Be prepared for anything
You probably won’t experience a true orthodontic emergency because they are rare. But since they do happen from time to time, you need 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 by Dr. Wood.
If you don’t see your problem listed, always feel free to call our office, and our helpful team members can answer all your questions.
Here to help
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, fine wires, known as ligatures, hold the wire to the bracket. If a rubber ligature should come off, you may be able to put it back in place using sterile tweezers. If a wire ligature comes loose, 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 your ligatures. Missing or broken ligatures should be brought to the attention of Dr. Wood. If a rubber or wire ligature is lost, tell Dr. Wood 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 the 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 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.
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.
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’s 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 make Dr. Wood aware of the problem.
In a situation where the wire is extremely bothersome, and you can’t see Dr. Wood anytime soon, you may, as a last resort, clip the wire.
Reduce the possibility of swallowing the snipped piece of wire by using folded tissue or gauze around the area.
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 in any way, call Dr. Wood 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. Wood, who will 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 the bracket 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 under the circumstances, examine your braces for problems that may result from the missing piece, such as looseness or irritation, and treat as specified above.
If you are unable to see the piece and believe you may have inhaled it, call Dr. Wood immediately.
Not necessarily. Research suggests that wisdom teeth don’t always cause teeth to shift.
In most cases, wisdom teeth are removed for general dental health reasons rather than for orthodontic health. Your family dentist or Dr. Wood can help determine whether or not your wisdom teeth need to be removed.
Dr. Wood will recommend how long to continue wearing your retainers, whether they are removable (the kind you put in and take out) or fixed (bonded behind your teeth). Wearing your retainers as prescribed is the best way to keep your teeth from moving after your orthodontic treatment.
There are many reasons teeth may move following orthodontic treatment. Teeth are not set in concrete, they are in bone. Because the bone around your teeth is continually changing (breaking down and rebuilding), your teeth may shift after your braces are removed.
By wearing your retainers, your teeth are more likely to remain where Dr. Wood has placed them through braces treatment.
The small changes that happen after braces are removed are due to settling in as you use your teeth for biting and chewing. The more serious and unwanted changes may be traced to genetics or later-than-normal growth, which is unpredictable.
Movement is most common in lower front teeth. This is particularly true if the teeth were extremely crowded before treatment. Changes in tooth position are a lifelong and naturally occurring phenomenon.
The best way to keep your teeth from shifting is to wear your retainers as prescribed. If you notice movement after your braces are removed, please contact Oread Orthodontics.
No. Retainers stabilize and preserve the alignment of teeth and jaws that orthodontic treatment achieves. Many people wear removable retainers nightly for the rest of their lives. Ask your orthodontist for guidance about your long-term retainer use.
The fact is that throughout your lifetime, even though you have had orthodontic treatment, you can expect changes in tooth position. Many factors at work may cause teeth to shift. Such changes are different for everyone, and most of the time, they are hardly noticeable.
However, on occasion, changes can occur that are disappointing to both the patient and Dr. Wood. Changes in tooth position are not a failure of your orthodontic treatment. They are a natural process. We expect changes in our bodies as we grow older, and teeth are no exception.
To help control and limit these changes, retainers are prescribed after your braces are removed.