How to Manage Orthodontic Emergencies at Home

You have taken the step to straighten your teeth and are working toward a fantastic smile! Congratulations on making this decision. Maybe your orthodontist put your braces on a few days ago or you just started another form of orthodontic treatment, so you’re experiencing normal tenderness in your mouth. But what happens if something bigger happens that you can’t handle or are unsure about?

In this article, we will discuss what classifies as an emergency and how to manage orthodontic emergencies at home if they happen. 


What Are Orthodontic Emergencies?

The first task is to clarify what qualifies as a true orthodontic emergency. Some situations can be resolved at home, even if they are unexpected. 

They may result in minor pain or a simple adjustment to a wire but can be managed on your own. But, there are other scenarios that require immediate attention, especially if they cause injury or a risk to your treatment. Let’s dive into this a little more:

Non-Emergency Orthodontic Issues

The following are considered orthodontic situations that don’t require immediate emergency attention from the orthodontist:

  • A loose or broken bracket
  • Minor discomfort after a regular adjustment
  • A wire poking the soft tissue in the mouth
  • A loose palatal expander
  • A broken retainer

For the above situations, if not resolved at home, scheduling an appointment with your orthodontist for some time within the next couple of days can address the issue and they can make any adjustments or replacements needed.


True Orthodontic Emergencies

The following scenarios need attention from your orthodontist right away so that further damage doesn’t occur:

  • Pain that over-the-counter pain relievers don’t relieve.
  • Injury to the mouth, teeth, or face. 
  • Pain resulting from a broken appliance that causes injury to the cheeks, tongue, or gums.
  • Mouth sores or ulcers.
  • Swallowed pieces of orthodontic devices.
  • Lost orthodontic devices.

If you determine that your situation is not an emergency, there are steps you can take at home that will help.


Managing Orthodontic Emergencies at Home

Read on for some things that you can do to handle orthodontic emergencies yourself at home. Of course, if your efforts aren’t working or you experience pain that isn’t relieved by over-the-counter pain medicine, contact your orthodontist right away.


Loose Wires

If a wire on your braces has come loose and is poking the tissue in your mouth, push the wire flat against the tooth with a pencil eraser. Keep dental wax on hand for these situations. Break off a tiny piece of wax and roll it in your fingers to soften it. Flatten it over the wire where it is loose or poking you. 

Loose or Broken Brackets

If the bracket is loose but still attached, you can slide it back to the tooth’s center using tweezers. Apply orthodontic wax to secure it and provide a cushion between the bracket and your mouth. Use warm salt water to soothe any tenderness.


Lost or Broken Retainers

In either case, the orthodontic retainer must be replaced or repaired as quickly as possible. If it isn’t, your teeth will begin to slip back into their misaligned position and all your hard work and money on attaining straight teeth will be wasted.

Make sure to keep all the pieces in their container if the retainer is broken or damaged. Contact your orthodontist as soon as possible.


Mouth Sores from Braces

In general, everyone experiences this when braces are new. The inside of your mouth will be tender and a bit irritated until your cheeks get used to the braces. Sores can develop, too, so be ready for this by having your regular pain relief medication on hand before you need it. You can also try a topical numbing product, like Orabase or Orajel. Rinse your mouth with salt water (don’t swallow it!), as many times a day as you need it to help relieve any pain. 

If the sores don’t get better after a few days with the above methods or if there are symptoms like swelling, fever, extreme redness, or pus on your gums or mouth, call your orthodontist for advice.


Discomfort from Teeth Movement

This is also a symptom you can expect as you get your braces and as they are adjusted. Your teeth are slowly moving to their new positions so temporary pressure and discomfort are to be expected.

Eat soft foods and cold beverages as much as possible. This will help numb your mouth and also reduce inflammation. Avoid hard, crunchy, or sticky foods. Take over-the-counter pain medication that works for you. As always, though, if your efforts don’t bring any relief after a day or two, contact your orthodontist for assistance.

The best preparation for dealing with orthodontic problems at home is prevention. Next, we will offer some tips on preventing some of these issues from becoming serious emergencies.


Preventing Orthodontic Emergencies

Preventing emergencies is always better than dealing with them after they happen. Your orthodontist wants your experience with braces or other orthodontic devices to be as comfortable as possible.

Here are some proactive measures you can take to avoid unexpected issues:

Maintain A Solid Oral Health Routine

This sounds obvious but it’s easy to slip when your mouth is tender, irritated, or sore. It’s important to brush twice a day and floss once daily. Get an interdental brush to clean around the brackets and wires of your braces. Clean any removable devices like retainers or aligners as directed. This prevents build-up that can affect the fit of the device. 


Use Protective Gear When Playing Sports 

Talk to your orthodontist about a mouthguard to protect your mouth and braces during any contact sport. Don’t wait until an accident happens! If you are hit in the mouth, it can damage the braces or aligners as well as your mouth and teeth. 


Avoid Foods You Know May Cause a Problem

Here is a list of foods and beverages that you need to avoid while you wear braces:

  • Hard foods: Avoid nuts, hard candies, and popcorn kernels. They can break brackets and bend wires.
  • Sticky foods: Avoid caramel, gum, and other sticky sweets that can stick to your braces and damage them.
  • High-sugar foods and drinks: These foods and beverages can cause more complications by increasing the risk of cavities around your braces.


Buy Braces Wax Now!

Braces wax will become your best friend while you wear braces or any other orthodontic device. Buy it before you need it; you will be glad to have it late at night when your mouth is irritated or a wire is poking the soft tissues in your mouth.

Have Your Favorite Pain Relief Medication on Hand, Too

Right next to your braces wax, have a supply of the over-the-counter pain relief medication you rely on for things like headaches and muscle aches and pain.

If you’re not sure which kind is best, check with your orthodontist and your primary care doctor for their input. Don’t take more than directed, but don’t hesitate to use it when you need it within the directed dosages. 

A good tactic is to take it before you go to your orthodontist for an adjustment. You have a better chance of lessening the customary tenderness after those appointments.

By following these suggestions, you can prevent many of the normal orthodontic issues that arise with braces or other devices.


Swiatek Orthodontics is Here for You, Even During Orthodontic Emergencies!

Managing orthodontic emergencies at home is easy with the right information and tools. Home remedies and tactics like using braces wax and over-the-counter pain relievers will be adequate in most cases. If any tenderness or discomfort lasts for more than a day or so or you see evidence of infection in your mouth, don’t hesitate to call and ask for assistance.

Preventative measures will help you avoid many problems from occurring at all. No one wants you to be in pain while you take this journey to a straight, beautiful smile.

All of us here at Swiatek Orthodontics are excited to be part of your treatment! We are ready to assist with issues with your braces or any other orthodontic devices, so don’t suffer needlessly. Contact us for assistance or to get started on the road to a beautiful smile!