Be Ready For Anything
You probably won’t experience a true orthodontic emergency because they’re rare.
But, since they do happen from time to time, our Orthodontic Associates patients should know how to handle them.
Here to Help
The following orthodontic emergencies and their treatments are listed in the order from least severe to most severe.
Only the most severe emergencies require immediate attention by Dr. Patel.
This isn’t an emergency, but it can be uncomfortable or embarrassing. You can fix it easily with a piece of dental floss.
Try tying a small knot in the middle of the floss to help remove the food or use an interproximal brush or toothpick to dislodge food caught between your teeth and your braces.
Ligatures are the tiny rubber bands of small wires that hold the wire to the bracket. If a rubber ligature comes off, try to put it back in place using sterile tweezers. If a wire ligature comes loose, remove it with sterile tweezers.
If your wire ligature is sticking out into the lip but is not loose, you can bend it back down with a Q-tip or pencil eraser, so it doesn’t irritate your lip. Of course, when one ligature pops off or breaks, others may follow.
Be sure to examine all your ligatures. Let Dr. Patel know about missing or broken ligatures. If a rubber or wire ligature is lost, tell Dr. Patel so he can advise whether you should be seen.
It’s normal for you to have discomfort for a day or two after braces or retainers are adjusted, but it can make eating uncomfortable.
This discomfort is very normal and only for a short time.
Try eating soft foods and rinse the mouth with warm saltwater.
Sometimes new braces can irritate your mouth, especially when you're eating. A small amount of non-medicinal relief wax makes an excellent buffer between the metal and your mouth.
Simply pinch off a small piece and roll it into a ball the size of a small pea. Flatten the ball and place it completely over the area of the braces causing irritation.
Then, you can eat more comfortably. If you accidentally swallow the wax, it’s not a problem. The wax is harmless.
You may be susceptible to mouth sores. While your braces don’t cause them, the irritation caused by braces can make them worse.
One or several patches of sores may appear on the cheeks, lips or tongue. This is not an emergency, but it may be very uncomfortable for you.
Get quick relief by applying a small amount of topical anesthetic (such as Orabase or Ora-Gel) directly to the area with sores using a cotton swab.
You can reapply as needed.
Occasionally, the end of a wire will work itself out of place and irritate your mouth. Use a Q-tip or pencil eraser to push the wire so that it’s flat against the tooth.
If the wire cannot be moved into a comfortable position, cover it with relief wax. (See Irritated of Lips or Cheeks above for instructions on applying relief wax.)
You'll need to make Dr. Patel aware of the problem.
If the wire is causing significant irritation and you can't see Dr. Patel anytime soon, you may, as a last resort, clip the wire.
Reduce the possibility of swallowing the snipped piece of wire by using folded tissue or gauze around the area.
Use a pair of sharp clippers and snip off the protruding wire. Relief wax may still be necessary to provide comfort to the irritated area.
If your braces come loose in any way, call Dr. Patel to determine the next steps.
Brackets are the parts of braces attached to teeth with a special adhesive. They’re generally positioned in the center of each tooth. Your brackets can get knocked out of place. This problem is often caused by eating hard or sticky candy or food, or playing with the braces.
We encourage all patients, especially those with braces, to wear a protective mouthguard while playing sports.
If the bracket is off-center, the adhesive may have failed. In this instance, it’s best to immediately notify Dr. Patel, who will determine the course of action.
If the band or bracket is still attached to the wire, leave it as is — but don’t connect any elastics to it! You can cover it with orthodontic wax if it’s irritating the inside of your mouth. If it has come off, save it.
Put the bracket back in place and use sterile tweezers to slide the bracket along the wire until it is between two teeth.
This is rare, but when it does happen, it can be alarming. It’s important to stay calm.
If you're coughing excessively or having difficulty breathing, you may have inhaled the piece into your airways or lungs.
If you can see the piece, you may carefully attempt to remove it.
DO NOT try if you could cause harm.
If appropriate under the circumstances, examine your braces for problems that may result from the missing piece, such as looseness or irritation, and treat as specified above.
Call Dr. Patel immediately if you can’t see the piece and believe you may have inhaled it.