Orthodontic Emergencies

Dr. Shaw and his orthodontic team take your comfort very seriously.  Although true orthodontic emergencies are rare, you may encounter a problem with your appliance that causes mild to severe pain.  Most problems can be resolved at home giving you immediate relief and eliminating extra trips to the office.  However, you may have a true orthodontic (or dental) emergency that needs immediate attention.  

True orthodontic (or dental) emergencies may include:

  • Trauma or injury to the teeth, face, or mouth
  • Infection or swelling of the gums, mouth, or face
  • Severe unmanageable pain in the mouth

In any of these situations, you should seek help as soon as possible.  Your dentist or physician will be able to treat the immediate problem.  Afterwards, we can adjust your treatment plan as needed.

Listed below are some possible orthodontic situations and how they may be remedied at home until your next appointment.  If the problem is one requiring an office visit for examination or repair, the solutions below will hopefully alleviate your pain in the meantime.

Sore Teeth or Jaw

Anyone who has had braces can recall the pain of the first few weeks and the adjustment period.  It’s normal but can be extremely annoying.  Teeth become slightly loosened during orthodontic treatment – that shows they’re moving!  For minor soreness, you can use your regular over-the-counter pain reliever.  A twice-a-day salt water rinse may also help: Mix one teaspoon of salt into an 8-ounce glass of warm water and rinse for thirty seconds.  A warm washcloth or heating pad placed on the outside of the jaw can also offer some relief.    

Loose/Broken Brackets or Bands

Loose or broken brackets are generally not an urgent problem in most cases.  The most common cause is trying to eat hard or sticky candy or food.  However, call our office if any part of your braces comes loose or broken, so we can determine what your next steps should be.  If the broken piece has come off, put it in a bag and save it for your next appointment.  If the bracket or band is still attached to the wire, leave it alone until your next appointment.  If it’s irritating the inside of your mouth, you can cover it with orthodontic wax.

Poking Tie or Wire

As your teeth begin adjusting to treatment, wire in braces may stick out and irritate your cheeks.  If this happens, the wire can often be moved into a better position by using a pencil eraser or a cotton swab.  You can also place a ball of wax on the wire as temporary relief.  It is important to try to dry the area first with a cotton swab or paper towel.  Additionally, you can use nail or wire clippers cleaned with rubbing alcohol and cut the wire yourself.  If you are unable to resolve the issue, and the wire keeps bothering you, please give us a call.

Wire is Completely Out

Occasionally during treatment, the wire could completely come out of the tube.  If this happens, try to push it back into the tube with your hands or tweezers.  If you are unable to, you may use nail or wire clippers to cut the wire and remove any loose pieces.  If you are unsuccessful, and the wire continues to bother you, give us a call.

Loose/Lost Elastic

If you notice one of your elastic ties from around your bracket has come off, you may be able to put it back using tweezers cleaned in alcohol.  If you notice of your elastic ties is missing, there is no need to call or visit the office.  We will replace the ties at your next scheduled appointment.

Mouth Sores/Ulcers

It is normal to experience small sores or ulcerations on the inside of your lips or cheeks at the beginning of treatment.  You mouth needs to adjust to braces, and within a week, those ulcerations should begin to disappear on their own.  Be sure to keep the area clean as your mouth adjusts.  You may use wax to cover the edges of hooks on the brackets that may be causing those ulcers.  If you find that they continue to irritate you after a week, please give us a call.

Broken Retainer

Sometimes a retainer can bend or break.  If that happens, stop wearing the retainer and give us a call.  If the retainer has broken, try to collect all the pieces in a bag and bring them to your next appointment.

Swallowing Braces or Appliances

Swallowing braces or other appliances during orthodontic treatment tends to occur relatively infrequently.  However, if it does occur, try to remain calm.  It will usually go into the stomach and pass during normal bowel movement.  If difficulty with breathing is experienced, you should seek immediate medical attention.  

The experience toward a healthy smile with orthodontic treatment is not one without some natural anxiety and discomfort.  However, Dr. Shaw and his team are here to walk with you every step of the way.  

Remember, true orthodontic emergencies are rare, but they do happen.  The best thing you can do in an emergency is remain calm.  If you are unsure whether your emergency requires immediate attention or can be resolved at home, please give us a call.  Our orthodontic team is made up of a group of knowledgeable and caring professionals who take your comfort very seriously.  

There’s an old adage that says, “Life is short; smile while you still have teeth.”  At Shaw Orthodontics we want to give you the smile you deserve and ensure your time with us is not only one of the best dental experiences you could imagine but one of your best customer experiences as well.  That is why from your first call to your final visit, we make your comfort a priority.  The journey to your beautiful smile should be enjoyable.  Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation.  Shaw Orthodontics is here for you!