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Pretty Painful: What To Do When New Trays Hurt

Frustrated young man with tooth pain touching his cheek and keeping eyes closed while sitting on the couch at home

Aligners: Sometimes They Hurt  

If you’re about to start your first tray, you must be excited! You did your research, chose a company, made the molds, looked at your scans, and it’s time! It’s been a long wait! Even if you’ve been in aligners a while, moving into new trays can bring a little thrill. You know you’re making progress and your teeth are moving along!

And yet…

Sometimes when you pop in a new tray it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes it can be a little…uncomfortable. Most companies recommend starting new trays at night so that you can sleep through most of the initial discomfort. But what if you can’t fall asleep? What if it continues into the day, where it can be a distraction from school or work? What can you do to alleviate the pain?

Why Does It Hurt?

First you need to figure out what is causing the discomfort, as there are various ways to address each issue.

Are you able to get your trays all the way on?


If you find that the trays are so tight you’re struggling to slide them into place, there are a couple of things you can try. The first is some lubrication- some people find that using EverSmile WhiteFoam in new trays helps to slide them on, or you could try water. If that doesn’t help, using a chew like OrthoChews can help apply pressure in the necessary areas to seat the aligner properly. With these, you take the end of the chew and place it on the problematic spot. Bite down repeatedly, in small motions (like chewing!), until the aligner is in place. The chew can be used with either the short side or the long side between your teeth and the quatrefoil shape will help your teeth grip in any position. Do not bite down directly on your aligners, as you could crack or otherwise damage them- a chew is designed to provide just enough pressure.



If your aligners are seated properly but it feels like your teeth are in a vise, don’t worry- that’s actually pretty common, especially with a brand-new tray. This should fade in a few hours as your teeth adjust. If the throbbing is so bad you’re unable to concentrate or sleep, though, you may want to try to alleviate it. If the pain is localized to a particular part of your mouth, try a chew like OrthoChews- place the chew on the problematic area and bite down repeatedly, like you’re chewing on it. This will make sure your aligner is seated properly and relieve pain associated with a poor fit. If the pain is all over, you can try the chewy across all your teeth, like massaging a sore muscle.


If that isn’t enough you may want to consider an over-the-counter pain reliever- but choose carefully! When choosing a pain reliever, make sure that you choose an non-NSAID option. That means choosing Tylenol rather than Advil, Aleve or Mortin (or the generic forms— choose acetaminophen rather than ibuprofen). Aligners work by creating pressure and therefore inflammation, which causes your teeth to move. NSAID pain relievers are also anti-inflammatories, which means that they reduce the ability of your aligners to move your teeth. You want pain relief but you do not want an anti-inflammatory.

Is A Rough Edge Scraping You?

Sometimes an aligner will be delivered with a rough edge, which you might not notice until you’ve placed it in your mouth. Ouch! This can scratch your gums or your tongue (because of course you won’t be able to leave it alone). Thankfully there is a simple solution- take a small nail file and gently file away the bothersome edge. A fine file will leave a surface that isn’t too rough. If the irritation has caused gum pain or an abrasion, you can treat that with a product like Orajel. This is made with benzocaine, a local anesthetic commonly used as a topical pain reliever. It cam be found in many products designed to treat oral sores and gum or tooth pain. This can provide enough relief to allow the painful area to heal.

Are You Adjusting To Attachments?

When you first get attachments, they can irritate the inside of your mouth before you get used to them. You can’t file attachments down, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do!


Dental wax, or ortho wax (they’re the same thing) is designed to be applied to any poky areas in your mouth. It needs to be replaced pretty frequently as you can’t really eat or brush with it on, but for parts of the day where the attachments are just driving you nuts, covering them up for a while can be a big help. If the irritation has gone on so long that it’s caused sores or abrasions, you can use Orajel or any similar over the counter benzocaine products for numbing relief and help with healing.

We hope that you’re not experiencing any pain in your aligner treatment, but we know that there can be periods of adjustment as you get used to all the changes in your mouth! No matter the cause, we hope we’ve helped make your day just a little more comfortable. Are there any issues and/or solutions that you’ve come across that we’ve missed? Let us know!

OrthoChews can be purchased on Amazon!


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