The aim of this prospective longitudinal study was to compare pain experiences among Chinese adult patients treated with labial and lingual orthodontic appliances. Sixty patients, 30 with labial appliances (18 females and 12 males, mean age 20.33 years, SD +/- 4.205) and 30 with lingual appliances (22 females and 8 males, mean age 21.63 years, SD +/- 2.236), rated their overall pain experience on a 100 mm visual analogue scale (VAS) at three time points: 1 week (T(1)), 1 month (T(2)), and 3 months (T(3)) after bracket placement. In addition, on a separate 100 mm VAS, they rated their pain experience at the locations of the tongue, lips, cheeks, gums, face, and jaw at T(1), T(2), and T(3). Changes in pain VAS were conducted using Friedman analysis of variance, area under the curve (AUC) analysis and the data were compared using a t-test. There was no significant difference in global ratings of pain among those treated with labial or lingual appliances (P > 0.05). Among both groups, global ratings of pain decreased over the study period (P < 0.001). Patients treated with lingual appliances reported higher ratings of tongue pain (P < 0.001), while those treated with labial appliances reported higher ratings of lip (P < 0.001) and cheek (P < 0.001) pain. The findings indicate that patients treated with labial and lingual appliances rate similarly the level of overall pain they experience during treatment. Ratings of overall pain experienced decreased for both treatment groups with time. However, ratings of pain differed at various sites with respect to the type of orthodontic appliance. These findings have implications in informing patients' treatment decision-making processes regarding labial and lingual appliances and in the management of discomfort associated with different treatment modalities.