Adapting to braces can be a little challenging especially in the first few days. This goal of this guide to help you through the most common issues and difficulties and make the entire process more comfortable.

Braces are nowadays mode to be smaller and more comfortable, nevertheless, there are still brackets with hooks and poky wires. Teeth also feel sore for a number of days after each adjustment. That’s just how biology works; pressure on teeth kick starts a biological reaction which is essentially an inflammatory process; chemicals are released, bone is dissolved and formed and all of this is usually painful.

First week in braces? You should do the following:

1. Stick to soft diet (soups, yogurt, shakes, etc…)
2. Avoid biting and chewing on your front teeth
3. Smaller bites, cut food into smaller pieces
4. Cold foods and beverages can relief the pain (who wants ice cream?)
5. Pain relievers can be used if necessary (prescription are not recommended or necessary, over the counter pain relievers are adequate)
6. Apply wax to sharp parts of braces. Cover any sharp hooks or wires. This can be very helpful.

Brushing and flossing takes more time so plan accordingly!

Brushing your teeth with braces is time consuming but is incredibly important. Failing to maintain excellent oral hygiene throughout treatment may result in gum disease, cavities, bad breath, white decalcification spots and all sorts of problems. The best brushing approach is to use an electric toothbrush and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Ideally, you should brush your teeth after each meal and for full 2 minutes every time. Electric toothbrushes have built-in timers and some models (e.g. Sonicare Diamondclean) even allow you to track your progress using your smartphone and would alert you if you missed a spot!
Flossing with braces should be done using a floss threader or a Superfloss. It is definitely time consuming so be prepared to spend 10-15 minutes flossing. The good news is that flossing can be done once a day before going to bed.
There are also some really helpful adjuncts to brushing and flossing; Waterpik and Airfloss utilize water and air pressure to remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth. They are effective and useful but they do not negate the need for brushing and flossing so they should be in addition to and not instead of brushing and flossing.

With braces on, please avoid the following:

1. Sticky, chewy, crunchy and hard foods (that’s it!)
2. Attempting to remove or adjust your own wires!
3. Bad oral habits (e.g. biting on pencils)
4. Playing contact sports without a mouth guard

Wear your rubber bands! It really helps!

Wearing rubber bands as instructed is perhaps the best way to get your orthodontic treatment done as quickly as possible. Wearing rubber bands every now and then or only a few hours of the day is equivalent to not wearing them at all!

Invisalign requires full time wear. That's 20-22 hours a day!

The main reason for unsatisfactory Invisalign treatment results is inadequate wear. Aligners should be worn on a daily basis for 20-22 hours. Teeth will move predictably only if pressure on teeth is constant. Interrupting this pressure by removing your aligners for extended periods of time will disrupt the biological movement and affect tooth movement. If you doubt being able to commit to this strict protocol, you should consider traditional braces instead of Invisalign for your orthodontic treament.

Keep up with your office visits!

Braces need to be adjusted on a regular basis for teeth to continue moving. Missing your appointments will only extend your treatment time and risk complications.

Embrace your braces!

Orthodontic treatment is a big investment and an even bigger commitment. It is a process that takes months or even years to finish. It requires quite a bit of adaptations and lifestyle changes. Successful treatment relies heavily on your compliance and cooperation. You should focus on the positive side of treatment and the ultimate reward of having a beautiful smile that will last for years. Feeling positive about your orthodontic treatment will certainly make the process more comfortable and more rewarding.

Dr. Ramzi Daibis is a board-certified orthodontist and the owner of Band & Wire Orthodontics in Clarendon Hills, IL. He specializes exclusively in braces and Invisalign for children and adults. Band & Wire Orthodontics serves Clarendon Hills, Hinsdale, Westmont, Downers Grove, Oak Brook, Willowbrook, Burr Ridge, Western Springs, La Grange, La Grange Park and Chicago.