Orthodontic Emergenies

The experience toward a healthy smile with orthodontic treatment is not one without some natural anxiety. Orthodontic treatment can take some getting used to, whether it is Invisalign’s clear aligner system or traditional metal braces. While it can take a while to get used to, orthodontic treatment is nothing to get nervous about!

At Dillehay Orthodontics, one of the most common questions we hear from patients is “How painful will braces be?” Treatment should never hurt but is not unusual for patients to experience some soreness when braces are first applied and potentially a little achiness as your teeth start moving into their new positions. With the said, though rare, sometimes a real orthodontic emergency may be to blame for the pain.  

What can be considered an orthodontic emergency?

There are only a few occurrences which would be classified as an orthodontic emergency:

-Injury or trauma to the face, neck, mouth, teeth, etc.

-Swelling and infection or bleeding of the gums, mouth, and face

-Severe pain and discomfort to areas that haven’t responded to treatment

If you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms above, you should seek medical attention immediately. We recommend you go to your orthodontist’s office first if possible, but if it’s a true emergency, then head there immediately.

It can be hard to determine if you should head to the emergency room for immediate medical attention or you can wait to see your orthodontist. Here’s a quick guide. Something you might need to head to the emergency room for is a fractured tooth because you would need immediate treatment. Anything that involves severe pain or swelling is something you should head to the emergency for because it can be a symptom of infection or disease.

It’s no problem if you decide to go to the emergency room for an orthodontic injury; afterward your orthodontist can fix any problem area so that you can continue your treatment as scheduled. If you are experiencing extreme discomfort or have a broken wire or bracket, we encourage you to get in touch as with as soon as possible so we can get you in for an appointment. We don’t want you to suffer from discomfort! Thankfully, many orthodontic problems can be taken care of at home, and we can advise you once you give us a call.

Now, not every home remedy will prove successful and not every orthodontic issue can be fixed at home, but usually, there are a few ways to reduce pain in the meantime. Ideally, we would like you to alleviate your discomfort first, and then schedule an appointment for us to fix the appliance that is causing your pain. Remember that even if you’ve eased the discomfort caused by an orthodontic problem, such as an out-of-place wire or broken bracket, you do still need to come in for an appointment to get the appliance fixed.

Minor orthodontic emergencies

Here’s a short guide on how to deal with some of the most common minor orthodontic emergencies you may have.  

Loose or broken brackets, bands, or wires

kid playing with orthodontic waxHave you been eating hard or sticky foods at that are no-nos on your treatment list? If so, this may be causing your issue. If you think one won’t hurt here and there, remember that the estimated treatment time doesn’t include factors like broken appliances. Issues like these can actually extend your treatment times, so stick to the foods recommended by your orthodontist.

If the band or bracket is broken and still attached to the wire, just leave it be until you can see your orthodontist. If you’re experiencing irritation on the inside of your mouth, use orthodontic wax to cover the band or bracket to keep the edges from scraping against your mouth. If a band or bracket happens to detach from the wire fully, be sure to save it and bring it to your appointment.

Misplaced wire, bracket, or tie

As your teeth begin to move, it’s possible for the end of the wire to poke out of the base of the bracket, resulting in super irritated cheeks! Try to move the end into a more comfortable position using a pencil eraser or Q-tip, or manipulate the wire with some tweezers. If it doesn’t relent, cover it in orthodontic wax (trust us, this stuff is a must-have for braces wearers!) and that should ease the discomfort and irritation you may be feeling. But don’t forget, you still need to schedule an appointment and come in so we can either clip the wire or put it back where it belongs.

Broken retainer

broken retainerRetainers can be sensitive. Sometimes they can bend or break, causing pain and an improper fit. If it happens, stop wearing the retainer immediately and give us a call. If the retainer has broken, collect all of the pieces in a bag and bring them to our office. We can try to fix the broken retainer, or if that doesn’t work, we can fit you for a new one.

General pain or loose teeth

Teeth loosen up a bit when you go through orthodontic treatment; this is proof that your braces are working! If your mouth and teeth are a bit sore, there’s an easy-to-make salt-water rinse to use twice per day that many people find helpful. Take one teaspoon of salt and mix it into about eight ounces of warm water, then swish for about 30 seconds. The heat and salt should help with your soreness. To reduce pain, it also can be beneficial to place a heating pad on the outside of your jaw.

Swallowed parts

If a band or bracket fell off and you swallowed it accidentally, don’t worry! It should easily pass right through your system without trouble. The only time you need to worry is if you swallow a piece and then have trouble breathing. If that happens, get help immediately!

While rare, orthodontic emergencies happen and can be quite scary. Just stay calm and follow our helpful hints to make it through the situation. Always be sure to contact us as soon as possible when an emergency comes up so we can schedule an appointment for you as quickly as possible. Orthodontic treatment shouldn’t cause pain or be a pain, so don’t hesitate to contact us with questions and concerns.