Orthodontic Emergencies

May 26, 2017

Oakland Dental Specialty and your orthodontic emergencies

While actual orthodontic emergencies are rare, they do happen, and it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. We realize that even a non-emergency situation can be upsetting, and our goal is to make your orthodontic treatment as comfortable as possible.

Fortunately, most orthodontic problems can be remedied at home, though, they may still cause pain, discomfort, or irritation. As a general rule, we recommend you try to address and soothe the immediate cause of discomfort, then schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible. While you’re waiting to be seen, the following guidelines can help you resolve any of these minor issues. Remember that even if you’re able to alleviate any pain or discomfort caused by a broken or out of place bracket or wire, you’ll still need a repair appointment!

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

Loose or broken brackets, bands, or wires

This is a problem that’s often caused by “user error” – eating hard or sticky candy or food, or playing excessively with the braces. Try to stick to your “safe food” list as closely as possible, and treat your braces with care.

If a band or bracket is broken, but still attached to the wire, leave it as is until your appointment. Don’t connect any elastics to it! If you find this is causing irritation to the inside of your mouth, you can cover it with orthodontic wax. If the broken piece has come off, save it for your appointment. Either way, call our Oakland office to let us know what happened, and we’ll be able to recommend the next steps for you to take.

Misplaced archwire, bracket, or tie

As your teeth start to move, the wire that connects them (called the archwire) may begin poking out near the back of the mouth, irritating your cheeks. You can often move the wire into a better position using the eraser end of the pencil or a Q-tip. With misplaced wires or ties, you can use a pair of tweezers to gently manipulate them back into place.

In general, when wires or brackets are causing irritation, covering the parts that are poking out with orthodontic wax will often help ease the discomfort. Again, give us a call as soon as you can to make an appointment, so that we can fix the actual problem instead of merely masking the symptoms.

General tooth pain or loosening

It’s entirely normal for teeth to become slightly loosened during orthodontic treatment — it’s proof they’re moving! Sometimes, however, this movement may be accompanied by tenderness, especially after your braces are placed or have been adjusted. For minor soreness, you can use your regular over-the-counter pain reliever, but please consult your physician before taking any medication. Using a salt water rinse twice a day can also be helpful. Simply 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 heating pad placed on the outside of the jaw can offer some relief as well.

Broken retainer

The metal or plastic parts of retainers or other removable appliances may sometimes bend or break, causing an improper fit. Should this occur, stop wearing the retainer immediately and call us for an appointment. If the retainer has cracked, place all pieces into a plastic bag and bring them with you to your appointment. It’s possible for a broken retainer to be repaired.

A note about swallowed parts

Aspirating – or “inhaling” – small orthodontic appliances does sometimes happen. If you happen to accidentally swallow some part of your braces, such as a brackets or rubber band, please don’t panic: it will likely pass through your system without incident. However, if you have any difficulty breathing or notice any choking, please seek emergency medical help immediately.


We’re proud to offer only the highest quality orthodontic care to patients of all ages in at Oakland Dental Specialty, you can be confident in receiving the individual attention that you expect and deserve, emergency or not.

Creating a brighter, better smile shouldn’t be painful, so please call us immediately if you’re experiencing any discomfort and we’ll do all we can to correct the problem quickly!





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