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How Are Braces Tightened? What to Expect At Your Braces Appointment

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Braces need to be adjusted and tightened regularly to keep them working efficiently to straighten and align your teeth. Common questions that many people ask include, how are braces tightened and does it hurt?

how are braces tightened
Tightening braces is essential to teeth straightening

It's a widely known fact that if you get adult braces, you will need to commit to appointments with your orthodontist regularly. They need to check if your teeth are moving in the right direction and make the necessary adjustments to your braces.

The adjustments that your dentist will need to make include tightening the archwires and adding any attachments to help maintain pressure and manipulate the movement and alignment of your jaw.

If you are new to the procedure, you might not understand why you need your braces tightened.

In this article, we'll discuss braces adjustment appointments and the following topics:

  • How to get your braces tightened
  • How often you should get them adjusted
  • Dealing with the pain
  • Why wire adjustments are important

If this sounds rather daunting, don't worry. Having your braces tightened is a common orthodontic procedure. And, although the adjustments may feel uncomfortable at first, there are a few things you can do to help relieve any pain. But first, let's discuss why your orthodontist needs to tighten your braces.

Why do orthodontists tighten braces?

Braces tightening is an important part of regular orthodontic treatment maintenance. Your teeth move very slowly and the archwires that add pressure can loosen over time. Tightening the braces keeps the right amount of pressure on your teeth, moving everything into its proper place.

Aligners work similarly but straighten teeth without braces. Instead, they use a series of clear plastic trays rather than traditional brackets and wires.

When getting braces, your orthodontist will likely schedule regular monthly appointments to check your progress and make adjustments. During those meetings, they should adjust and tighten your wires.

Your teeth may feel uncomfortable with the additional pressure, sometimes they can even feel quite painful. Eating soft foods, like mashed potatoes, can help reduce the amount of pain you feel.

Consult your orthodontist if the soreness persists for a week after your braces have been adjusted. Too much pain and sensitivity could be a sign that something is wrong. Having your braces too tight can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, so if the pain is unbearable, let your dentist or orthodontist know so they can loosen them slightly.

What can you expect when your braces are tightened?

After your braces are tightened, you can expect your teeth to feel sore. The pain shouldn't be intense and you will get used to the feeling of extra pressure the longer you have to wear the braces.

How long do your teeth hurt after getting braces tightened?

braces tightening
It can hurt to get braces tightened

Many patients feel braces pain after tightening for a few days after having their brackets and archwires tightened. However, you won't feel as much pain as you did when your traditional braces were first applied.

After a few days, you should get used to the new pressure. If you are sensitive to pain and struggle with getting braces tightened, pain relief can help. Over-the-counter pain relief should be enough to dull braces pain.

You might feel nervous the first time you have your braces tightened, but you are not alone in this, as many people feel similarly. You will get used to these appointments and just remember that it's a necessary step in getting a straighter smile.

It's normal to struggle a bit with chewing food after tightening. If you feel uncomfortable, you can eat soup, smoothies, and other soft foods until you adjust. This provides relief for many people with sensitive teeth and gums.

Brushing your teeth can also be a little tender, but you can read about how to brush teeth with braces in our article here.

How often do braces get tightened?

You will need to have your braces tightened at least every six weeks. Your treatment may require slightly more or less time between tightening, so follow the instructions of your orthodontist.

How do orthodontists tighten braces?

When you go to get your braces tightened, your orthodontist will remove all the elastic bands or ‘o' ties that attach the archwires to the brackets. They will then tighten the archwires, and in some cases replace them altogether.

Archwires are metal wires that connect to the brackets and move the teeth slowly into position. During treatment, you can expect to get your braces tightened every 6 to 8 weeks according to the Oral Health Foundation. The process of getting your braces tightened is not painful, rather it may feel uncomfortable as you adjust to the new pressure.

Once your teeth have been checked and the wires have been tightened, your orthodontist will apply fresh ‘o' ties to the brackets.

How to tighten braces

To straighten your teeth, you'll need to get the wires of your braces adjusted by your orthodontist every 4 to 6 weeks. You may feel discomfort in your mouth, but it's manageable.

The adjustment process is as follows:

  • The rubber bands are removed.
  • The archwire is removed.
  • The dentist inspects your teeth and how they are adjusting. They may attach a new archwire or put the old one back in.
  • Finally, new rubber bands or ‘o' ties are applied to the brackets and the archwire.

Many patients experiencing braces treatment say that most of the discomfort comes from the new rubber bands being added in. However, with each tightening, the discomfort you experience should lessen. Some people never feel pain from their braces, but for most, it can be a little painful.

Once the appointment is finished, you will want to check on your archwires. If they are poking the inside of your mouth, ask the orthodontist to cut them before you leave. Wires that are too long can cause a lot of soreness, making it harder to eat. They can even lead to an infection if not taken care of.

Finally, many patients take over-the-counter pain medication after their wire tightening appointment. It helps them manage the discomfort and soreness from the treatment.

In the following video, Dr Sarah Sadek explains what to expect in your first braces adjustment appointment:

What happens if you don't get your braces tightened?

It's not a good idea to miss your braces appointments as it will only result in your treatment lasting longer. It may also mean that if something isn't going quite right, your dentist won't pick up on it if you don't attend your appointment for them to be able to review your progress.

Additionally, your orthodontist will make sure your gums and teeth are adjusting correctly to the braces wire. If something is going wrong, it's better to find out about it sooner rather than later. You will save yourself greater expenses and extended braces treatment time.

Never skip your braces tightening appointments

Make sure you go to each and every braces adjustment appointment you have scheduled. While these appointments might be uncomfortable, they are important to make sure your braces keep doing their job. Pressure is needed to move teeth, so if your archwires become loose, they will stop moving your teeth into alignment.

pain relief for braces tightening
Make sure your braces treatment goes to plan

The same goes for Invisalign aligners. Make sure you attend all of your appointments so your Invisalign doctor can be sure your treatment works efficiently. They will also tell you when to change to a new aligner at your appointment, which will maintain the pressure on your teeth and keep your teeth on track. You may experience some tightness in your mouth with new Invisalign aligners, just like you would with metal braces.

When you skip an appointment, you put yourself at risk of damaging your teeth. Treatment can take longer without the proper pressure, and your teeth may move into undesirable positions. It's always worth checking in with your dentist or orthodontist each month — they will let you know if everything is going smoothly. If it's not, they'll make adjustments and fix it so your treatment goes to plan.

Conclusion

Do you need your braces tightened? When you get braces, you can't just leave them on and forget about them until your treatment time is up. If you did, you'd be leaving out an essential part of the process — maintaining pressure on your teeth by getting your braces tightened.

Tightening or adjusting the wires of your braces is something that happens every 4 to 6 weeks, and it can only be done in person by your orthodontist. While you probably won't feel any pain during the appointment itself, you may feel some pain and discomfort in the hours and days after.

You can take over-the-counter pain medication to help ease the pain, and no matter what, don't skip your tightening appointments!

FAQs

How long do your teeth hurt after getting braces tightened?

After getting your braces tightened, your teeth should only hurt for a couple of days. If they hurt for longer, or if the pain is unbearable, let your dentist or orthodontist know.

What happens during braces tightening?

During braces tightening, your dentist will remove the rubber ‘o' ties from the brackets, then the archwires. They may replace the archwires or keep the ones you already have. Either way, they will tighten the wires to maintain pressure on your teeth, so they continue to straighten and become more aligned as per your treatment plan.

How painful is getting braces tightened?

Getting your braces tightened should not be extremely painful, but it depends on an individual's pain tolerance. Some may feel no discomfort at all whilst others may be very sensitive. Let your dentist know if your braces feel too painful after they have been tightened.

How Are Braces Tightened? What to Expect At Your Braces Appointment
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Contributors:
Natalie used to work as a Community Health Worker and Health Insurance Navigator. She continues to follow her passion for connecting people with the healthcare they need by writing informative content about dentistry and medicine.
Sources

Oral Health Foundation. Living with my brace. Consulted 15th May 2022.