Orthodontic Emergencies: What to Do If They Happen and How to Prevent Them

Your orthodontist is great. Your new braces haven’t been difficult to adjust to. The first follow-up appointment is already scheduled for a couple of weeks away. But what if something happens to your braces, aligners, or teeth before then? What is considered an emergency and what isn’t? This is a new experience and you feel unsure moving forward. These kinds of questions are very normal and very common.

It’s natural to be uncertain in any new situation and getting braces is no different. In this article, we can set your mind at ease a bit as you get used to the braces and move through your treatment plan.

Let’s discuss what classifies as an orthodontic emergency, what is “normal” while wearing braces, and what to know when it comes to managing orthodontic emergencies at home. We’ll also cover what you need to know in terms of preventing orthodontic emergencies. And congratulations on investing the time and money to build a beautiful smile!

What Is an Orthodontic Emergency?

It’s the most pressing question for you–exactly what classifies as an emergency with your braces? If a situation is unexpected, that doesn’t necessarily make it an emergency and many of situations can be handled yourself at home. It may even be some pain or discomfort that a simple adjustment can take care of.

But, there are other situations that require your orthodontist‘s attention, especially if you could suffer further injury. The last thing anyone wants is for you to be in extended pain or risk the outcome of your treatment. Let’s break down exactly what would be considered an orthodontic emergency: 

Most Common Orthodontic Emergencies

These situations would be considered true “emergencies” and require attention from your orthodontist as soon as possible:

  • Sustained pain that over-the-counter pain relievers don’t relieve.
  • Injury to the mouth, teeth, or face. 
  • Pain resulting from a broken appliance that is causing injury to the cheeks, tongue, or gums.
  • Swelling in the mouth or face, indicating a possible infection.
  • Mouth sores or ulcers.
  • Swallowed pieces of orthodontic devices.

If one of these situations happens, stay calm. This is the time to call your orthodontist to get help. If it is after hours or on a weekend, call and leave a message with exactly what is happening. The sooner the orthodontist gets involved the better you will feel and the sooner they can resolve the situation.

Of course, if an injury to the mouth is severe and it is after hours, go to the nearest emergency room and call your orthodontist as soon as possible after you receive medical treatment. 

What Is an Orthodontic Non-Emergency?

Here are some common orthodontic situations that are not considered true emergencies and how you can handle them at home:

  • A wire poking the soft tissue in the mouth
  • A loose or broken bracket
  • Sores on the inside of the mouth from braces
  • Discomfort when braces are first put on
  • Minor discomfort after a regular adjustment
  • A lost retainer
  • A broken retainer
  • A loose palatal expander

As these situations occur, there are ways to fix them yourself. If you aren’t getting any relief after trying some of the solutions below, don’t hesitate to call your orthodontist for assistance. 

Fixing a Loose Wire

If a loose wire pokes the tissue in your mouth, take a pencil eraser and gently push the wire against a tooth with the eraser. Press a tiny piece of dental wax over the flattened wire to hold it in place. 

Fixing a Loose or Broken Bracket

Use tweezers to grasp an attached bracket and slide it to the center of the tooth. Place dental wax on the bracket after you move it. This provides a cushion to protect the soft tissue in your mouth. You can swish warm salt water in your mouth if it is tender from the bracket (or a wire) rubbing the tissue.

Mouth Sores from Braces

Some soreness after getting braces as well as after each adjustment is expected. Small mouth sores can develop, too, and you can prepare for this by taking your favorite over-the-counter pain reliever before each orthodontist appointment.

The inside of your cheeks will probably be irritated until the tissue adjusts to the braces and becomes tougher. You can also use a numbing product like Orajel. Rinse with salt water as often as needed as well. (Remember not to swallow the saltwater!)

Swelling, pus on your gums or mouth, fever, or extreme redness can’t be ignored. If the sores or pain don’t improve after a few days, call your orthodontist for advice right away. 

Discomfort from Teeth Movement

Movement of the teeth in your jaws is a new experience and will cause some discomfort, no matter if you are undergoing treatment with Invisalign or braces. You can expect this each time your braces are adjusted or you use a new aligner. Your teeth are slowly moving into their new positions, so this pressure and discomfort are normal.

To alleviate this discomfort, eat soft foods as much as you can. Stay away from sticky foods and those that are hard or crunchy. Drink cold beverages; it will help numb your mouth and reduce inflammation. Over-the-counter pain medication will also probably help, but if you don’t get any relief after about two days, contact your orthodontist for assistance.

Lost or Broken Retainers

A retainer will be used after your braces are removed. These are used for varying periods of time for the rest of your life to ensure that your teeth stay in their new positions. 

If you lose the retainer it must be replaced as soon as possible. Without it, your teeth will slip back into their old, misaligned positions. All your money and hard work to get straight teeth will be lost. If the retainer is broken, make sure to keep the pieces. In either situation, call your orthodontist as soon as possible to get a replacement or repair.

We Are Here to Help With Orthodontic Emergencies!

Once your braces or other orthodontic device is in place, it’s important to know when to seek orthodontic help. In many cases, you can handle orthodontic issues at home with tools like braces wax and over-the-counter medications.

In other cases, something like swelling in the mouth or sustained pain requires help from your orthodontist as quickly as possible. Preventative measures will also help you avoid some problems: Avoiding certain foods, drinking cold beverages, and taking over-the-counter medication before orthodontic appointments are a few examples.

Don’t let an orthodontic emergency disrupt your smile journey – our expert team at White Plains Orthodontics is here to help when needed and can guide you on how to prevent future issues. Contact us today!