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Can you sleep with braces pain?

Getting braces is an exciting time, but the pain and discomfort that comes with them can make sleep difficult. If you’re wondering whether you’ll be able to get a good night’s rest with braces, you’re not alone. Many orthodontic patients struggle to sleep comfortably when they first get braces. Luckily, there are plenty of tips and tricks to help you sleep better with braces pain.

What causes the pain with braces?

There are a few reasons why braces can be painful and make sleeping difficult:

  • Your teeth are moving – Braces work by applying constant pressure to the teeth to gradually shift them into alignment. This continuous movement and adjustment can cause tenderness and soreness.
  • Your mouth is getting used to the braces – Having a foreign object like braces in your mouth requires an adjustment period. As your lips, cheeks, and tongue get used to the braces, they may feel sore or irritated.
  • The hardware irritates your mouth – Braces consist of brackets, wires, elastics, and other components that can rub and poke the soft tissues in your mouth. This irritation can cause discomfort.
  • You get tighter wires – As treatment progresses, your orthodontist will change out the wires for tighter ones that apply more pressure to move your teeth. New wires almost always cause pain and discomfort.

All of these factors can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep comfortably while wearing braces.

Tips for sleeping with braces pain

It takes some trial and error, but you can find ways to sleep better with braces pain. Here are some tips to try:

Take pain medication

Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help reduce braces pain and inflammation. Take some an hour before bedtime to help you sleep.

Use orthodontic wax

Apply orthodontic wax over any braces hardware that is poking or scratching your mouth. The wax creates a smooth barrier to cushion irritation.

Rinse with a numbing mouthwash

Mouthwashes with numbing ingredients like benzocaine can temporarily dull nerve sensitivity in the mouth for a few hours. Swish some around before bed for relief.

Eat soft foods

Stick to soft, cool foods like yogurt, applesauce, ice cream, and smoothies. Hard, crunchy, or hot foods can aggravate braces pain.

Use dental gum or bites

Chew sugar-free gum or place a soft dental biteguard between your teeth before bed to take pressure off your jaw muscles. This prevents clenching and grinding during the night.

Sleep on your back

Try sleeping on your back and propping your head up with extra pillows. This takes pressure off your jaw compared to sleeping on your side.

Ice your mouth

Apply an ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the outside of your cheek near the painful braces for up to 20 minutes before bed. The cold reduces inflammation.

Gargle salt water

Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in warm water and gargle to temporarily relieve mouth soreness and inflammation.

Use a humidifier

Running a humidifier at night prevents mouth dryness that can worsen braces discomfort. Breathe through your nose.

Adjust your sleeping position

Sleep propped up with extra pillows or in a recliner to take pressure off your mouth area. You can also try putting a pillow between your knees if you sleep on your side.

Wear a mouthguard at night

Ask your orthodontist to make you a custom night mouthguard. This protects your braces from grinding and clenching during sleep.

Avoid hard, chewy, or sticky foods

Hard foods like chips, chewing gum, and hard candy can damage braces. Sticky foods like caramel can also bend wires. Avoid these before bed.

Take a warm bath before bed

A warm (not hot) bath can help relax muscles and distract you from oral discomfort. Add Epsom salts to soothe achy jaws.

Listen to soothing sounds

Try falling asleep to relaxing sounds like white noise, nature sounds, or calming music to distract from braces pain.

When to call your orthodontist

Severe or unmanageable pain is not normal with braces. Contact your orthodontist right away if you have:

  • Intense, throbbing pain
  • Pain that lasts more than 3-5 days
  • Bleeding gums
  • Sores or cuts inside the mouth
  • Broken or loose braces

Extreme pain can signal an emergency like an infected tooth, damaged orthodontic appliance, or nerve injury. Your orthodontist can evaluate the problem and provide appropriate treatment.

Medications that help you sleep with braces

Over-the-counter medications can alleviate minor braces discomfort at night. Here are some common options:

Medication Dosage Effects
Ibuprofen 200-400mg every 4-6 hours as needed Reduces inflammation and pain
Acetaminophen 325-650mg every 4-6 hours as needed Relieves mild to moderate pain
Aspirin 325-650mg every 4-6 hours as needed Alleviates minor aches and pain
Benzocaine oral gel Apply a small amount to painful areas Numbs irritated tissues

For severe or persistent pain, your orthodontist may prescribe a stronger medication like prescription-strength ibuprofen, hydrocodone, or codeine cough syrup to take at night. Always follow dosage instructions carefully.

Home remedies to relieve braces pain at night

Natural home remedies can also ease mouth discomfort from braces at nighttime. Here are some remedies to try:

Cold compress

Wrap ice cubes or a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel and apply to sore areas for 10-20 minutes to reduce inflammation.

Salt water rinse

Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon salt in a cup of warm water and swish around your mouth for a temporary soothing effect.

Coconut oil

Swish a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 10 minutes then spit it out to coat and heal irritated tissues.

Vanilla extract

Dab a cotton swab soaked in pure vanilla extract onto painful sores or lesions to numb discomfort.


Place a ground clove powder paste directly onto a sore spot before bed for mild pain relief.

Tea bags

Wet a black or green tea bag and apply to tender areas to take down swelling.


Apply orthodontic wax over sharp brackets or wires that are poking your mouth.

Sugar-free gum

Chew gum before bed to ease jaw soreness and take pressure off your teeth.

Foods to eat and avoid with braces pain

Your diet can impact how much braces hurt, especially at night when you’re trying to sleep. Here are some dos and don’ts:

Foods to eat

  • Yogurt
  • Pudding
  • Applesauce
  • Soup
  • Eggs
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Smoothies
  • Milkshakes

Foods to avoid

  • Hard, crunchy foods – chips, nuts, hard bread
  • Chewy foods – licorice, gum, caramel, taffy
  • Popcorn
  • Sticky foods – candy, peanut butter
  • Ice
  • Hard candies
  • Pizza crust
  • Raw vegetables
  • Corn on the cob

Stick with soft, cool foods at night to minimize braces discomfort while you sleep.

How long does braces pain last at night?

Braces pain at night usually lasts:

  • 3-5 days after initial placement
  • 3-7 days after each adjustment appointment
  • 2-3 days after getting a new wire

The first week is generally the worst for pain. Your mouth will adjust quickly after that, and discomfort should be minimal. Notify your orthodontist if pain persists beyond one week.

When to see an orthodontist for braces pain at night

Make an appointment with your orthodontist if you have:

  • Unbearable pain that medication does not relieve
  • Bleeding that won’t stop
  • Cuts or sores that appear infected
  • Visible damage to your braces
  • Sudden difficulty biting or chewing
  • Severe jaw stiffness or discomfort
  • Facial swelling
  • Headaches or toothaches

Severe or unusual pain is usually a sign of a problem that needs immediate attention. It’s important to get an orthodontist’s opinion so the issue does not worsen.

Tips for visiting the orthodontist with braces pain

If you need to see your orthodontist for braces pain or discomfort, here are some tips for making the most of your appointment:

  • Take over-the-counter pain medication an hour before your visit to make the appointment more comfortable.
  • Bring wax, oral gel, or other products that you find helpful so you can use them after any adjustments.
  • Write down when the pain started, what makes it better or worse, and any other helpful details so you remember to mention them.
  • Ask what you can do at home for pain relief.
  • Request an orthodontic mouthguard to protect your braces at night.
  • Ask if it’s possible to switch to “super brush” composite braces which are more comfortable.
  • Inform office staff right away if waiting causes you severe discomfort.
  • Have someone drive you to ease anxiety and maximize pain medication effects.

Being prepared for pain after adjustments will help you maintain treatment progress.

Sleeping positions to reduce braces pain

How you position your head during sleep can intensify or alleviate braces discomfort. Try these positions to sleep better:

On your back

Sleeping on your back distributes pressure evenly and avoids putting excess strain on one side.

  • Use lots of pillows to prop up your head and reduce facial swelling.
  • Place pillows under your knees to maintain back alignment if needed.

Propped up at 45 degrees

Elevating the head 45 degrees reduces pressure on the jaws compared to lying flat.

  • Lie at an incline in a recliner or piles of pillows.
  • Elevate the head of your bed by putting risers underneath the frame.

On your side

If you must sleep on your side, take pressure off your jaw with a pillow between your knees and head support.

  • Keep your neck straight and chin tucked.
  • Do not let your jaw hang open.
  • Switch sides periodically to distribute discomfort.

Avoid resting directly on your stomach, as this twists the neck and intensifies jaw pain.


Adjusting to sleeping with braces can be challenging and unpleasant. The good news is that the discomfort should gradually subside as you get used to the braces over the first week. Be diligent about dental hygiene, stick to a soft food diet, and utilize pain relief tricks like orthodontic wax, ibuprofen, and proper sleep positioning. With some time and patience, you will acclimate and be able to sleep soundly again.