Traumas when wearing braces are rare but it’s important to have an emergency orthodontist on hand should any major issue arise during your treatment. The importance of having an emergency orthodontist is twofold.
Firstly, if you experience a real orthodontic emergency, you’ll have the reassurance that you have access to immediate professional treatment. Secondly, in less serious cases, an emergency orthodontist can advise you on the best way to deal with the problem yourself without causing further damage. You can then schedule a follow-up appointment so your orthodontist can check the condition of your mouth and braces.
If you think you may be undergoing an orthodontic emergency, the first step is to determine the seriousness of the issue. Is it definitely an urgent situation needing immediate attention from an emergency orthodontist? Or is it a less severe problem you can deal with yourself as a temporary measure until you can visit your orthodontist?
Types of Orthodontic Emergency
Emergencies while wearing braces generally fall into two categories: external physical trauma or injury from the braces themselves.
In the case of direct injury to your face, mouth or teeth, ice the affected area and immediately contact your regular dentist, who will be better placed than your orthodontist to deal with issues such as dislodged, fractured or knocked-out teeth.
If your braces have been damaged, your orthodontist will repair or replace them as soon as possible after your emergency care.
Fortunately, only the most serious cases may require immediate attention from an emergency orthodontist. The most common problem fixed by an emergency orthodontist is when a protruding wire causes severe pain and/or bleeding.
Metal arch wires are attached to the brackets of your braces to apply the pressure necessary to straighten crooked teeth. If a wire breaks or sticks out, it can damage your mouth. You’ll need your emergency orthodontist if you cannot resolve the issue yourself by:
- Bending the wire back in place.
- Putting dental wax or a piece of gauze on the end of the wire.
- Rinsing with a mixture of warm water and salt if a sore has developed.
- Using the eraser end of a pencil or a cotton swab to flatten the wire against the tooth.
You may also be able to address the problem by cutting off the end of the wire with nail scissors or a clipper, sterilized in alcohol. Before attempting this, call your emergency orthodontist for guidance.
How to Lessen the Risk of an Orthodontic Emergency
There are several ways you can reduce the likelihood of an orthodontic emergency.
Mouthguards play a major role in providing protection for both children and adults against oral injuries during sporting activities. If you’re wearing fixed braces, a mouthguard is even more important. Braces mouthguards are made wider than regular mouth protectors in order to shield your braces as well as your mouth.
You can also lessen the risk of an orthodontic emergency by avoiding certain foods that can damage your braces. It’s a good idea to steer clear of hard or sticky foods such as:
- Hard candies.
- Hard taco shells.
Instead, eat more soft foods such as:
- Mashed potato.
- Soft cheese.
When wearing braces, it’s more important than ever to keep your teeth clean to avoid an accumulation of bacterial plaque that can cause tooth decay and gum infection. Conventional braces comprise wires, bands, and brackets that can trap food debris in your mouth.
The importance of brushing and flossing when wearing braces is stressed by the American Dental Association1, which says good oral hygiene is imperative during orthodontic treatment, and you should brush and floss as directed by your orthodontist.
Non-Emergency Issues with Braces
If a piece of your braces appears to be missing and you think you may have swallowed it, there’s no need to panic and make a beeline for your emergency orthodontist. If you swallow any part of your braces, in most cases it will pass through your digestive system without causing any harm. Eating a high-fiber diet for a few days should help.
As we’ve seen, orthodontic emergencies are rare. In the vast majority of cases when something goes awry with your braces, you can just schedule a regular appointment with your orthodontist. However, there are certain running repairs you can carry out to ease any minor discomfort ahead of your visit.
Brackets – the ceramic or metal attachments that fit onto each tooth – are usually fixed in place with a composite resin. If this adhesive breaks down, a bracket can become loose. Use orthodontic wax to hold the bracket in position until you can see your orthodontist to get it repaired.
Orthodontic bands are the metal rings through which arch wires pass. If a band becomes loose, your orthodontist can fix it back in place or replace it. If a band falls out, keep it for your orthodontist.
It’s normal for your teeth to become slightly loose as they move during orthodontic treatment. This may lead to soreness, particularly when braces are first fitted or subsequently adjusted. In cases like this, over-the-counter pain relief should remedy the problem. Rinsing your mouth twice a day with warm salt water may also help and you can try applying a heating pad or warm washcloth to your jaw.
Try to Stay Calm if You Think You Have an Orthodontic Emergency
Although full-blown orthodontic emergencies seldom occur, you want your treatment to be as comfortable as possible. If you need advice on what you believe is a real orthodontic emergency, don’t hesitate to call an experienced emergency orthodontist2, especially if you’re experiencing acute pain.
If you’re confronted with a true orthodontic emergency, try not to panic. Keeping calm and taking some simple measures ahead of your emergency visit can make the experience less of an ordeal. Call your emergency orthodontist immediately and be sure to listen carefully to their advice on what to do ahead of your emergency appointment.