Orthodontic Emergencies

It’s not unusual to be nervous about embarking on the journey towards straighter, healthier teeth with orthodontic treatment. Whether it’s traditional metal braces or Invisalign’s clear aligner system, orthodontic treatment can take a little getting used to. Like most new experiences, it has a learning curve, but it’s nothing to fear!

One of the questions we hear most from our new patients at Kaplan Orthodontics is if treatment will be painful. It’s not at all uncommon to experience a bit of soreness when braces are first put on, or some minor aching when your teeth begin moving into the desired positions, but treatment should never hurt. That said, there are times a genuine orthodontic emergency may occur, although this is rare.

What, exactly, constitutes a true orthodontic emergency?

Luckily, there are only a few instances where this would apply:

-Trauma or injury to the teeth, face, or mouth
-Infection and/or swelling and/or bleeding of the gums, mouth, or face
-Severe discomfort or pain in these areas that don’t respond to treatment

If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek help as soon as possible. We generally recommend starting with your orthodontist’s office, but if you feel as though the emergency room is your best or only option, don’t hesitate to go. Not sure how to tell if a something is ER-worthy or a wait-and-see situation? A fractured tooth is a good example of a problem that requires immediate diagnosis and treatment. The same holds true for something like severe pain or swelling, which can be a sign of infection and disease. Once an emergency has been attended to, your orthodontic treatment can always be adjusted if and as needed.

Here at Kaplan Orthodontics, we aim to always be available to our patients should a true dental emergency arise. If you’re experiencing intense pain, or if any part of your appliance is broken, please get in touch with us as soon as possible. We can evaluate what’s happening and fit you in for an appointment as soon as possible if needed. Fortunately, though, most orthodontic problems can be remedied at home!

That’s not to say home remedies will always work or completely remove any source of pain, discomfort, or irritation. As a general rule, we recommend that you try to address and soothe the immediate cause of discomfort first, then schedule an appointment with us. While you’re waiting to be seen, however, the following guidelines can help you resolve many minor issues. Just keep in mind that even if you’re able to alleviate any of the pain or discomfort caused by something like a broken or out of place bracket or wire, you’ll still need a repair appointment.

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Minor orthodontic emergencies

Here are some common minor orthodontic “emergencies,” and what you can do to help relieve them at home:

Loose or broken brackets, bands, or wires

If you’ve been eating hard or sticky candy or food, or playing excessively with the braces, this “user error” can result in issues with your brackets, bands, or wires. When we estimate your total treatment time, this doesn’t allow for breakage, so loose and broken braces can actually prolong the amount of time you’re in braces! It’s always best to stick with your “safe foods” list as closely as you can and to follow all the guidelines given to you by your orthodontist.

If a band or bracket is broken, but still attached to the wire, don’t connect any elastics to it, and leave it alone until your appointment. If it’s causing any irritation to the inside of your mouth, you can cover it with orthodontic wax. If the broken piece has actually come off, save it for your appointment. Either way, call our Dunwoody office to keep us in the loop, and we’ll be able to recommend the next steps for you to take.

Misplaced archwire, bracket, or tie

Once your teeth adjust to treatment and start to move, the archwire that connects them may begin poking out near the back of the mouth, which can irritate your cheeks. You can often move this wire into a better position by using the eraser end of the pencil or a Q-tip. If you notice any misplaced wires or ties, you can use a pair of tweezers to gently manipulate them back into place.

When wires or brackets are causing irritation to your mouth, covering the parts that are poking out with orthodontic wax will often help ease the discomfort. But again, get in touch as soon as you can to make an appointment, so we can fix the actual problem instead of only masking the symptoms.

Any general tooth pain or loosening

Although it sounds scary, in reality, it’s entirely normal for teeth to become slightly loosened during orthodontic treatment. It’s just proof they’re moving the way we want them to! Sometimes, however, this movement can be accompanied by tenderness, especially after your braces are placed or have just been adjusted. Using a salt water rinse twice a day can be helpful. Just mix one teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water, then swish it around your mouth for about 30 seconds. A warm washcloth or a heating pad placed on the outside of your jaw can offer some relief as well.

broken retainerA broken retainer

Sometimes the metal or plastic parts of your retainers or other removable appliance may bend or break, leading to an uncomfortable and improper fit. If this happens to you, stop wearing the retainer immediately and call us for an appointment. If your retainer cracks or breaks, place all the pieces into a plastic bag and bring them with you to your appointment. It’s sometimes possible for us to repair a broken retainer.

A side note about swallowed parts

Sometimes a patient will aspirate, or inhale, small orthodontic appliances. If you accidentally swallow some part of your braces, such as a bracket or a band, please don’t panic: it will likely pass through your system without any further incident. If, however, you find yourself having difficulty breathing or notice any choking, please seek emergency medical help immediately.

Orthodontic emergencies with Kaplan Orthodontics

braces on pointAlthough true orthodontic emergencies are rare, they do happen, and it’s important that you seek treatment as soon as possible. We do understand that even a non-emergency situation can be upsetting, though, and it’s our goal to make your orthodontic treatment experience as comfortable as possible. That’s why a member of our experienced, caring team is available 24 hours a day for true emergencies.

Creating a brighter, better, more beautiful smile shouldn’t have to be painful, so please get in touch with us immediately if you’re experiencing any discomfort.  We’ll do all we can to correct the problem as quickly as possible!