so take it with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and before bed with a big glass of water or milk. Adults may require 2 200mg tablets at first, titrated down to 1 as soreness subsides.
- Salt water rinses. Mix 1tsp salt into 8oz warm water. Rinse. Spit out. Continue until glass is empty. As long as you are taking Ibuprofen, rinse with salt water.
- Wax. Ask your Orthodontist for a supply. Dry the area you want to pad up with the wax (wax will not stick to a wet spot).
- Take a pea-sized piece of wax. Roll it between your fingers for a bit until the wax begins to soften. Place the soft wax onto the “sticker” that you dried so carefully, and tuck the wax in around the brace. It will come off easily when you brush or eat. It’s OK to swallow some.
- Orabase-B. Get it at your Drug Store. Small tube will last a life-time. Make sure it says “-B,” that means it has the numbing agent Benzocaine in it. Put a small dab onto a Q-tip. Dab (do not rub) the salve onto the sore spots in your mouth. Orabase-B will numb up sore spots for a while. You can use it as often as needed.
I know Orthodontic treatment is a “pain,” but it’s so worth it. You’ll be thrilled with the final result. Orthodontists spend years after Dental School in full time specialty training, and limit their practices to Orthodontic care exclusively, to give you all the benefits of a healthy attractive smile.
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If you have questions about what Orthodontics can do for you or for a member of your family, the Orthodontists at L&M Orthodontics would be pleased to see you for a complimentary initial examination.
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