Jaw Journal

The Do’s and Don’ts of Bite Molds

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had the privilege of having bite molds taken. (If you don’t instantly know what this is, you haven’t had this experience. Trust me.)

For those of you who’ve ever had this done, I salute you. Having bite molds taken is one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve ever had. In my entire jaw journey, I’d estimate that I’ve had…oh, I don’t know…probably 40 or so done. In fact, I consider myself a pro. (Which is akin to considering yourself a pro at stubbing your toe repeatedly on the sharpest corner in the house.)

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain.

A bite mold is what you have to have done to get things like retainers or mouthpieces made. They can also be used to create a plaster mold of your teeth for things like surgery preparation.  They take a metal, U-shaped tray that is filled with a thick goop, and shove it into your mouth, covering either your upper or lower teeth completely. The lower tray requires you to stick your tongue straight up in your mouth so that the tip of it is touching your upper pallet. The upper tray, when pushed up against your teeth, sends a frightening amount of goop toward the back of your throat, triggering your gag reflex and blocking your airway. They hold these molds (one at a time, thank goodness) in place for 1-2 minutes while the goop hardens. Then, the two of you engage in a mighty tug-of-war, where the technician attempts to pull the tray off of your teeth by sheer, brute force. Typically, it feels as if someone is trying to pull out all of your teeth in one fell swoop.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of bite molds…not one…not two…not even three times…but four. Twice on the upper, twice on the lower. As I was concentrating on my breathing so as not to gag for the third time in a row, it occurred to me that someone out there might benefit from my vast knowledge of bite mold do’s and don’ts.

When preparing for a bite mold…


  • …Eat a large breakfast. This will only tempt your gag reflex into exploring more…productive…opportunities.
  • …Choose the cherry flavoring. It’s like soaking your teeth in cough syrup.
  • …Attempt to answer the questions the technician will inevitably ask. (Why, oh why, do they always ask questions when your mouth is full of goop?)
  • …Forget to wear chapstick. Your lips are about to be stretched and, occasionally, sliced. (The edges of those metal trays are weapons, I tell you. The current gash in my lower lip can attest to this fact.)
  • …Wear make-up to the appointment. The goop gets EVERYWHERE, and any attempt at vanity on your part will be wasted the moment they come at you with that tray.
  • …Expect things to go right on the first try. More likely than not, you’ll have to take another mold. (And yes, the technician will ask you questions during this one, too.)
  • …Be ashamed to fill the orthodontist’s sink with chunks of plastic when you clean out your braces and wipe off your face. If you’re embarrassed by the rubbery shrapnel coming from your mouth, remember: they’re the ones who made you this way. They can handle the unsightly mess you’re leaving in their sink.
  • …Choose Green Apple as your flavoring. Trust me. I’ve done a lot of these things. I’ve tried every flavor on that laminated “menu” with bad clip-art-representations of your choices. The Root Beer taste like sickly sweet black licorice. The banana and strawberry options are hauntingly reminiscent of stale Juicy Fruit gum. And the mint makes your eyes water. Green Apple. It’s the way to go.
  • …Alert the technician if the empty tray she shoves in your mouth to test the size feels like it’s trying to kill you. If you’re lucky, she’ll get a smaller one. If you’re not…well, you tried.
  • …Make sure you have a paper towel on hand. Paper towels are your best friend when it comes to getting goop off of your tongue, your cheeks and your neck. They will also give you something with which to clean up the blood when one of those sadistic tray edges attacks you.
  • …Take a picture of yourself in process, if you can. Pictures are a great tool for evoking the sympathies of people who will give you back-rubs or ice cream.
  • …Brace yourself when the technician says, “Ok, now I’m just going to pop this off of your teeth. It won’t hurt.” What she means is, “Ok, despite the fact this goop has hardened around your teeth and is suction-cupped into place, I’m going to pretend the laws of physics don’t apply and give you false hope that the extraction of this device won’t hurt at all. “
Because I do, occasionally, take my own advice, I’ve included a picture of my recent experience for your entertainment. I’ve also included a picture of me with tongue depressors keeping my bite open. (I needed three. When two tongue depressors are placed between my front teeth, they just fall out do to the lack of closing-ability in that region of my mouth.)


  • Jayda C.

    Idk if this will be answered but I am getting braces July 24 of this year so next month and I am constantly thinking about gagging with get the top and bottom mold done and the pain of getting them taken off. But ur tips did help alot.

    • Lindsay

      I’m glad my tips helped! My post is meant to be a little sarcastic, so don’t let it scare you at all. It really isn’t a horrible process. It’s not *fun*, but it’s not horrible. Good luck getting braces! I’m sure you’ll be thrilled with the results in the long run!

  • monsieurpooh

    They dropped my retainer mold by accident from about chest height about 30 seconds after it was done. Does anyone know whether this will change the mold? They convinced me it would be okay and wouldn’t have to be redone.

    • Lindsay

      Sorry for the late reply–I am not on this site much. But I hope everything worked out okay with your mold! Once the molds are set in your mouth and removed, they’re pretty stable, I think. Sounds like quite an adventure, though!

  • Skyla

    Not sure if this will get answered, but I had a mold taken yesterday. And im worried it got messed up because i of course tried to say yeah while it was in. Im worried my retainer isnt the best fit it should be. I asked her the mold looked ok and she said yes but idk :/

    • Lindsay

      Hi Skyla! I wouldn’t worry. If the technician said it was ok, it probably was. There’s definitely room for error on those molds! My guess is your retainer will fit just fine. And if not, it can easily be adjusted. Good luck!!

  • katie

    i am literally terrified of getting this molding done on my top teeth people tell me it is horrible and some people say it really isn’t that bad and it makes you gag. i really hate gagging and having things in the back of the roof of my mouth. again im literally terrified help me

    • Lindsay

      Don’t be scared, Katie! It really isn’t terrible. Just breath slowly and deeply through your mouth if you can–that helps me. The goop they use to take molds these days sets pretty fast now, so it’s probably only 30 seconds of discomfort. You’ll be great! And hopefully having a mouth guard (or whatever you’re getting the molds for) will be worth it in the long run. Good luck!

  • Elizabeth

    I heard that breathing through your nose made you not gag. Someone commented to breath through your nose! I’m so confused and I’m going to the ortho tomorrow to get a mold.Also, I would think peppermint would be good, not green apple?!?!?

    • Lindsay

      Hi Elizabeth! Well…I am the *worst* at checking in on my website and comments and I apologize. Clearly so much time has passed that you are probably a pro at bite molds now! I will say that my taste in bite mold flavors has changed. When I wrote the blog post six + years ago, I preferred green apple. Now I almost always get peppermint (or better, spearmint!). Actually, since I’ve had surgery, my dentist rarely gives me the option of any other flavor. Ha! But don’t worry. Bite molds aren’t as awful as they sometimes sound. Breathe deeply and slowly, and it will all be over soon! Best of luck!

  • Mackenzie

    Wish I found this yesterday, I just got my today for the first time and they didn’t ask me what flavor,so I gaged and almost threw up(tmi)but I don’t know if I Injested it or not but my throat hurt, would that be from the molding stuff?

    • Lindsay

      Sorry you had a rough time of it! The sore throat will probably go away soon, if it hasn’t already. I think the goop might be a little irritating for some, but more likely your throat got dried out from the weird breathing you have to do with those molds in. I hope you feel better soon and that the molds at least help in the long run!

  • Kennedy

    Omg! I’m so scared! I am in the orthodontist as I speak! I am 11 and am terrified after reading this! My mom told me it’s not that bad, but my mouth is TINY! Ah!

  • Holly

    Hey thanks, I’m getting my molds next week and I wasn’t sure what flavour and if they don’t ask me I will tell them! Haha thanks for making me feel a bit less nervous about it 🙂

    • Lindsay

      Good luck! I just had bite molds again a few weeks ago. Seems these things are my shadow, even two years after surgery! Ha! Hope all goes well for you.

  • Liette

    OMG, you made me laugh so hard and I cried! I haven’t had braces but have had molds done. The one thing the dentist said that helped is : breath through your mouth! That helps not to gag. I don’t remember being asked about a flavour! How rude! Well, thanks for the laugh. Hope you’ll never experience it again!

    • Lindsay

      I’m glad I could make you laugh, Liette. Laughter is the best medicine, as they say! Although, not when your mouth is full of bite-mold goop. Then laughter is a little awkward. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  • Bethany M

    Linds! I’ve been reading through your blog the first time tonight. Your description of getting the bite molds done totally zoomed me back into my adolescent days, when I wore braces, and was in the orthodontist’s office every few weeks. (I felt like I was there every day, to tell you the truth, especially since the office was right across the street from Irving!) And those molds were brutally uncomfortable, just as you described them! But…I will say (and this will sound weird I guess) that since I have a relatively large mouth, this experience wasn’t as painful for me as it was for you. I DO remember how nasty the cherry flavor was. Yuck!!! They didn’t make green apple flavor back in my day. I think the choices were peppermint (which made me feel pukey) and cherry. So cherry it was. Anyhow, very accurate description. You poor thing! I can’t imagine having to do this over and over again. Also, I never liked my orthodontist. He constantly teased me. I am relieved to hear that you like yours!

    • Lindsay

      I remember your braces. 🙂 What I’m about to say will inspire much ridicule, I’m sure… but I remember being jealous of your braces. 🙂 I thought you were soooo beautiful, and you made braces look cool. I felt like braces and glasses were a rite of passage that everyone else got to go through and I somehow missed. I was so frustrated that everyone around me got to do cool things like visit the orthodontist and pick out glasses frames.

      Well…now I’m near the end of my twenties, and wear braces AND glasses. That rite of passage? Yeah…I still wish I’d gone through it at 13.