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Young girl experiencing pain from an orthodontic emergency.

How to Handle an Orthodontic Emergency or Unexpected Problems

A true orthodontic emergency is uncommon. Most issues with your treatment that occur outside of your orthodontist’s office hours can be dealt with the following day. However, there are a few orthodontic emergencies that occasionally happen – and it’s important to know what to do!

If you’re worried about an issue with your braces, read on to discover if it’s an emergency or if it’s something that can be handled at home!

Dental Trauma While Wearing Braces

Risks for orthodontic emergencies are low, but the most common is direct injury or trauma to your mouth. Children are especially vulnerable to accidents due to their highly-active schedules with sports and play.

Anything from a fall to a sports accident directly to their teeth can damage your child’s braces or even their teeth! Your first step should be identifying the severity of the injury. If the injury is severe, go to the hospital or emergency dentist first to ensure your child’s well-being is taken care of.

However, don’t forget to alert your orthodontist to the incident. They will want to ensure your braces weren’t affected, or if they were, to correct any issues with new adjustments.

Swallowed or Aspirated Piece of Appliance

While it’s a rare occurrence, it’s possible to break off a part of your braces and accidentally swallow them. Impacts to your mouth are the most common reason that braces can have pieces break off, which is why it’s important to plan ahead and wear a mouth guard during any sports activities!

It’s also possible to break off a wire or damage a bracket when trying to adjust a loose wire at home. You should always be very careful and use gentle pressure if trying to manipulate a loose wire to avoid this!

Aspirating a piece of your braces is usually the only time this is a true orthodontic emergency. Difficulty breathing or sharp pains when inhaling and exhaling signal that the wire may have entered your lungs. If you have symptoms like these, you need to get medical help immediately.

Orthodontic wires or pieces of the bracket that travel into your stomach will almost always be a non-issue. Your digestive system can break down the small bits of metal easily. In the unlikely event that you develop stomach pains, you should again seek medical attention, as the wire may have gotten stuck in your digestive tract.

Minor Dental Emergencies

Not every orthodontic emergency is cause for stress. Throughout your treatment or the treatment of your child, you are likely to run into small, unexpected issues. These minor emergencies aren’t problematic enough to require immediate attention but will often require you to visit your orthodontist within 24 hours to fix.

Protruding Wire

In some cases, a loose wire can be positioned to poke the inside of your mouth – often your inner lip, cheeks or gums. Discomfort ranges from mild annoyance to severe pain depending on your mouth’s sensitivity and the position of the wire.

Like any loose wire, this minor orthodontic emergency can be temporarily handled at home in a few different ways:

Pushing the Wire Back in Place – Using cotton swab or other small, soft surface, push the wire into a position where it’s not causing you discomfort. You may not be able to stop it from bothering you entirely, but you can minimize any pain it may be causing.

Use Orthodontic Wax – A small ball of wax on the end of the wire is an easy way to neutralize the aggravating point of a loosened wire. Make sure to dry the wire and the area around it before putting on the wax to help ensure it holds in place.

Cutting the Wire – As a last-resort, you may be able to cut the wire if it’s causing severe pain. Any type of wire cutters should work but be extremely careful. This is best done with the help of a family member.

Loose Wire

While not necessarily an emergency, a loose wire can cause a lot of stress – especially as they tend to happen early on in your orthodontic treatment! It’s quite common for a wire to become loose, so don’t panic.

In most cases, you can often bend the wire back into place with something soft – like a pencil eraser or cotton swab.

That said, a loose wire isn’t “fixed” when it’s bent back into place. This is a temporary solution until you can contact your orthodontist and schedule a quick visit to have your wire properly corrected.

Persistent Pain

New braces are designed to minimize your discomfort and pain. However, like any oral appliance, it will take some time getting used to them. Typically, any discomfort will subside relatively quickly as your mouth acclimates.

However, if you’re experiencing persistent pain, it may not just be an issue of new braces. In most cases, it’s unrelated to the braces at all! Orthodontic appliances can make it more difficult to keep your teeth cavity-free. Advanced decay on a tooth can be painful, and you may mistake your braces as the culprit.

That said, it is possible for braces to cause pain, especially after a recent adjustment! If a little bit of time or over-the-counter painkillers don’t seem to work, schedule an appointment with your orthodontist so they can identify the problem.

Don’t Panic – But Treat an Orthodontic Emergency Appropriately

In most cases, events that appear to be orthodontic emergencies aren’t as big of a problem as they seem. It’s important not to panic! Small issues with brackets or wires can be fixed quickly at your orthodontist the next day. These won’t set back your treatment and don’t leave your mouth at risk.

However, if you’re concerned about your child or yourself, please reach out for medical assistance immediately! It’s always better to err on the side of safety. In many cases, if it’s a non-emergency, your dentist, orthodontist or another medical professional can explain it on the phone.

Information on Types of Braces

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Do you have questions about how to best take care of your braces? We can answer your questions to keep your teeth and gums healthy – schedule a free consultation! Contact us online or call 440-842-8015

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