*Note: This section focuses on the process for metal and ceramic braces*
How long does the process take?
For most types of braces, it takes about 1-2 hours.
What will the orthodontist do?
First, the orthodontist will thoroughly clean and dry your teeth. Next, he or she will apply the bonding glue to your teeth and attach the brackets (the small metal or ceramic squares). The glue may taste unpleasant, but is harmless. Finally, the orthodontist will place the archwire (the wire that connects your teeth) in the brackets and secure it with elastic bands.
Does it hurt? For how long?
Getting them on doesn't hurt, but your teeth and mouth will be sore afterwards. Expect your teeth and mouth to be sore for about a week.
Tips for dealing with the pain
Stick to soft foods for the first day or two - soup, mashed potatoes, yogurt, milkshakes, applesauce, scrambled eggs, mac and cheese, etc.
If necessary, use over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Use orthodontic wax (you can get this at the orthodontist's office or a drugstore) to avoid mouth sores in the first few weeks of your treatment. Use as much wax as you need to feel comfortable. To apply, just squash the wax between your fingers and press it on the brackets that are bothering you.
Avoid sucking on or touching your mouth sores or teeth with your tongue or fingers. Because they're so sensitive, the more you touch them, the more they'll hurt.
Avoid acidic drinks and foods (such as citrus juices or tomato sauce), which will irritate your mouth sores.
Mouth sores can also be caused by accidentally biting the inside of your cheek while getting used to your braces. These sores should heal quickly, and the problem should go away once your mouth toughens up a bit.
Try using an over-the-counter oral anesthetic to temporarily numb the painful areas. Dab a small amount of the anesthetic on a cotton swab and apply it to the sores in the mouth. The gel will numb the spot and completely eliminate the pain for a limited time. This method is particularly effective when trying to fall asleep at night, and the gel will wear off by morning.
Your lips and gums may also develop sores because they aren't used to the roughness of the braces yet. A weak solution of warm salt water (1/2 tsp of salt per cup of water) helps to ease the irritation. Rinse with warm salt water several times per day.
Finally, know that things will get better. Once your mouth has a little time to adjust, any pain and irritation will go away - it will all get easier from here.
How long will it take to get used to my braces?
Most patients are completely used to their braces after about a month. After six months, or even sooner, they don't even notice they're there. However, it's not unusual for teeth to occasionally start hurting for no apparent reason - this is normal, and should go away fairly quickly. If necessary, treat with over-the-counter pain relievers.