How To Handle Orthodontic Emergencies

Here at Adult & Pediatric Orthodontics, we believe that informed patients make the best patients. Whether you’re brand new to the world of orthodontics or consider yourself a pro after years of treatment, we want you to feel completely confident in our care. Part of that is ensuring you’re aware of some of the issues that can occur while you’re wearing braces. Although true orthodontic emergencies tend to be rare, they can occasionally occur and it’s important that you know how to how to handle orthodontic emergencies if they do occur. 

How is an orthodontic emergency defined?

When we talk about true orthodontic emergencies, we’re generally referring to events that result in any:

  • serious injury or trauma to the face, neck, mouth, teeth, or gums
  • swelling, infection, or bleeding of the gums or mouth
  • severe pain or discomfort in your teeth, mouth, face, or neck

If you’re a current patient and experience any of these symptoms, you should get in touch with us as soon as possible. You should also check in with your family dentist. If you require urgent care, don’t hesitate to visit a fast clinic or emergency room if you feel that’s your best option. Some patients worry that this may interrupt their treatment plan, but we can always adjust this once the immediate emergency has passed! 

You might wonder what sort of emergency situation would require immediate care versus a “wait and see” scenario. Some good examples of problems that would need to be diagnosed and treated quickly are fractured teeth, any significant pain in your teeth or jaw, and any noticeable swelling in or around your mouth. In the absence of an obvious injury, the last two in particular can sometimes be symptoms of infection or disease. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to potential infections.

The good news is, serious orthodontic emergencies don’t tend to happen very often. While we recommend having a plan in place just in case, most minor issues can be taken care of from the comfort of your own home. Home remedies may not always be able to eliminate all the discomfort or irritation you’re feeling, but they can be very effective at lessening or relieving any symptoms until Dr. Yu can see you in our office! Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common minor “emergencies” or sources of oral discomfort and how you can handle them from home

Mouth sores

Orthodontic treatment itself doesn’t cause mouth sores to develop, but some patients do find they’re more susceptible to them while they’re in braces. If you find yourself struggling with painful ulcers on your cheeks, lips, tongue, or gums during the treatment process, you may find some relief by swabbing a small amount of topical anesthetic directly onto the sore. You can reapply this as often as needed, just be sure to follow the instructions included with the packaging.

Loose or broken brackets, bands, or wires

If any part of your braces comes loose or breaks during treatment, please contact our office as soon as possible so we can determine what your next steps should be. There are a few guidelines you should follow in order to keep your braces and your mouth safe while you wait, however.

If a band or bracket is broken but still attached to the wire, try to leave it alone until you can be seen. Don’t connect any elastics to it. If a component is causing irritation, you can cover it with a small amount of orthodontic wax. Remember to remove it when you’re brushing your teeth, then reapply as needed. If any piece of your braces has completely broken off, please place it in a secure bag and bring it with you to your next appointment.

Misplaced archwire, bracket, or tie

As your treatment progresses and your teeth begin to move, the archwire connecting them may also shift. This can result in it poking out a bit near the back of your mouth, irritating your cheeks or gums. You can use the eraser end of the pencil or a clean cotton swab to gently move it back into the correct spot.

If your wires or ties move, they can often be gently manipulated back into place using a pair of clean tweezers or the eraser end of a pencil. For wires or brackets that have shifted and are irritating the inside of your mouth, try a pinch of orthodontic wax over the parts that are poking out to help relieve the immediate discomfort. Don’t forget to contact us as soon as you can so Dr. Yu can determine what’s happening with your braces and correct any issues. 

Tooth pain or loosening

It can be a little scary to feel your teeth loosening during treatment, but there’s no need to worry—they’re doing exactly what we want them to do! It’s that loosening that allows us to move them into more optimal positions using braces and aligners. This movement can sometimes cause tenderness, especially right after your braces are put on or after we’ve adjusted them. Saltwater rinses are a great home remedy that are tried-and-true for relieving soreness. Simply mix one teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water, then swish it around your mouth for about 30 seconds before spitting it out. A warm washcloth or heating pad placed on the outside of your jaw can give you some additional pain relief as well.

Keep your smile safe with Adult & Pediatric Orthodontics

In the event of a true orthodontic emergency, you should always seek the advice of an experienced and qualified orthodontist like Dr. Yu. As infrequent as these are, we know that even minor emergencies can be upsetting! That’s why the Adult & Pediatric Orthodontics team is committed to providing patients with a safe and stress-free orthodontic experience. We help create beautiful smiles for patients every day, and we know that the treatment process doesn’t have to be painful. If you’re experiencing any discomfort with your braces, get in touch with our Portland or Windham office today. We’ll get to the bottom of whatever is bothering you and help put a smile back on your face ASAP!