Here to Help
You probably won’t experience a true orthodontic emergency because they’re rare. But since they do happen from time to time, it’s important for you to know how to handle them.
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 from Dr. Dudley.
Ligatures Coming Off
Tiny rubber bands or small, fine 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, simply remove it with sterile 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 ligatures. Let Dr. Dudley know about any missing or broken ligatures. If a rubber or wire ligature is lost, tell Dr. Dudley so he can advise whether you should be seen.
Food Caught Between Your Teeth
This is not 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.
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 lasts for a short time.
Try eating soft foods and rinse your mouth with warm salt water.
You may be prone to mouth sores. While your braces don’t cause them, irritation from braces can make it worse.
One or several patches of sores may appear on the cheeks, lips or tongue. This is not an emergency, but may be very uncomfortable for you.
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.
Occasionally, the end of a wire will work itself out of place and irritate your mouth. Use a Q-tip or pencil eraser to push the wire so that it is flat against the tooth.
If the wire cannot be moved into a comfortable position, cover it with relief wax. (See Irritated of Lips or Cheeks above for instructions on applying relief wax.)
You'll need to let Dr. Dudley know about the problem.
In a situation where the wire is extremely bothersome, and you can't see Dr. Dudley anytime soon, you may, as a last resort, clip the wire.
Reduce the possibility swallowing the snipped piece of wire by using folded tissue or gauze around the area when you snip the wire to reduce the possibility of swallowing the snipped piece of wire.
Use a pair of sharp clippers and snip off the protruding wire. You might still need relief wax comfort the irritated area.
Irritated Lips or Cheeks
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 area of the braces causing irritation.
Then, you can eat more comfortably. If you accidentally swallow the wax, it’s not a problem. The wax is harmless.
Loose Brackets, Wires, or Bands
If your braces come loose in any way, call Dr. Dudley to determine the next steps.
Brackets are the parts of braces attached to teeth with a special adhesive. They are usually 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 mouth guard while playing sports.
If the bracket is off center, the adhesive may have failed. In this instance, it is best to notify Dr. Dudley immediately, so he can determine the best 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 the bracket along the wire until it is between two teeth.
You Swallow a Piece of Your Appliance
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 make an attempt if you could cause harm.
If appropriate under the circumstances, examine your braces for problems that may result from the missing piece, such as looseness or irritation, and treat the problem as specified above.
If you are unable to see the piece and believe it may have been inhaled, call Dr. Dudley immediately.