What Is Tightening Braces For?

For adults and teenagers with braces, routine tightening appointments are the norm. But what does tightening braces actually do? Family ortho Dr. Chad Carver, DMD, is available to answer all your family orthodontics questions at Stellar Family Orthodontics in Mill Creek and Mukilteo, Washington.

What is braces tightening?

Tightening your braces is essential for straightening malaligned teeth. Orthodontics work by pulling your teeth into the correct position. 

Braces are composed of two primary components: metal brackets and wires. The brackets adhere to the surface of your teeth. One wire runs through the brackets in your upper arch, while another runs through the bottom. 

When you have your braces tightened, Dr. Carver adjusts the wires to move your teeth into a straighter position. Modern wires are gentler than the thick, stiff metal wires of the past. Most wires today are quite pliant. They’re applied cold, when they’re most flexible, and they gradually stiffen once adjusting to the warmer temperature of your mouth. This means very little tightening is actually needed.

Why do braces need tightening?

When you first get braces, your teeth may feel sensitive and sore. This happens because your braces are exerting pressure on your teeth to pull them into the correct position. Over time, however, the brackets and wires stop applying as much pressure as they once did. Without tightening visits, your teeth can shift out of position and extend your treatment time.

How long do braces hurt after tightening?

While tightening braces has a reputation for causing pain and discomfort, it’s no longer the painful experience it once was. The wires are thinner and more flexible, allowing for gentler tooth movement.

However, if your wires are tightened or your brackets moved into a slightly different position, your mouth may take a couple of days to adjust. Minor pain and discomfort is expected. Most patients experience noticeably less pain from braces after the first six months.

How can I reduce pain from tightened braces?

If you’re feeling uncomfortable after having your braces tightened, there are a few steps you can take to relieve your pain. The following tips can provide pain relief from tightening braces:

  • Apply an ice pack
  • Eat soft foods
  • Avoid hard or chewy foods
  • Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever
  • Try an oral anesthetic
  • Sip cold ice water
  • Gargle warm water
  • Massage your gums
  • Use an orthodontic wax

Practicing good oral hygiene, such as brushing and flossing after meals, also protects your teeth and reduces sensitivity

How often do I need my braces tightened?

Adjustment visits help ensure that your orthodontic treatment plan is still on target for your expected completion date. These routine visits typically occur once every 4-6 weeks. While Dr. Carver may not adjust your braces at every visit, tightening appointments allow him to monitor your tooth movement.

Still have questions about tightening braces? Call Stellar Family Orthodontics or schedule a free orthodontic consultation online now!