While the biggest problem that most people will face when wearing braces will be no more than just some minor discomfort and soreness, accidents and emergencies can happen (even though they are rare.) Although you shouldn’t expect to have to deal with an orthodontic emergency, familiarizing yourself with what to do in the event of an emergency is never a bad idea. With information provided by our team here at Tilghman Orthodontics, you’ll be prepared to handle any orthodontic emergency that you may face, and ensure that you stay on the path to a perfect, radiant smile!

Identifying The Issue & Making An Appointment

The first step of any possible orthodontic emergency is to identify exactly what the problem is and determine whether it classifies as a minor or major emergency. The easiest way to figure out if something is either a major or minor problem is by asking yourself if it is something that requires urgent attention. For example, if you are in a serious amount of pain to the point where you cannot your normal daily activities, you may have a major problem on your hands. Alternatively, if your mouth feels a bit sore you feel something on your braces scratching the inside of your mouth, but you’re not in excruciating pain, it’s probable that you have a minor issue.

Before we get into the different types of emergencies, you should know that what to do is always contact us at Tilghman Orthodontics to schedule an appointment right away. While minor issues do have at-home fixes that you can do, they are typically only meant to be temporary and will need to be truly fixed by your orthodontist.

What Is A Major Orthodontic Emergency?

There are only a few true things that classify as a major orthodontic (or dental) emergency. They include:

  • 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

If you experience any of these situations, you need to seek help as soon as possible. We recommend going to your dentist if they are available, since they are typically the most equipped to provide you with the treatment you need in these emergencies. If your dentist is not available, the next best option is to go to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. Once the situation is brought under control, you should schedule a follow up appointment with your orthodontist to assess how your orthodontic treatment will need to be adjusted to ensure that you stay on track towards your new smile.

What Are Minor Orthodontic Emergencies?

Man holding his face because he has a toothache

While they may not be as drastic as the major orthodontic emergencies, there are several minor issues that often occur when wearing braces that can be helped by acting fast with a temporary solution. While you should still contact us to schedule an appointment to truly fix the issue and we want to fix it as soon as possible, these do not require immediate attention and can be managed at home until your visit. Here are the most common minor orthodontic emergencies:

A Bracket, Band, Or Wire Came Loose Or Broke

While those braces are cemented onto your teeth and are made from stainless steel, they are not impervious to damage. Simply the act of biting into a piece or hard or sticky food is enough to dislodge a bracket or bend the archwire. If you dislodge a bracket and it didn’t fall off of the wire, just leave it there and do not connect elastics to it. If a loose bracket or broken wire is causing any irritation in your mouth, you can put a small piece of orthodontic wax on it to prevent any painful friction. If the bracket does fall out, make sure you hold onto it and bring it to your appointment with us so we can replace it!

Archwire Is Poking Inside Your Mouth

This problem often occurs in the middle of orthodontic treatment, since the archwire can start to stick out as your teeth start to move. The most common area for this issue is the back of the mouth near your cheeks, since it’s the end piece of the archwire that causes the poking and discomfort. If you notice this issue at home, you can take a Q-tip or a pencil eraser to slowly and carefully move the wire out the way. A piece of orthodontic wax placed on the tip of the archwire should work to reduce discomfort as well. It is an option to cut the end of the wire using sterilized nail clippers, but it can be a difficult process, which is why we recommend contacting us before you try so we can guide you through it.

General Tooth Pain Or A “Loose” Feeling

Before you got your braces, your teeth were basically locked into their position because they are attached to your jaw bone. With braces, you now have a appliance that is applying a small amount of pressure to them in order to move them into their new ideal positioning for that perfect smile. This does technically “loosen” your teeth from their original positioning in the jaw bone, but they aren’t actually coming loose. What patients often feel is just a sensitivity and soreness to their teeth as they begin to move. To alleviate this “loose” feeling or any kind of minor soreness, taking an over-the-counter pain medicine will typically be enough to completely block it. For a non-painkiller at-home method, take a glass of warm water and mix in a bit of salt to create a salt solution that will help alleviate pain by rinsing your mouth with it for 30 seconds.

Contact Us With Your Questions!

If you do experience an orthodontic emergency, remember to contact us right away to schedule an appointment with us, but for major emergencies you should seek out immediate help first. We hope that this guide helped you feel prepared to take on any challenge that comes your way during your orthodontic treatment!