Handling Orthodontic Emergencies

Your first introduction to braces may take a little getting used too. You may experience soreness when appliances are first put on, or some minor aches as teeth begin moving into new positions. Genuine orthodontic emergencies are rare, and if you think you may have an emergency, however, the first step is to determine the severity of the problem: Is it an urgent situation that requires immediate attention, or a minor problem that you can take care of yourself, temporarily, until you can come in to our office?

Find out how to take care of emergencies at home:  Ortho Emergency Flyer


A Dental Emergency

Serious dental emergency includes:

  • Trauma or injury to the teeth, face or mouth
  • Infection or swelling of the gums, mouth or face
  • Severe, unmanageable discomfort or pain in these areas

In any of these situations, you should seek help from your general dentist as soon as possible, or go to an emergency room, if that's your best option. Start with your general provider, understanding that they are trained to handle a wide variety of dental problems, and can most likely offer the necessary diagnostic tools, anesthetics and treatments you need. Your orthodontic treatment plan can be adjusted after necessary dental treatment is completed in conjunction with your treating dentist.

Some Minor Troubles

Fortunately, the vast majority of orthodontic problems are minor compared to these situations — but they may still cause discomfort or irritation. In general, it's best to try and soothe the immediate cause of the discomfort, and then call our office to schedule an appointment; that way, we can allot sufficient time to take care of you. Here are a few of the more common orthodontic problems, along with some tips on what you can do to relieve them at home:

Loose or Broken Brackets, Bands or Wires

A problem which is caused by eating hard or sticky candy or food, or playing with the braces. If a band or bracket is still attached to the wire, leave it as is. You can cover it with orthodontic wax if it's irritating the inside of your mouth. If it has come off, save it and bring to the next appointment. Call our office to let us know what happened, and we will schedule a visit.

Misplaced or Poking Archwire, Bracket or Tie

As the teeth start to move, the wire that connects them (archwire) may begin poking near the back of the mouth or irritating the cheeks. You can try moving the wire into a better position with a pencil eraser or a Q-Tip. If the wire won't move, you may be able to cut the end off with a nail clipper sterilized in alcohol — but before doing so, please call our office for our guidance or instructions. Often, you can also use tweezers to gently move a misplaced flexible wire or a tie that's causing problems.

When wires or brackets cause irritation, covering the metal parts with wax will often help ease the discomfort. As with any of these types of problems, call our office and we'll schedule a time to see you.

General Tooth Pain or Loosening

Some teeth will become slightly loosened during orthodontic treatment, revealing that they're moving! Occasionally this movement may be accompanied by tenderness, especially for a few days after braces are placed or adjusted. For minor soreness, you can use your regular over-the-counter pain reliever. Warm compresses may be placed on the outside of the jaw can also offer some relief.

Actual orthodontic emergencies are rare, and our goal is to make orthodontic treatment as comfortable as possible!