Orthodontic emergencies can occur at anytime during treatment and often pertain to complications with appliances. An orthodontic emergency is any circumstance that causes pain, threatens a patient’s health, or interferes with the course of orthodontic treatment. An on-call orthodontist can offer immediate assistance for serious emergencies, but most can be handled with TLC at home. Orthodontic issues can include:
- broken wires
- loosened bands
- oral pain
- lost spacers
- allergic reaction (specifically to metal appliances)
Did you know?
Never attempt to handle a major orthodontic or dental emergency on your own. If you suffer a trauma or injury to your teeth or notice that your gums have become infected or swollen, your emergency will be better served by your family dentist. Keep in mind that some emergencies are serious and require emergency medical attention. If, for example, you or your child has swallowed part of an orthodontic appliance and is having trouble breathing, dial 9-1-1 or go straight to your nearest hospital emergency department.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do I do in an orthodontic emergency?
If you feel that you are experiencing a minor emergency related to your orthodontic appliance, contact our office to find out when you can schedule an emergency visit. Please leave a message for our scheduling coordinator if the office is closed. We will do our best to see you the follow business day. While you wait, here are the most common issues and solutions:
- broken or painful wires: If only a small amount of wire is bothering you, press it gently back into position using a cotton swab. Use orthodontic wax to prevent it from cutting the inside of your mouth or cheeks.
- loosened brackets: First, check to see if the wire is still attached to the bracket. If so, leave it in place. If it’s attached but sticking out, press it gently back into position using a cotton swab. Use orthodontic wax to hold the broken bracket in place in your mouth until you can arrange to see your orthodontist. If the bracket has come loose, remove it if you can easily and bring it with you to the orthodontist for reattachment. Finally, review the state of the wires from the broken braces bracket. If possible, have a parent or other adult clip overlong or protruding wires very carefully with a pair of nail clippers as close as possible to your teeth. Press any extra length back into position against the tooth and cover with wax to prevent it from cutting the inside of your mouth or cheeks.
What should I expect during an emergency visit to the orthodontist?
During your visit, your orthodontist will repair or replace broken appliances. Keep in mind that broken appliances can prolong your orthodontic treatment, so speak with your orthodontist about how your emergency may affect your treatment.
How can I prevent orthodontic emergencies in the future?
Be sure to follow the instructions provided to you for caring for your orthodontic appliance. This may include avoiding hard or chewy foods like ice and caramel candies, and being sure to wear mouth guards to protect fixed appliances during high-impact activity. You should also avoid ‘playing’ with or picking at your appliances, as this can cause damage. And as always, you should continue to see your family dentist for routine cleanings and periodic check-ups throughout your course of orthodontic treatment.