True orthodontic emergencies are uncommon, but when they do occur we are available to you. As a general rule, please contact our practice when you experience severe pain. We’ll be able to schedule an appointment to resolve the problem and make you comfortable.
You might be surprised to learn that you may be able to temporarily solve many problems yourself until your scheduled appointment with our practice. Even if you are able to alleviate your discomfort, it is very important that you still call our office as soon as possible to schedule a time to repair the problem. Allowing your appliance to remain damaged for an long period of time may result in interruption of your treatment plan.
NOTE: When speaking on the phone or leaving a message, please kindly describe what is broken by using the following guide to describe your problem so we can assist you and allocate the appropriate amount of time to fix the issue. Thank you very much!
TRUE ORTHODONTIC EMERGENCIES
Acute, Direct Injury to the Mouth, Jaw, or Teeth
Whether undergoing orthodontic care or not, if you injure your mouth, jaw, or teeth, you should see a doctor or dentist immediately. You may need an X-ray to determine the extent of your injury. If the injury affects the orthodontic appliances, they will need adjustment or possibly replacement, depending upon the extent of the injury.
It is possible for teeth to become infected following orthodontic treatment. This may or may not be related to your orthodontic appliances. If you experience pain or swelling around a tooth that gets progressively worse, seek professional care as soon as possible.
MINOR ORTHODONTIC EMERGENCIES
Food caught between teeth
This is not an emergency, but can be a little uncomfortable or embarassing for the braces-wearing patient. It is 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 teeth and braces.
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 the wire ligature is sticking out into the lip but is not loose, it may be bent back down with a Q-tip or pencil eraser to eliminate the irritation.
Of course, when one ligature pops off or breaks, others may follow. Examine ALL the ligatures. Any missing or broken ligatures should be brought to the attention of the parent/guardian or patient (if adult), and inform Dr. Lee.
If a rubber or wire ligature is lost, please notify Dr. Lee so that he may advise you if the patient should be seen.
It's normal for a patient to have discomfort for a day or two after braces or retainers are adjusted. But it can make eating uncomfortable. Please be reassured that the discomfort is both normal and temporary. Have a soft food diet and rinse your mouth with warm salt water.
When you first get your braces, you may experience general soreness in your mouth, and teeth may be sensitive to biting pressures for about three to five days. This can be relieved by rinsing your mouth with a warm saltwater mouthwash. Dissolve one teaspoonful of salt in eight ounces of warm water, and rinse your mouth vigorously. Placing Orabase which can be found in pharmacy on the affected area may help. If the tenderness is severe, take Advil or whatever you normally take for headache or similar pain.
The lips, cheeks and tongue may also become irritated for one to two weeks as they become accustomed to the surface of the braces. You can put wax on the braces to lessen this. We’ll show you how!
Sometimes headgear discomfort is caused by not wearing the headgear correctly. Please refer to the instructions provided by your orthodontist. If the face-bow is bent and does not fit in the tubes, please call our office for assistance. Surprisingly, the headgear gets more comfrotable as it’s worn more frequently, so please make sure you’re getting in the prescribed number of hours.
If your appliance is poking you, place wax on the offending part of your appliance and call our office.
Using a tweezer, try to put your wire back into place. If doing this and using wax doesn’t help, as a last resort use a small fingernail clipper to clip the wire behind the last tooth to which it is securely fastened. If your discomfort continues, place wax on it.
If you are not cautious with our eating advice and decide to test the limits of the bonding material that holds the braces on your teeth, a brace may loosen. If your bracket or band is still attached to the wire, you should leave it in place and put wax on it. If the wire comes out entirely, wrap the bracket with a tissue and please it bring it to your appointment.
Every effort is made to minimize any wire poking that may initially happen. Occasionally, though, the wire may shift. The initial wire that is place is very light and thin. To save you time from making a trip to the office and prolonged discomfort, you can usually just clip it yourself with a pair of sanitized nail clippers. Just let us know so that we are aware of the issue and if you were able to have it resolved. Using a pencil eraser, push the poking wire down or place wax on it to alleviate the discomfort.
Irritation of Lips or Cheeks
Sometimes new braces can be irritating to the mouth, especially when you are eating. A small amount of non-medicinal relief wax makes an excellent buffer between metal and 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. You may then eat more comfortably. If the wax is accidentally ingested, it's not a problem. The wax is harmless.
Piece of appliance is swallowed
This is rare, but when it does happen, it can be fairly alarming to the patient. Please remain calm! If you (the patient) is coughing excessively or having difficulty breathing, the piece could have been aspirated.
If you are able to see the piece, you may carefully attempt to remove it. But 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 aspirated, notify Dr. Lee via our emergency number immediately.