Getting your first set of braces can be an exciting and nerve-wracking time, but most often, you’ll often be warned that you’ll experience some discomfort for the first few weeks. Orthodontic pain is common for those with braces, as the devices restrict blood supply to the gums, causing inflammation and compressing the gum ligaments. This compression can irritate the nerve endings, causing the pain receptors to go off and cause pain or discomfort. For those with new braces, your mouth will surely be sore. Most orthodontists will often advise patients to take NSAIDS to relieve mouth pain for the first week. However, there may also be some alternatives to relieve pain, with chewing gum being one of the most unlikely solutions.
What’s the Verdict on Chewing Gum?
Most orthodontists will tell patients that chewing gum isn’t the best option, and that comes with good reason. Chewing gum that contains sugar can cause bacteria to stick to the enamel, creating more plaque and leading to a greater risk of cavities. But for those with braces, plaque development is a tricky situation because of how difficult it can be to clean teeth with braces attached. Chewing gum can also stick to the wires and brackets, bending them in such a way that a trip to your orthodontist will be needed to straighten them out. For these reasons, many don’t recommend chewing gum.
So why do some studies recommend it? Even while the gum’s stickiness can be a problem, some studies have recommended sugar-free gum as a way to relieve brace pain. What we currently know is that some sugar-free alternatives do help prevent cavities. But in other studies, specifically from the Orthodontics and Craniofacial Research, researchers conducted a study on young teenagers chewing gum versus those who didn’t chew gum and found that those who did chew gum reported less pain from their braces. However, band failures occurred in both groups of volunteers, and that there was no difference in bracket failure when compared.
If your orthodontist recommends chewing gum as an option for pain relief, make sure to use chewing gum to a minimum of at least 5 minutes per session. However, even with the benefits of chewing gum, it’s recommended to avoid chewing gum altogether.
Other Pain-Free Alternatives To Chewing Gum
When it comes to other alternatives to chewing gum, there are many ways to relieve pain, satisfy the need to chew, and have fresh breath while wearing braces. We recommend the following options:
- Over-The-Counter Medications: Using medicines such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen will be able to help relieve your pain gradually. These medications are considered the best options for pain relief.
- Drink Water with Lemon: Hydrating your body is the best way to help your body, especially your teeth and gums. Drinking water with lemon can also help freshen your breath.
- Use Ice Packs: If using medications doesn’t help, applying an ice pack to the sides of your face can help reduce inflammation and swelling.
- Try Sugar-Free Mints: For those who want something to chew on and freshen their breath, chewing on sugar-free mints can help. Be wary of regular mints, as the added sugars can harm your teeth!
Your pain while wearing braces should only last for the first week, and if it continues, contact your orthodontist so they can see the issue. As orthodontists, our jobs are to create happy, healthy smiles. If you’re new to wearing braces or are looking forward to your appointment, the best place to find information about what to do while wearing braces is to speak with your orthodontist or general dentist to learn more.