How to Handle an Orthodontic Emergency

Despite popular belief, true orthodontic emergencies are rare. But there are minor issues that can leave a patient in pain or discomfort. While issues with your appliances can require a trip to the office, many issues can be easily fixed at home when patients are properly educated on what to do. The most common orthodontic appliance problems are seen on a weekly basis for many different reasons. Keep these tips in mind when dealing with a problem with your braces or appliances. Especially during the holidays, knowing when to call in an emergency and how to handle minor issues yourself can be the difference between a large and unnecessary emergency bill.

  • Lost or broken brackets- Eating hard food or playing with your braces can cause breakage when you wear braces. But broken brackets are not generally an orthodontic emergency. Like most orthodontic emergencies, no immediate office visit is required unless the patient is experiencing severe pain or discomfort. If you have a broken or loose bracket, leave it in place and cover with dental wax to avoid discomfort to your cheeks and gums. If the bracket has completely broken off, save it for your next orthodontic appointment.
  • Detached or protruding wires- Issues with the wires of your braces can be particularly irritating. Before leaving the orthodontics’ office, check to see if your wires are irritating your cheeks. If you are finding discomfort, talk to a member of the staff to fix the issue before you leave your appointment. If you have an issue with your wires at home, use a pencil eraser or cotton swab to push the wire into the molar tube. If this doesn’t work, apply a ball of wax to prevent irritation. Cutting the wire can be done at home with a sterilized nail clipper. If your wire has completely come out, push it back with a tweezers or cut the wire. If you are unsuccessful with these efforts, call the office when it opens to schedule an appointment.
  • Loose bands-Most orthodontists have stopped using bands for braces because they are an older technology. If your appliance does require the use of a band, be sure to stay away from chewing and eating sticky foods. Inform your orthodontist if your band is loose so they can set up an appointment to properly connect it.
  • Mouth discomfort or soreness- Generally it takes a week for discomfort to subside when braces are newly applied or tightened. If you are having a problem with soreness or discomfort, stick to soft foods and use an over the counter pain medication like Tylenol or Advil. Chewing sugarless gum can also help to increase blood flow to your gums. Many times, people develop ulcers inside their mouth from their braces. Generally, these disappear on their own, but using wax to cover the edge of brackets can help with discomfort and friction. Most importantly, keep these ulcers as clean as possible to avoid infection.
  • Lost elastics- Lost elastics are not an orthodontic emergency in general. They should not cause discomfort or pain, and can be treated at your next scheduled orthodontist visit.
  • Accidents- A true emergency can occur when someone who has braces is in an accident. Sports accidents, car accidents, and other accidents that effect your mouth are a reason to call the orthodontist immediately. If you are in a severe accident, go right to the nearest emergency room.

Following these easy tips to temporarily fix your minor orthodontic issues can save you time and money. If you have any questions regarding your appliances, always refer to your orthodontist’s office.