Why Do Braces Hurt (and Are Clear Aligners Better)?

A man experiencing discomfort and braces pain.

Are you thinking about enhancing your smile with straightened teeth but are concerned about the typical discomfort caused by traditional braces (the classical approach to malocclusion treatment)?

You’re not alone.

Many folks share your apprehension regarding braces (and with good reason) – from being worried about how much they hurt throughout the treatment course to looking forward to when the discomfort finally eases. 😩

A stint with metal braces – there’s no point sugarcoating it – is downright painful for most people!

Thankfully, though, we live in a world where options like clear aligners are readily available globally from top-rated providers like ClearPath Ortho.

These novelties cause wearers much less anguish (to none, practically) than conventional braces while being just as effective. And then there are the unbeatable aesthetic benefits, of course.

In this article, we’ll explore the rational, modern case for why you should seriously look into transparent aligners for a minimally hurting teeth-straightening fix.

Now, braces do offer a well-established method to correct misaligned teeth, overbites, underbites, and gaps…sure.

But if you have an alternative that offers enhanced comfort, discretion, and a potentially shorter treatment duration, why would you NOT consider it? 🤷‍♀️

Part I: The Braces Pain Experience

A man shown wearing braces (in pain) on the left and clear aligners on the right.
Braces pain on the left vs a ‘clear aligner smile’ on the right

As mentioned, dental braces are tried-and-true orthodontic devices designed to align crooked teeth and correct misaligned jaws. You’ve also got choices when it comes to the material – metal, ceramic, or even clear (semi-transparent). But they hurt.

Their caused pain cycle usually spans the following stages:

  • The Initial Discomfort
  • Pain after Adjustments
  • Irritation to Soft Tissues
  • When the Hurt Lessens (a bit)

Bracing for the Discomfort

The discomfort caused by braces is closely tied to individual pain tolerance.

Here’s what to anticipate:

  • Initial Discomfort: Be ready for this as you start the treatment after getting ‘fixed’.
  • Soreness after Adjustments: You will probably encounter some soreness after each adjustment. 
  • Tissue Irritation: The brackets and wires can cause sores, ulcers, and infections. This can be countered by orthodontic wax, which is extremely effective (but imagine if you didn’t need to do this!).
  • Adapting Over Time: Most people adapt to the presence of braces over time. However, a large minority don’t.
  • Over-the-counter Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers are usually effective against brace discomfort. Consult your orthodontist or healthcare provider before taking any medication, though.

Due to the inherent risk of dental/mouth damage that braces come with, you always want to keep your orthodontist on speed dial. Seriously, if you’re thinking about going with braces, don’t skip this!

How much do braces hurt on a scale of 1-10?

A boy anticipating the pain of braces
A boy anticipating the pain of getting braces

Traditional braces hurt primarily due to their forceable teeth aligning action. Trailing this, they also cause intense irritation to (and can even damage) your cheeks and gums on account of the constant rubbing and loose wires/brackets.

The factors that influence (increase) the level of discomfort

  • The severity of your dental misalignment 
  • Brace type and size
  • Adjustment action
  • Personal tolerance
  • Oral care (hygiene + what you eat)

Let’s talk numbers

Now, we’ve already alluded to how we can’t slap a one-size-fits-all rating on the physical hurt caused by braces treatment. 

But here’s a rough idea (on a scale of 1 [Min. Pain] to 10 [Max. Pain] – as reported by patients):

Mild Discomfort (1-3) Many people describe the initial discomfort as fairly mild. It’s like gentle pressure, tightness, or soreness
Moderate Discomfort (4-6)Here, wearers feel their braces more intensely (typically for a few days after they are installed or get adjusted)
Significant-Extreme Discomfort (7-10)In rare cases, some people might experience more significant discomfort. This can be due to the complexity of their orthodontic issue, their unique pain tolerance, or certain adjustments
ClearPath Ortho’s Braces Pain Index

If you ever face serious or lasting discomfort interfering with your daily groove or are concerned about how you’re feeling, please call your orthodontist right away. 

How long do braces hurt?

Generally, people experience discomfort for a few days to a few weeks after the braces are applied.

Pain IndexDuration of Pain
Initial Discomfort1-2 days 
Soreness after tightness/adjustments2-3 days
Intermittent SorenessAfter every adjustment or placement of new orthodontic components
Pain Index: Duration

How to stop braces pain after tightening (or at every stage)

To ease braces pain after tightening, consider the following:

  • Over-the-counter Pain Relief
  • Cold Compress
  • Oral Rinse: Use salt water or an antiseptic mouthwash to soothe your gums and prevent infection.
  • Soft Diet: Opt for soft, bland, and cold foods and drinks.
  • Orthodontic Wax
  • Gentle Oral Care: Employ a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle flossing techniques.
  • Follow the Orthodontist’s Instructions: Adhere to your orthodontist’s guidance.

Do braces hurt when you get them off?

The orthodontist uses special tools to gently remove the brackets and wires from your teeth without damaging them. Additionally, they may also apply or inject a local anesthetic to numb the gums. 

You may feel pressure or discomfort during the process, but this is generally manageable.

Getting your braces off can cause your teeth to feel loose and tender for a few days as they adjust to their new position. This might also lead to some changes in your bite, speech, chewing, and swallowing as you get used to finally not having the metal stranded in. 

Here are the additional things you want to consider:

Teeth Sensitivity
Your teeth might feel a bit sensitive.

White Spots
Some folks notice white spots or stains on their teeth where the brackets used to be. 

Dental retainers (necessary for maintaining straight teeth after acute braces/aligner treatment) might cause some discomfort at the beginning, but trust us, it’s nothing like what you feel during braces adjustments.

Part II: The Clear Aligners Solution

A lady posing with content with her clear aligners.
A lady happily applying her clear aligner – expecting comfort

We’ve discussed braces pain in detail. 

Now, let’s look at the better – more recommended – approach.

How and Why Clear Aligners Are Better Than Braces

Clear aligners are fast becoming the go-to choice for most people seeking orthodontic straightening treatment. And the hype is not without cause.

These work best for mild to moderate misalignment issues like minor crowding, spacing, and bite problems.

Traditional braces may still be the most effective choice for severe cases (but these are usually very rare). 

Let’s explain why and how clear aligners often outshine traditional braces on the overall pain – which is not just physical – front:

  • Comfort as a Priority: They cause minimum discomfort.
  • Freedom to Remove – Your Mouth, Your Rules: Clear aligners are removable, giving you the freedom to take them out for meals, brushing, and flossing. 
  • Safety First – No Broken Brackets: Clear aligners eliminate the risk of broken brackets or wires – which can cause acute, searing pain.
  • Predictable Outcomes: Precise 3D imaging yields accurate dental impressions of wearers, which means ‘zero pain’ due to a close fit.
  • Speedy Solution – Possibly Quicker: Clear aligners can deliver results faster than braces in some cases. In this sense, the prospect of any prolonged pain is greatly reduced.
  • Lifestyle-Friendly – Embrace Your Hobbies: You can remove them when engaging in outdoor activities. So, no heart, mind, and soul anguish.

The key to successful orthodontic treatment, regardless of the method you choose, is sticking to the plan. 

Clear aligners enable a more snug teeth alignment experience for patients with fewer injuries. So, it’s not surprising that dental practitioners have started to recommend them – in droves – over braces.

So, Do Clear Aligners Hurt? 🤷‍♀️

The short answer is an emphatic ‘no’.

But how about we put this in perspective – drawing a pain comparison with braces?

Clear AlignersDental Braces
Mild and Manageable
People generally find clear aligners less painful than metal braces. 
Often Extreme and Unmanageable
Overall, more painful.
Smooth and Comfortable
Clear aligners are crafted from a smooth plastic that minimizes the chances of mouth irritation, unlike metal braces.
Rough and Causes Discomfort
Made of metal wires and brackets, leading to extreme discomfort if broken.
Less Frequent Pain
Minor discomfort but little to no pain, unlike metal braces.
Frequent Pain
Causes discomfort all the time, wire breakage may result in injuries causing severe pain.
Pain Wars: Clear Aligners vs Dental Braces

Duration of Clear Aligner Treatment

Clear aligner treatment typically spans 6 to 18 months, with the advantage of often being quicker than traditional braces, particularly for mild to moderate cases. 

They result in significantly reduced dental pain on account of the following features:

  • Appearance: Clear aligners are almost invisible, providing a discreet solution that appeals to those conscious of traditional braces (so no social ache)
  • Comfort: Made from smooth plastic, clear aligners are more comfortable in the mouth, causing less irritation and discomfort.
  • Removability: You can easily remove clear aligners for eating, drinking, and oral care, making them incredibly convenient (again, a personal/social life plus)
  • Oral Hygiene: Cleaning teeth is hassle-free as you can remove the aligners to brush and floss. This results in a significantly lowered risk of oral infections (a constant problem with braces).
  • Reduced Risk of Oral Sores: The likelihood of painful sores is greatly diminished with no brackets or wires to cause irritation or injury.
  • Fewer Emergencies: Clear aligners are less prone to causing orthodontic emergencies, reducing unexpected trips to the orthodontist.

How to Start Your Hurt-Free Clear Aligners Journey

OK, so by this point, we’re sure you have a pretty solid idea about the incident pain in store with a standard braces experience.

And you also understand how clear aligners represent the more ache-and-stress-free solution.

If you’re interested in straightening your teeth and smile – achieving that perfect facial symmetry that everyone craves – using the latter, here’s what you need to do:

Just fill out the form at the bottom ✍️.

Our friendly customer service reps will take it from there…start you on the journey toward the nirvana of laughter-galore (a reality in waiting 😉).

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