When Braces Cause Ulcers

My Braces are Causing Ulcers in my Mouth.  What Can I Do?

Many people who undergo traditional orthodontic treatment with braces experience some uncomfortable side effects during treatment.  Some notice headaches or tension in the facial muscles.  Others experience pain in the teeth as they are moving.  More rare, but still possible, are symptoms associated with TemporoMandibular Joint Disorder (TMD).

One of the more common side effects of wearing braces is developing ulcers on the soft tissues lining the inside of the mouth.  The great news is that all of these side effects are temporary.  In this post, we’ll give you tips on relieving the pain of ulcers in your mouth during orthodontic treatment.

What are Ulcers?

Typically, the type of ulcers that occur during orthodontic treatment are aphthous ulcers, also commonly called canker sores.  These painful sores in the mouth consist of a white-to-yellowish colored open wound surrounded by a red ring.  Many people experience aphthous ulcers even without braces, and some are simply more prone to developing them from any irritation in the mouth.

Because the brackets and wires used in traditional braces have some rough or sharp edges, irritation of the soft tissue in the mouth is likely.  Not everyone develops ulcers in response to this irritation.  If you tend to get canker sores after biting your lip, then you can expect to develop ulcers during braces.

How Long Will They Last?

Most ulcers last 7-10 days.  During that time, you will notice the size of the sore gradually getting smaller and less painful.  The problem with orthodontic treatment is that it provides continual irritation to the inside of the mouth, so people are likely to get more than one ulcer at a time or one after another.  This can make it seem like they are lasting much longer.

In rare cases, you can develop a major aphthous ulcer, which can last up to six weeks.  These major sores do cause significant pain, so you should speak to your orthodontist if you notice a single spot that does not seem to be healing.

What Can I Do to Prevent Them?

The great news is that ulcers related to braces are preventable.  Eventually, your oral tissue will adapt to the irritation, and you will stop developing ulcers.  This is NOT a problem that lasts for the entire duration of your orthodontic treatment.  The risk for ulcers is highest at the beginning of your time in braces.

For this reason, we strongly urge our patients to use protective wax to cover the rough or sharp edges of brackets and wires.  Wax is inexpensive, simple to apply, and disposable.  The wax forms a smooth barrier between the braces and your cheeks, lips and tongue.  We have wax available for our patients.  You can also purchase it over the counter in the toothpaste aisle of your grocery store or pharmacy.

How Can I Relieve the Pain when I Get Them?

If you have already developed painful ulcers inside your mouth, you should begin using the protective wax to prevent any further irritation and allow the area to heal.

To alleviate the discomfort and promote healing, you should also rinse your mouth well with warm salt water for one to two minutes up to five times per day.  This flushes away any irritants and reduces inflammation.

The simplest and fastest remedy for the pain of an ulcer is to hold a small piece of ice in your mouth against the sore.  This both reduces inflammation and causes a mild numbing effect.  You can also take over the counter pain relievers like Tylenol and Advil/Motrin.

More Questions about the Side Effects of Braces?

Contact the Orthodontic team at Empire Dental Specialty Group to schedule a consultation with one of our compassionate orthodontists.

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