How To Treat Some Minor Orthodontic Emergencies


When you first begin your orthodontic treatment, the braces and bands you need to wear may take a little getting used to. Occasionally, orthodontic appliances can even cause some temporary soreness when they are first put on, or right after they are adjusted. Fortunately, true orthodontic emergencies are rare—and they aren’t usually related to your treatment.

But even if mouth pain related to orthodontic treatment is relatively minor, it can cause discomfort and irritation. In general, there are only a few things that cause the majority of problems: loose or broken brackets or other metal parts; poking wires, bands or ties; sharp edges on brackets or bands; and overall soreness or discomfort. In most cases, the best way to handle any of these situations is to call your orthodontist’s office and explain exactly what the problem is.

Depending on how severe the problem is, you may be asked to schedule a new appointment right away, or advised to wait until your next regular office visit. You will also be given instructions on the best way to handle the situation. Here are some of the things orthodontists often recommend doing at home to help relieve discomfort from a minor issue:


For an irritating or poking archwire or tie:

Try covering the end of the wire with orthodontic wax (or if need be, sugarless chewing gum) to keep it from irritating the soft tissue. You can use a pencil eraser or a Q-tip to gently push wires into a more comfortable position. An archwire that has come loose at one end can be carefully re-inserted  into its bracket with tweezers. If placing wax on the loose end or re-inserting the wire doesn’t work, call the office for additional instructions.


For a broken or loose bracket:

If a bracket has come loose from the tooth it was attached to, it will be able to slide along the archwire. If it isn’t causing any problems, simply leave it place until you can get in to see your orthodontist. If it is moving excessively or causing irritation, use orthodontic wax to help keep it in place and cover any sharp edges; this generally feels much more comfortable on the sensitive tissues of your mouth. Loose or broken brackets require a visit to the orthodontist for more lasting repairs—and don’t forget to bring any broken pieces in with you on your next office visit.


For a sharp edge:

Sometimes the edge of a band or bracket may feel sharp when you touch it with your tongue. In this case, try covering the edge with wax (or chewing gum); alternately, if a metal piece is protruding on the tongue side, you can gently push it back toward the tooth with a pencil eraser.


For overall soreness or discomfort:

The orthodontic appliances in your mouth apply gentle pressure to your teeth so that they can be moved into better positions. It’s not unusual to feel occasional minor discomfort as this is happening—especially right after braces are put on or adjusted. This ache usually goes away in three to five days. During this time, you can try eating softer foods and taking over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen as needed. A diluted salt-water rinse can also be soothing: Mix one teaspoon of salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water, swish it around your mouth and spit it out. But if nothing helps, or if the pain becomes more severe, call your orthodontist’s office right away.

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