Everything feels weird and you’ve never felt so strange. Congratulations! You’ve just gotten braces and your teeth are about to be whipped into shape. The first 24 hours are the worst. No matter how delicate your wires are, your mouth will feel sore. Your optometrist will probably prescribe a mild painkiller. (You’ll be seeing him or her very often over the next few months so it helps to have one close to where you live or work. Click here to find an optometrist in your area.)

A good hack for dealing with the pain (there are only so many painkillers you can pop) is to put a small cube of ice in your mouth and push it gently around. Salt water rinses are also great at providing relief. Something else to watch out for, during those first hours, is the loosening of your teeth. It’s perfectly normal so if you feel a couple of them shaking, don’t have a meltdown and research dental implants. Teeth need to be loosened in order to align correctly. They will become firmly fixed in their new positions with time.

You’ll want to avoid food completely for the first few hours after your braces have been put on. For the next 24 hours, you’ll probably have to eat soft, semi-solid foods like soup, yoghurt and scrambled eggs. It’s good practice for the next week or two. (When you do go back to solid foods, you’ll need to be careful about cutting it up finely. Avoid chewy meat, crusts on bread and hard vegetables like broccoli or carrots. Some other things to be careful about: biscuits, lollies, hard chocolate, chewy bars and sugary drinks.

Why sugary drinks? Well, because of the sugar. Sugar is really bad for teeth and since yours are undergoing treatment right now, it’s important to avoid it completely. For example, sugar can sometimes damage the edge of the bracket but your optometrist won’t be able to tell until it’s time for your braces to come off. Sugary drinks (like Coke) can also be really acidic and the acid can damage your teeth. Stick to water and plain milk, fresh smoothies and sugar-free juices. (Keep in mind that fruit juice contains large amounts of natural sugars so avoid that as well. Apple is probably the safest but more acidic fruit juices like orange and pineapple should be restricted.)

You will probably have to avoid sports for the first 24 hours (at least). But with time, you can resume your normal activities. Your orthodontist will talk to you about special precautions you can take – mouthguards, for instance. If you do have an accident that involves your face, check your mouth and appliances straightaway. If the teeth are loosened or something looks damaged, book an appointment immediately and treat any discomfort with an over-the-counter painkiller or even an ice pack.

It’s entirely possible that a wire or band may come loose just after your braces have been inserted. Don’t be alarmed. It happens. If a wire is protruding and irritating you, use the back of a spoon or even an eraser to gently push it back under the arch wire. If the irritation continues, wet some cotton wool and place it on the offending wire – and then telephone your optometrist.

You should also call your optometrist if you feel severe pain. It’s true that the first 24 hours are the most uncomfortable and some amount of pain is to be expected. But too much is a sign that you need to call your optometrist immediately. (Have you got one in your neighborhood? No? We can help if you click here.)

The day you get braces will be one of the biggest days of your life. And it’s entirely possible that the 24 hours which follow will be one of the worst days of your life. But the truth is, any discomfort, embarrassment and pain you feel is temporary. And it will all seem oh so worth it on that other big day of your life: the day your braces come off.