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. Ken Dillehay or Dr. J.K. Dillehay.
Answers to Common Problems
This isn’t an emergency, but it can be uncomfortable or embarrassing. It’s easily fixed 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.
Tiny rubber bands or small, delicate wires, known as ligatures, hold the wire to the bracket. If a rubber ligature comes off, you may be able to put it back in place using sterile tweezers. If a wire ligature comes loose, remove it with clean 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. Missing or broken ligatures should be brought to the attention of Dr. Ken Dillehay or Dr. JK Dillehay If a rubber or wire ligature is lost, tell Dr. Ken Dillehay or Dr. JK Dillehay 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 your mouth with warm saltwater.
You may be susceptible to mouth sores. While your braces don’t cause them, they may be made worse by irritation from braces.
One or several patches of sores may appear on the cheeks, lips, or tongue. This is not an emergency, but it may be uncomfortable.
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.
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 part of the braces irritating your mouth.
If you accidentally swallow the wax, it’s not a problem; it's harmless.
Occasionally, the end of a wire will work itself out of place and irritate your mouth. Let us know and we’ll schedule a time to see you. In the meantime, use a Q-tip or pencil eraser to push the wire flat against the tooth.
Cover the wire with relief wax if it cannot be moved into a comfortable position. (See Irritated of Lips or Cheeks above for instructions on applying relief wax.)
If the wire is extremely bothersome, and you can't see Dr. Ken Dillehay or Dr. JK Dillehay anytime soon, you may clip the wire as a last resort.
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, call Dr. Ken Dillehay or Dr. JK Dillehay 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. The bracket can be knocked off if you've eaten one of those hard or crunchy foods you are instructed to avoid or if the mouth is struck while at play.
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. Ken Dillehay or Dr. JK Dillehay to determine the course of action.
If the loose bracket has rotated on the wire and is sticking out and you can't come to our office immediately, you can do a temporary fix to alleviate discomfort and prevent further damage, but take care to prevent swallowing or another injury.
To put the bracket back in place, use sterile tweezers to slide it 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, examine your braces for problems resulting from the missing piece, such as looseness or irritation, and treat them as specified above.
Call Dr. Ken Dillehay or Dr. JK Dillehay immediately if you can’t see the piece and believe you may have inhaled it.