You probably won’t experience a true orthodontic emergency because they are 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 by Dr. Rhoads.
For major orthodontic emergencies, don’t hesitate to call: 724-742-2300. However, the majority of orthodontic emergencies are easily treated at home with a follow-up appointment at Rhoads Orthodontics.
Ligatures Coming Off
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, 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. Rhoads know about missing, broken or lost ligatures so she can determine whether or not you need to come into the office for a visit.
Food Caught Between Teeth
This is not an emergency, but it can be uncomfortable or embarrassing. You can fix it 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.
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 Lips and Cheeks below for instructions on applying relief wax.)
You'll need to make Dr. Rhoads aware of the problem. In a situation where the wire is extremely bothersome and you can't see Dr. Rhoads 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.
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 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.
Salt water rinses twice daily or as needed can also help heal the irritations more quickly.
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.
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 your mouth with warm salt water.
Loose Brackets, Wires, or Bands
If your braces come loose in any way, call Dr. Rhoads to determine the next steps.
Brackets are the parts of braces attached to teeth with a special adhesive. They are 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 mouth guard while playing sports.
If the bracket is off center, the adhesive may have failed. In this instance, it is best to immediately notify Dr. Rhoads, who will determine the course of action.
If the loose bracket has rotated on the wire and is sticking out, you can create a temporary fix to alleviate discomfort and prevent further damage until you can make it into the office.
To put the bracket back in place, use sterile tweezers to slide the bracket along the wire until it is between two teeth.
You can place a piece of wax on the bracket to prevent it from sliding along the wire.
If You Swallow a Piece of Appliance
It can be alarming. Remain calm. Most of the time if you swallow a bracket or small piece of wire, it will cause no harm and simply pass through your digestive system. However, if you are coughing excessively you're coughing excessively or having difficulty breathing, you may have inhaled the piece into your airways or lungs.
If you are able to see the piece, you may carefully attempt to remove it.
DO NOT make the attempt if you could cause harm.
If you are unable to see the piece and believe it may be have been inhaled, call Dr. Rhoads immediately.