Skip to main content

How to Deal With Canker Sores With Braces


Dr. Melanie treating a patient laying in the orthodontic chair


Hey there, new braces wearers. How are you adjusting to your new hardware? We hope it’s been smooth sailing so far! But if you’re like many of our San Diego and Rancho Santa Fe orthodontic patients, you might be experiencing a little discomfort and irritation as your mouth adjusts to your brackets and wires. If this sounds like you, keep reading.


One of the most common forms of irritation during the first few weeks of braces is canker sores. Yep, it’s totally normal for these small, benign lesions to develop on the inside of your mouth, lips and cheeks after you first get your braces put on. But even though canker sores from braces are an unpleasant and uncomfortable side effect, that doesn’t mean you just have to deal with them! There are things you can do to prevent, treat and relieve discomfort from canker sores.


In this post, Dr. Melanie Orthodontics will answer the following questions:


  • What is a canker sore?
  • What causes canker sores from braces?
  • How can I prevent canker sores from braces?
  • How do I treat a canker sore?



What is a Canker Sore Anyway?


Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are small sores that develop on the inside of the mouth. Often found inside the lips, on the soft palate (the back of the roof of your mouth), on the inside of the cheeks, on or underneath the tongue, canker sores are round, white or grey in color, and can be quite painful. Fortunately, despite being uncomfortable, canker sores are usually harmless and nothing to worry about.


Certain foods and beverages (like citrus fruits, spicy or salty food, and coffee) may increase irritation from canker sores, so it’s a good idea to stick to plain, soft foods until the ulcers go away. The good news is that canker sores typically resolve on their own within 10-14 days, so even if you do develop canker sores from braces, you can rest assured that they won’t last for long.



Why Do I Have Canker Sores After Braces?


If you’re suffering from canker sores after getting braces put on, don’t fear! This is an incredibly common experience for new braces wearers and canker sores are completely treatable. They often develop early on in braces treatment because the soft tissues of your mouth simply aren’t used to the friction caused by your lips rubbing against the brackets and wires. Remember, you’ve got a whole new device in your mouth and it’s only natural that it will take some time to adjust.


That said, we know that canker sores are one of the less fun parts of braces treatment and you’re probably wondering how long canker sores last. As we mentioned, canker sores usually go away by themselves in a week or two once the inside of your mouth “toughens up” a bit. As you work your way through your braces treatment, you’ll experience less and less discomfort.



How to Prevent Canker Sores from Braces


One of the main rules of thumb when it comes to orthodontics is that it’s better to prevent a problem from occurring than to treat it once it’s already happened. The same logic applies to canker sores from braces: instead of waiting for canker sores to develop, it’s better to take proactive steps to prevent them in the first place! Here’s how to prevent canker sores from braces:


  • Rinse with a saltwater solution: A saltwater solution can help to reduce inflammation and prevent infection from spreading. As soon as you start to experience irritation to the inside of your lips or cheeks from braces, try rinsing with a mixture of lukewarm water and salt 2-3 times a day to alleviate discomfort.
  • Use orthodontic wax: Anyone who has had braces will tell you that orthodontic wax will be your new best friend during treatment. It’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to stop your braces from irritating or damaging the inside of your mouth. Simply place a small piece of wax over the bracket or part of the wire that’s causing you pain to prevent canker sores from developing.
  • Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated is a simple (not to mention healthy) way to keep canker sores at bay. That’s because having a dry mouth can lead to more irritation from braces. Drinking water, on the other hand, helps you produce saliva, which contains antibodies that can help prevent the spread of canker sores. So keeping a water bottle with you at all times does double duty: you can be sure to get your ounces in as you stop canker sores in their tracks!
  • Stick to simple foods: As you probably already know, there are a few important rules for eating with braces. Mainly, you need to avoid anything hard, crunchy, sticky, chewy or any foods you have to bite into. Well, to avoid canker sores with braces, you’ll also want to steer clear of spicy, salty or acidic foods. That’s because these types of foods can cause further irritation to your mouth’s soft tissues, which may exacerbate the development of mouth ulcers.



How to Treat Canker Sores


Now, even though we encourage our patients to take precautions against canker sores, we know that sometimes they’re an unavoidable part of the braces process. If you do get canker sores in the early days of treatment, we want you to feel prepared and confident to treat them at home. After all, we want you to enjoy your time with braces to the fullest! So if you’re wondering how to treat canker sores from braces, the Dr. Melanie Orthodontics team is here to help.


Fortunately, treating canker sores is very straightforward. In fact, you basically just do the same things you would do to try to prevent them (refer back to the list above). At the risk of being repetitive, you’ll want to try rinsing with saltwater, using orthodontic wax and choosing soft, plain foods over anything spicy, salty or acidic. In addition to these simple steps for treating mouth ulcers, you can also try the following remedies:


  • Take an over-the-counter pain medication: If canker sores from braces are causing you serious discomfort, you may wish to take a mild pain reliever like Tylenol or Ibuprofen.
  • Place tea bags over the ulcers: Yes, really! Tea bags have antiseptic properties and can help reduce inflammation. Just soak the tea bag in warm water and then apply directly to the inflamed area of your mouth. 
  • Be patient: If you already have canker sores from braces, we know this probably sounds easier said than done. But remember that canker sores usually clear up on their own after a week or two, and you’re much less likely to develop more as your mouth heals and gets used to your hardware. So try your best to be patient and follow proper oral hygiene practices to help speed up the healing process.
  • Visit your orthodontist: At Dr. Melanie Orthodontics, we want you to always feel supported throughout your braces treatment. If you’re suffering from canker sores and not sure how to find relief, call our Rancho Santa Fe or San Diego orthodontic offices to speak with our team or book an appointment.


Some parts of having braces, like choosing your own fun colored elastics, can be super fun. But other parts, like canker sores? Well, I think we can all agree that they’re a little less enjoyable. Fortunately, canker sores from braces never last for too long. If you follow the simple steps above, we’re sure your canker sores will fade away before you know it and you’ll be happily looking forward to your new smile again.

Have more questions about canker sores from braces? Ready to start your own orthodontic journey? Contact Dr. Melanie Orthodontics today.



For a quick guide on taking care of your braces from home, watch our video below:


Dr. Melanie

Author Dr. Melanie

More posts by Dr. Melanie