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Posted on Feb 3, 2014 in Dear Diary | 17 comments

Lingual Braces: Week 1

Since today marks the 7th day of the self-imposed torture that is lingual braces, I figured it would be fitting to give you guys an update. Knowledge being power and all that. Beware: an uncomfortable number of uncomfortable-looking selfies is about to follow.

Procedure: The actual process of getting the brackets attached was very straight forward. No drilling, no grinding, just my mouth being propped open (more comfortable than it looks, actually!) while a dental prodded around in there to clean and prepare my teeth for bonding, and then the orthodontist coming in to attach each individual bracket (I have 8 total) and insert the wire. There was some gel stuff that tasted horrible, and some UV light wand stuff, but it wasn’t painful or even that uncomfortable. It was fast, too — I think the total amount of time I spent at the orthodontist’s was 1 hour and 15 minutes, and that included talking to the orthodontist for a while and getting new photos and x-rays taken of my teeth.

Aesthetics: As you can see from the photo above, in which I’m rocking my colors for the big game — the Puppy Bowl, of course — my braces are virtually undetectable. In fact, the only way you’d be able to see them is if you were looking up at an angle, into my mouth.

Or if I was eating a hand-mirror.

In fact, you’re more likely to see the fillings in my back molars than you are to see my braces. Which is great, because obviously the aesthetic factor is the entire reason I chose this method of tooth straightening… and is pretty much the only good thing about them so far, because unfortunately it’s all downhill from here.

Speaking: Speaking is a total bitch. There, I said it. I knew that I would likely have some kind of lisp or impeded speech when the braces were inserted, but I didn’t think it would be as bad as it is. In fact, when I first got the braces put in, my lisp really wasn’t that bad, but it worsened by about 500% the next day. I think this is because my tongue got irritated after the first day, swelling up slightly, getting cut up, and it just hasn’t gone back to normal yet. So my lisp is exacerbated by the fact, in addition to the metal brackets taking up space behind my teeth, my tongue feels bigger and my mouth feels simultaneously dry AND producing more saliva than normal.

Every article I’ve read, video I’ve watched, and forum I’ve browsed says that speaking will get better, and my lisp will let up as I get used to the braces, but right now I have to admit that it feels like that will never happen. I’m super self-conscious about how I sound, and it sucks, especially when you talk as frequently and emphatically as I do.

Pain: Immediately after the braces went on, I felt a little pressure on my teeth but I wouldn’t say it hurt. In fact, the entire first day I was basking in my clearly superior pain tolerance and how easy this was going to be. Of course, I ended up eating my words (since I can’t eat much else) the very next morning, because as soon as I woke up my gums (and head) were throbbing. The pain of my actual teeth moving, however, is fairly manageable because ibuprofen works pretty well against it. You know what ibuprofen doesn’t work too well against though? Tongue pain.

Ugh, the tongue pain. For some reason it did not occur to me in the slightest that my tongue would get irritated — actually, I think pissed off is a more accurate term — from having all this metal imposed into its space. I thought about the tooth pain — pain I’ve experienced before from my teenage battle with braces — and knew I’d be able to handle that, but I never considered the tongue part. IT HURTS. My tongue basically has cuts all down the sides from where it rubs up against the write that is poking out from the last brackets. It doesn’t actually hurt on the tip of my tongue, where it touches the brackets on my front teeth, but hot damn, the side/back of my tongue is KILLING me. And to make matters worse, I’ve developed a canker sore/tongue ulcer/hot white spot of DEATH on the underside of my tongue, which hurts so much that touching it actually makes me cry. It hurt so much Saturday night that I could barely sleep (I picked up some Orajel to numb it, but unfortunately that stuff only works for like, 10 minutes at a time. And it tastes awful and it makes my throat feel weird and numb when I swallow it.)

So unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do except pray that, just like how I got blisters on my fingers when I taught myself how to play the guitar, eventually my tongue will develop some kind of callus or otherwise adapt. And pray that it will happen SOON. I have wax that I can put over the wires and brackets to help a little bit (you can kind of see it in the mirror pic above), but a lot of damage was already done by the time I started using it, so even with the wax it still hurts when anything comes in contact with the raw part of my tongue… which it does every time I swallow, or speak, or chew, or do anything really. This is the primary reason why it’s been a torturous experience thus far.

Eating: Well, I suppose you could see this as a good thing or a bad thing, because, yes, eating has definitely changed for me. The first couple of days, biting down was quite painful — in fact, anything touching my teeth pretty much sucked. So I could eat soft, easily-swallowable stuff (soups, stew, applesauce, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, mussels, etc.) and *kind of* chew it (since I don’t have brackets on my back teeth), but biting into anything with my front teeth was (and still kind of is) out of the question. Mostly I found myself “chewing” with my tongue — by pushing the soft stuff up onto the roof of my mouth with my tongue. Unfortunately, this caused more irritation to my tongue because it meant even more contact with the pokey wires.

As my teeth themselves don’t hurt quite as much now, I’ve found I can bite things a little more easily — though, of course, I then risk getting food stuck in my braces. I’ve successfully eaten pasta, a muffin, a chicken wing, and even like two bites of a burger before I just decided to fork-and-knife it. Chewing with my back teeth isn’t too bad, except for the aforementioned tongue-rubbing… I guess I don’t really need to go on. The basic point is we use our tongue for everything, and having it be all busted up is awful in many ways. I also eat INCREDIBLY slowly, which I guess is the good part, because I get full more easily and am obviously (as evidenced by my calorie counts from last week) eating a lot less. I guess it’s also good/bad that I’m brushing my teeth 8329429489 times a day now (after every single meal, snack, non-water beverage, and sometimes just because my teeth/tongue feel nasty) so I should have the cleanest and whitest teeth in the world by the time this is over.

Other thoughts: As you already know, I decided to only get braces on my top teeth, feeling that my top teeth are what bothered me because they are so visible, and thinking there wasn’t too much wrong with my bottom teeth. HOWEVER, my orthodontist felt quite differently. He was, in fact, very clear to point out all the ways that my bite sucks, my teeth as a whole are jacked, and warned me several times about how fixing my top teeth would do nothing to align my bite or fix all the things that are wrong with my teeth. (Judgy much?) So, unfortunately, that consultation only served to highlight how le terrible my bottom teeth are, when I didn’t really have a problem with them before.

Of course, aside from the whole aesthetic thing, there’s also the fact that opting to only work on my top teeth is much, MUCH less expensive than an entire mouthful of braces. Alas, though, all this time spent looking at my mouth and teeth is making me SO aware of my bottom teeth crowding and my bite… I dunno. I may look at getting them fixed at some point in the future as well. It’s not really helping that for some reason, on days 5 + 6 my bottom teeth started hurting a little bit too — even though there’s no braces on them! I wonder if it’s like, teeth sympathy pain, or if it’s because my bite as a whole is being shifted ever so slightly. I’ve heard it’s pretty popular for people to get traditional braces on the bottom since they aren’t so readily visible, but I’m unsure. Guess that’s a bridge I’ll cross if/when I come to it.

At this point in time, I’d be lying if I said it’s been worth it. This experience has been way more painful than I anticipated, I think I sound awful when I speak, and while I can already tell it’s working (my teeth aren’t straight yet or anything, of course, but one has already moved enough so that one of my bottom teeth doesn’t touch one of the brackets anymore when I clench my teeth, which it did when they were first applied), I’m just generally miserable. I know I did this to myself, so I really shouldn’t complain, but believe me when I say that you would be complaining too. The thought has already occurred to me more than once to just throw in the towel and call it quits, although the fact that I probably wouldn’t get my $1,000 down payment back is a big influencing factor in attempting to stick it out.

After all, it’s only been a week, and they all say it gets better, so it has to, right? RIGHT?!


  1. aww poor puddin’ pop! I hope the pain goes away soon! can’t the ortho clip off the exposed wire? I feel like I had that some long ago when I had brace face.

    I will make you soup! the pureed kind.

  2. Oh gee Gretchen, I feel your pain. Ouch, ouch ouch. Having a full mouth of metal was totally depressing. We all were freaks. These days fixin pearly whites do seem easier. When the metal wears down & smooths out, you’ll feel better. How long is the overall process? Best of.

  3. Hi! Longtime reader, first time commenter BUT — I’ve had a lot of dental work done over the past few years, and one bit involved a horrible hotspot/ulcer similar to the one you’re describing (as it turns out, I’m allergic to the temporary cement they use when making crowns…ouch). My dentist Rxed me “Magic Mouthwash,” which helped a TON — but it wasn’t covered by insurance and cost me $50. The next time I had an issue, I googled around and found out it’s basically just lidocaine mixed with liquid benedryl and pepto/maalox! I called my dentist and he gave the ok to try an experiment, so I started mixing 1T benedryl and 1T pepto together and swishing it for about a minute a few times per day and lo and behold, it helped SO MUCH. The pepto coats your mouth/tongue, so it helps with irritation, and the benedryl also helps decrease the inflammation. If it’s still super painful, you can apply the orajel on top of it.

    Not sure if it will help in your situation, but wanted to pass along the info to maybe check with your ortho/dentist. I had all four wisdom teeth removed at the end of December and while the holes were fine, the stitches scratched the shit out of my cheeks — the same mixture of benedryl and pepto was a LIFESAVER there, too! Good luck and feel better!

  4. So sorry about the tongue pain! Also, in terms of what the orthodontist told you about not getting the bottom done, keep in mind that while he is an expert on the matter, he’s also trying to sell you something, you know? I had a dental hygienist tell me one time, “You’re such a pretty girl, but you’d be prettier if you got your teeth whitened…” I felt so insecure about it and was so offended until a friend reminded me that it’s her job to push that kind of thing! So, I’m not saying your orthodontist doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but it’s probably not as bad as he’s making it sound 🙂

  5. It does get better. I had traditional braces put on about five years ago when I was twenty-six. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. Before I got braces I was insecure that I looked like white trash with my crooked teeth. The whole first month of braces is rough, and never ever go anywhere without dental wax, or a tooth brush. You do become crazy anal about oral hygeine with braces, and I decided to invest in having my teeth cleaned professionally every three months while I had braces. I didn’t want to risk getting one more cavity, especially when I was putting my teeth at risk by surronding them with metal. Good luck, and it will get better!

  6. Owies, this sounds rough! I hope it gets better and as I have never had braces, I got no advice there. BUT I am the lucky winner of the cold sore lottery and I wanted to pass along what works for me… this stuff! http://www.amazon.com/Zilactin-B-Canker-Sore-Gel-0-25Oz/dp/B000KBFCFC
    It’s like this gel you place on the sore and within like 30s-1min, it “hardens” into this protective covering. It tastes kinda weird (bit no worse than orajel) but it really works!!! if you are getting pain when something acidic hits it, or if it is in a spot that you lip or tongue irritates it, this solves that. You have to reapply ever so often bc it does dissolve, but it hangs in there for longer than I thought it would. Totally changed my world when I get cold sores.
    Hope it all gets better soon!

  7. I’ve not had braces. But I am experienced with tongue pain, due to an allergy to tartar control toothpaste that took a while to diagnose.

    May I humbly suggest sucking on some baby aspirin. It should help the pain almost immediately. Make sure you get all the baby aspirin spit all up and around your tongue. (ew, but ahhhhhh).

  8. I totally feel your pain. I have full traditional braces on top and bottom. I think it is totally worth it, but I doubt my decision every six weeks when I get tightened. I have an awful tongue thrust, which made my tongue irritated.Two things that I think have helped me: gishy goo http://www.amazon.com/Gishy-Goo-One-Patient-Kit/dp/B002EA8RH2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391627129&sr=8-1&keywords=gishy+goo which is WAY better than wax and putting jolly ranchers on the room of my mouth and holding them with my tongue (it helps keep the tongue out of the way).

    As far as bottom braces go, although they may be out of alignment or such, your ortho is probably just trying to sell you on them. I would wait until half your time is up for your lingual braces to see how much your bite and lower jaw are impacted. For me, I thought top only would be enough, but when I was walked through simulations of how my teeth would move, I understood why I needed bottoms too. If your ortho is serious about bottoms because your bite will be altered, he should be able to explain clearly how he anticipates the tops moving. He should be able to show you why you might need bottoms more than just a vague “your top teeth will move”.

  9. Sounds very painful! Hope it gets better soon! Tell us when it does!

  10. Hi, I have lingual braces too. I’ve had them since September last year. I have both upper and lower brace. It’s not good to just fix one as they are co dependent. I’ve heard in the worst case you may have to repeat the treatment… Good luck! I have no pain btw. I only felt uncomfortable for the first week.

    • Gosia – I had lingual braces fitted on my top teeth at the start of February and as the crowding they are trying to correct is only minor they said they’d have it done and the braces off by July, which sounded great. I’ve had them on just over two months now and I can’t see any difference at all. How long did it take before you noticed your teeth moving? Gretchen, how about you, have yours noticably improved at all yet?

      Worried I’m throwing away cash on treatment that isn’t working yet 🙁

  11. Hi, I had incognito braces ( top & bottom ) fitted yesterday. I feel like I have a mouth full of barbed wire and am considering removing them ( despite having paid over £5000 already) can anyone give me any reassurance that this gets better?

    • Hi Emma! Boy, can I relate! I wanted to rip them out after the first couple of days, but yes, it does get better!! My braces stopped irritating me so much after a few days (use LOTS of wax!!) and after about a week I didn’t even notice them anymore. You can get through it!!

  12. I also have incognito braces just on the top teeth, but my ortho warned me I may have to get them on the bottom. too. I had regular braces when I was younger, and they have shifted greatly. It will be one week tomorrow with them on, and I feel like my mouth has adjusted, but my speech is still very bad! Did your speech improve? I feel like it’s not getting better. I also could speak pretty well on day one, but then day two hit and it was all down hill. I’m 34, and just couldn’t handle doing regular braces again.

  13. Try sticking it out….I’ve had mine on for almost 4 months and although I am currently in pain because I went yesterday to have my wires changed out. I can see major changes. Your tongue will adjust, I don’t need wax anymore unless I break a wire (I’ve done that, try not to, it hurts).
    Eating and talking gets significantly easier too. I had to have extractions done so my teeth are being pulled hard and it hurts, but it gets better every time.

  14. Omg, I had lower linguals put in 2 days ago and my tongue is so sore atm. Going to look in the pharmacy for some mouth ulcer medicine. I hear igloo and Corsodyl helps. Talking is super painful, so is chewing. I’ve been having yoghurt the whole time. Can’t wait till “it gets better”

  15. I just had a full set of linguals put on my lower teeth. This was Wednesday at 8 am. Currently living on ibuprofen, soup, and wax. I am supposed to get the upper arch in a month. I am in so much pain I am considering having mine removed and not going through with the uppers. I cannot swallow, spit, eat or talk; It is miserable.


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