No matter where you are in your orthodontic journey, it’s always beneficial to know a bit about the minor issues that can sometimes pop up when wearing braces. You should also know what to do in the event of a more serious problem. Although true orthodontic emergencies are rare, they can occur from time to time, and it’s important that you know how to handle them.
We define true orthodontic emergencies as those that include:
- any serious injury or trauma to the face, neck, mouth, teeth, gums, etc
- any swelling, infection, or bleeding of the gums or mouth
- any severe pain or discomfort in your teeth, mouth, face, or neck
If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms at any point in your treatment, we strongly recommend you seek help as soon as possible. If you’re a Dunn Orthodontics patient, we suggest you start with one of our three offices, conveniently located in Phoenix, Litchfield Park, and Arcadia. However, if you feel as though the emergency room is your best option, don’t hesitate to go. If you’re worried that your treatment will be impeded or rendered ineffective in some way by emergency treatment, don’t let this stop you. We can always adjust it once the problem has been corrected and the situation has passed.
Treating minor issues at home
Sometimes you may feel unsure if an oral issue is worthy of an ER visit or a situation where it’s safe to wait and see. A good example of a problem requiring immediate diagnosis and treatment would be something like a fractured tooth. Another would be any severe pain or swelling around your teeth, jaw, or mouth, which can be a sign of infection and disease. The good news is, these kinds of emergencies tend to be few and far between, and aren’t something you will usually need to worry about. As a matter of fact, most orthodontic problems can be remedied at home!
Home remedies may not always completely remove the source of pain, discomfort, and irritation, but they can often be very helpful. They can resolve minor issues, and lessen or relieve symptoms until you can be seen in our office. Below we’ve listed some of the more common minor orthodontic “emergencies” you may experience, and what you can do about them from the comfort of your own home.
Braces themselves don’t actually cause mouth sores, but some patients seem to be more susceptible to getting them during treatment. These ulcers tend to show up on the cheeks, lips, tongue, or gums, and can be very uncomfortable. Irritation from your braces can also exacerbate them. For immediate relief, try applying a small amount of topical anesthetic directly to the ulcer, using a cotton swab. This can be reapplied as needed, following the packaging instructions.
Loose or broken brackets, bands, or wires
If any part of your braces comes loose or breaks in any way, be sure to contact Dr. Dunn to have him help determine what your next steps should be. There are a few guidelines you can follow that will to keep your braces and your mouth safe while you’re waiting for your appointment. If a band or bracket is broken, but still attached to the wire, don’t connect any elastics to it, and try to leave it alone until your appointment. If it’s irritating the inside of your mouth, you can cover it with orthodontic wax. If a piece has actually broken off, put it in a bag and save it for your appointment with Dr. Dunn.
Misplaced archwire, bracket, or tie
As your teeth adjust to treatment, they begin to move. When this happens, the archwire connecting them may also move, poking out a bit near the back of the mouth and possibly irritating your cheeks. This wire is usually easily moved into a better position by using the eraser end of the pencil or a cotton swab. Misplaced wires or ties can be manipulated back into place by gently using a pair of clean tweezers.
If wires or brackets have shifted and begun to irritate to your mouth, you can use orthodontic wax to cover the parts that are poking out. This will help ease the immediate discomfort, but be sure to contact Dr. Dunn as soon as possible, so he can correct the actual problem instead of you masking the symptoms at home.
Tooth pain or loosening
You may be surprised to learn that your teeth can loosen slightly during orthodontic treatment. This is actually exactly what we want them to do! But we know this can be a little disconcerting at first, and the movement may sometimes cause slight tenderness, especially after your braces are placed or have just been adjusted. Using a salt water rinse twice a day is an old home remedy that is tried and true, and can really be helpful. 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, just make sure it’s not too hot.
Dunn Orthodontics is here to help
Although true orthodontic emergencies are rare, they do happen, and you should seek treatment as soon as possible if you experience one. But we understand that minor emergency situations can be upsetting, too! That’s why our team is committed to making your orthodontic experience as safe, stress-free, and rewarding as possible. That includes getting you in and out as quickly as possible if a problem does pop up. Our skilled staff create bright, beautiful smiles every day, and the process doesn’t have to be painful. If you’ve been experiencing any discomfort, get in touch with us today and we’ll get to the bottom of it. We’ll do whatever it takes to get you smiling again!