Emergencies In Orthodontics : What to Know and What to Do

orthodontist working with orthodontic emergency patient

Many Orthodontic Emergencies Can Be Handled at Home

When something happens with your braces, it’s important to know what steps to take to avoid delays in your treatment. While some mishaps can be fixed with common household items, others may require you to come to the office and have them straightened out right away.

True orthodontic emergencies are rare – but when they happen, there is usually an easy solution you can achieve from home. Read on to learn more about what situations constitute a true orthodontic emergency and what you can fix right from home.

The following guide will help you take care of most common orthodontic concerns with tools you already have in your own home. This way, you don’t have to drop everything and head to the office for something you can handle at home!

  • 1What is Considered an Orthodontic Emergency?

    There are many issues that can be easily solved at home. However, the following issues consist of true orthodontic emergencies:

    - An injury or trauma to the mouth, teeth, or face
    - Infected gums or other parts of the mouth
    - Severe pain

    If any of these apply, consult with your orthodontist as soon as possible.

  • 2What Should I Do During an Orthodontic Emergency?

    First things first: don’t panic! Some pain or discomfort in your mouth, especially during the first days of treatment or after a tightening, is normal. But if the pain does not subside or if there are true issues, here’s what you should do:

    - Identify the problem: Use a mirror or have a household member look in your mouth to identify what’s wrong.
    - Can you fix it from home?: Use the guide below to try and fix the problem from home. Most issues can be treated at home with tools you already have!
    - If fixing it at home doesn't work: or any of the above emergencies apply (trauma to the mouth or face, infection, etc.), then contact your orthodontist for immediate assistance.
    - If you have a medical emergency: call your medical doctor for assistance.

diamondbraces patient with broken bracket e

Loose or Broken Braces Brackets

Loosened brackets, or brackets detaching from your teeth, can happen – and neither are serious emergencies. This can result from eating hard/sticky foods, playing with the brackets, or bumping into something with your braces.

Is a Loose Bracket an Orthodontic Emergency?

No – your braces will still work properly without it until your orthodontist can affix a new one. If a bracket comes loose or breaks, leave it in place and cover it with wax if needed for comfort. If the bracket breaks off entirely, just remove it and leave it alone.

How To Deal With a Broken Bracket at Home

broken bracket thumb
Wire Poking Cheeks and Gums

Wire Poking Cheeks or Gums

If the ends of your archwires are poking out and causing discomfort, there are several ways to fix the issue:

  • Push the wire back into the moral tube using the disinfected eraser end of a pencil or a clean cotton swab.
  • Place a ball of wax on the end of the wire to protect your gums.
  • Trim the wire using clean, disinfected nail clippers. Use rubbing alcohol to clean the clippers, and then trim the wire back to a comfortable length. You may need a mirror or a family member to assist you.
Can I Cut the Wire on my Braces?

Yes – using a nail clipper or pair of fingernail scissors, you can trim down the wire to a point where it won’t bother you anymore. Your orthodontist will correct anything that’s out of place at your next appointment.

patient suffering from tooth pain

Tooth Discomfort and Soreness

Sometimes you may feel pain or soreness as your teeth adjust to their correct positions. This is normal and nothing to worry about! Here’s what you can do to help mitigate your discomfort:

  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers to manage the pain.
  • Try chewing sugarless gum to stimulate blood flow. Chewing may feel uncomfortable but is good for increasing blood flow.
  • As your teeth move into their correct positions, they may feel loose – don’t worry, they are not going to fall out! They are merely shifting correctly. The looseness will fade as you get accustomed to the movement!
How Bad is Braces Pain?

Braces pain will feel more like discomfort or soreness than actual pain. Think of it more along the lines of your body after a workout or tweaking something on your body. The pain will be minimal and will eventually subside.

If your pain does not subside or acts more like a shooting sensation, then there’s an issue. Give your orthodontist a call right away if you’re feeling severe pain.

diamondbraces patient sores ulcers from braces

Ulcers or Sores Inside Your Mouth

Sometimes your gums or mouth may be irritated by contact with your braces; in certain cases, this irritation causes small sores or ulcers. While they can be uncomfortable, they are normal and will go away quickly.

  • Avoid touching them with your fingers.
  • Cover the irritating bracket or wire with wax and take over-the-counter pain medications if you feel discomfort.
  • You may also find topic gels helpful, as they will slowly and safely eradicate your sores.
Is It Normal to Get Sores from Braces?

Yes, your braces will rub up against the inside of your mouth because it’s still getting acclimated to the appliance. As your mouth gets used to having braces on your teeth, it will account for the braces and lessen the frequency of sores and ulcers, sometimes eliminating them entirely. However, if sores and ulcers continue to arise, follow the tips outlined above to mitigate the discomfort they cause.

wire slipped out

Braces Wire Slipped Out Completely

In some instances, the wire may have slipped out completely from the molar tube. If this happens, try and fit it back into the molar tube with your fingers or with clean tweezers. If you can’t fit it back in, you can also clip it back with clean nail clippers and remove the loose piece (the wire is still fixed in place by the other brackets and so treatment won’t be affected).

diamondbraces patient loose wire poking

Open Coil Spring

Coil springs can come loose due to trauma, poor oral hygiene, eating improper food items like gum or crunchy candy, and more. If your coil spring comes loose, you can attempt to place the coil back on your wire using a tweezer or your hands.

However, you should only do so if you feel confident. If not, place some orthodontic wax over the pointy end and consult your orthodontist as soon as possible.

diamondbraces patient with broken braces arch wire e

Poking Steel Tie

If your braces use steel ligatures to connect wires and brackets, these sometimes can unwind and poke your lips, gums, or other parts of your mouth. If this happens, try to push it back into place with your finger, the clean eraser end of a pencil, or use wax to cover the end of the poking wire.

diamondbraces patient elastic band fallen off

Lost Rubber Band

We place elastic bands over the brackets to help secure the archwire – but if one comes off, it’s okay, your treatment will not be interrupted! The brackets are crimped around the wire, so the rubber bands, also known as ligatures, act as an added precaution.

You can even place the rubber bands back on the bracket yourself using a clean tweezer, but if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, you can leave it off until your next appointment. If the wire starts getting loose, push back in place with a clean tweezer.

Example of Retainer

What if my Retainer Breaks?

If your retainer breaks, stop wearing it and call your orthodontist immediately. Retainers serve an important purpose in orthodontic treatment, as they keep your smile straight and healthy. Failing to wear your retainer during the timeframe prescribed by your orthodontist can cause your teeth to relapse back into an unhealthy position.

A broken retainer can improperly apply force to your teeth which can result in an incorrect shift, which can cause issues similar to the ones you originally set out to correct with braces.