Anyone who wears braces for an extended period of time will need to go for an adjustment appointment once every few weeks. Here is a quick guide to what happens during these appointments, as well as some advice on how to cope with the oral pain that they can cause.
What happens during an orthodontic adjustment?
During an orthodontic adjustment appointment, the orthodontist will usually take off the patient's elastic ligatures and the arch wire. The patient will then be asked to thoroughly brush and floss their teeth. This is an important step, as the presence of the wire and elastics in the mouth can make it harder for a person to reach certain areas of their teeth with their toothbrush; this, in turn, can make these unwashed areas more susceptible to decay. The removal of these components gives the patient the opportunity to access and clean such areas.
Following this stage, the orthodontist will examine the patient's teeth for signs that they are moving towards their correct positions. Based on this evaluation, they may decide to replace the elastics or adjust the arch wire. If the latter is causing oral irritation, they may also shorten it slightly, so that it no longer rubs against the soft tissues inside the mouth.
The entire process is quite straightforward and rarely takes longer than a half an hour.
Coping with the pain caused by an orthodontic adjustment
Many people experience some soreness and general discomfort after going for an orthodontic adjustment. This pain almost always subsides within a few days. During this time, however, the person should avoid eating crunchy or chewy foods (like crisps, popcorn and nuts, for example), as these may end up exacerbating their existing pain. Instead, they should stick to meal replacement drinks, soups, ice-cream and other soft foods.
Ice packs can also be helpful; they can reduce any inflammation or swelling, and help to numb the gums and teeth. If a person is experiencing severe pain, which cannot be alleviated with the aforementioned ice pack, their orthodontist may also recommend that they take some over-the-counter analgesics and apply an oral numbing gel to the most painful areas of their mouth.
For the first week or so after an orthodontic adjustment, it's a good idea for the person to use a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth, as well as a soft-bristled toothbrush. These products should make their dental hygiene activities a lot more comfortable.