How to Handle Orthodontic Emergencies If One Comes Up

The good thing is, genuine orthodontic emergencies rarely happen. If you are experiencing an issue with your braces, the first thing to do is to determine how severe the problem is. In most cases, it will be what your orthodontist would consider a minor issue.

Of course, a “minor issue” may still be causing you some pain and discomfort and feel very major to you. But, it is usually something that can be addressed quickly and easily, whether that be on your own, with some guidance from your orthodontist over the phone, or with a visit to your orthodontist’s office. The problem will not become serious when addressed promptly.

 So what is a true orthodontic emergency? This would include infection or swelling in your gums or within your mouth, severe pain or discomfort, or an injury or trauma to your teeth, mouth, or face. In the event of any of these things, seek help as soon as possible from your regular dentist (or emergency room if needed).

The first thing to remember in the event of an orthodontic issue is not to panic. Then, take the necessary steps and utilize the tools available to you to remedy the issue.

In this article, we’ve covered some of the minor orthodontic emergencies that could potentially come up during your treatment and what you can do about it at home: 


Loose/Broken Brackets

With traditional or Damon braces, sometimes a bracket can break away from a tooth and be loose. This usually happens because of eating hard or sticky food/candy or getting hit in the mouth while playing sports. If one of your brackets is no longer attached to your tooth and is off-centered, moving freely on the archwire, or rotated backward, there are some ways you can temporarily stabilize it.

If the bracket is still centered over the correct tooth, use some dental wax to secure it in place for now. If the bracket has rotated backward, use a pair of sterilized tweezers to carefully slide it to a space between two teeth, turn it around, and then gently slide the bracket back to where it belongs. Then, use a ball of dental wax to hold it in place temporarily.

To use dental wax, simply pinch a small piece off and roll it into a ball roughly the size of a small pea. Then, flatten the ball and place it completely over the part of the braces that is irritating.

If a bracket has entirely come off of your tooth and the archwire, save it and make sure to bring it with you to your appointment.

If any of the above happens with one or more of your brackets, call us to let us know what happened and schedule an appointment. We can easily either reattach or replace the bracket.


Loose Metal Band

If one of the metal bands/rings (usually placed around the back teeth) comes loose, let your orthodontist know as soon as possible. This is not a huge problem or cause for immediate concern, but if left unattended for too long it will allow the acid-forming agents that cause demineralization into that space. This can eventually lead to white spots due to decalcification.

If a loose band is causing discomfort against your cheek, you can use a small bit of dental wax to cover the side of it. If the band has come out completely, make sure to hold onto it and bring it with you to your next appointment.


Protruding/Poking Wire or Tie

Sometimes, the metal archwires or wire ties can work themselves out of place and may start to poke the soft tissue inside of your mouth. This most often occurs towards the back of your teeth. If this happens, there are a couple of temporary measures you can take to relieve any discomfort until you can get to your orthodontist’s office. You can:

  • Use a pencil eraser or clean Q-tip to gently reposition the wire and push it back towards the tooth.
  • Put a small bit of dental wax over the end of the wire until your appointment.
  • In an extreme measure, if both the other options fail, you can snip protruding archwire with a pair of sharp clippers. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Wrap gauze around the end that is being clipped first to reduce the risk of swallowing the piece of wire you clip off.

Swallowed Orthodontic Appliances

This issue does not happen as often as you may think. Even if a bracket breaks free from your tooth, chances are it is still attached to the archwire. But, if you do swallow a small orthodontic appliance, there’s no need to panic. A braces bracket is a pretty small appliance, so after entering your digestive tract, it will pass through your system fairly quickly. The same goes for rubber o-rings (used in traditional braces to hold your archwire and bracket together). Dental wax is also harmless if accidentally swallowed.

Irritation of Cheeks or Lips

New braces can sometimes be irritating to the inside of your mouth, especially when eating. Until the soft tissue on the inside of your cheeks or lips gets used to your braces, you can use a small amount of the orthodontic/dental wax to create a buffer.  

Rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater can greatly help relieve any instances of irritation or discomfort within your mouth as well.

(Check out our article here for more tips on how to make your first week of braces easier.)

Mouth Sores

Some people are more susceptible to episodes of mouth sores than others. Braces alone do not cause mouth sores but they may be brought on or exacerbated by an irritation from braces appliances. If you occasionally get mouth sores, you may notice one or more spots of ulceration of the cheeks or lips. Though this is not an orthodontic emergency, it can be very uncomfortable.

If this happens, you can get prompt relief by using a Q-tip or cotton swab to apply a small amount of a topical anesthetic like Orajel directly to the ulcerated surface. Make sure to reapply as instructed on the package of anesthetic. 

Tools & Supplies You Should Have On Hand During Treatment

There are several things you should have on hand at home during your orthodontic treatment. Doing so will ensure you are adequately prepared in the event of one of the issues we’ve covered above. These items include:

  • Orthodontic/dental relief wax
  • Sterile tweezers
  • Small, sharp clippers
  • Small pieces of gauze
  • Q-tips
  • Toothpicks
  • Dental floss
  • Interdental brush
  • Salt
  • Topical Anesthetic (like Ora-Gel or Orabase)
    (such as Orabase or Ora-Gel)

Source: GUM

An Issue During Orthodontic Treatment Can Be an Easy Fix

Hopefully, in reading this article, you’re now confident in knowing exactly what to do in the event you experience an issue during your orthodontic treatment. As you can see, many of the minor problems can be largely addressed at home and taken care of before they can become orthodontic emergencies. 

Do what you can at home to relieve any pain or discomfort, save any pieces of your orthodontic appliance that may have broken or come off, and call your orthodontist to schedule a checkup as soon as possible.

Our goal at Cook & Gutsche Orthodontics is to make your treatment as easy and comfortable as possible. If you have any further questions on how to handle an issue during your treatment, don’t hesitate to contact our caring team today!