Orthodontic Emergencies

What to do?

At first, having orthodontic treatment may take a little getting used to. It isn’t uncommon to experience a bit of soreness when appliances are first put on, or some minor aches as teeth begin moving into new positions. Yet it’s comforting to know that genuine orthodontic emergencies are rare.

If you think you may have an emergency, we’re here to help! Please call us and we can talk thru the situation to determine if it is an urgent situation that requires immediate attention, or a minor problem that you can take care of yourself, temporarily, until you can come into the office.

Please refer to our video gallery to address some common questions regarding orthodontic care.

If you think you may have an emergency, the first step is to determine the severity of the problem

Handling Major Orthodontic Emergencies

While most orthodontic issues are minor and can be managed at home or with a quick visit to the orthodontist, there are some severe situations that demand immediate attention. Major orthodontic emergencies include:

  • Physical Trauma: Any injury to the teeth, face, or mouth should be treated as a potential emergency. This includes situations where a tooth might be knocked out, chipped, or fractured.

  • Infections: Any sign of infection like swelling or abscesses in the gums, mouth, or face requires prompt attention. Infections can progress rapidly and might lead to more significant health concerns.

  • Severe Discomfort: If there’s extreme pain or discomfort in the mouth, teeth, or face that can’t be managed with over-the-counter pain relief, it’s essential to seek help.

In any of these scenarios, it’s crucial to act quickly. In certain cases, heading to an emergency room might be the best initial step, especially if the orthodontist or dentist isn’t immediately available.

But for issues like a fractured tooth, starting at the dental office is usually recommended. Once the immediate issue is addressed, your orthodontic treatment plan can be reassessed and modified if necessary.

Remember, severe pain or pronounced swelling could indicate a deeper problem like an infection, which necessitates swift treatment.

Minor Emergencies

While most orthodontic concerns aren’t severe, they can still lead to discomfort or irritation. It’s advisable to initially alleviate the discomfort and subsequently schedule an appointment.

Below, we outline prevalent orthodontic issues and provide insights on managing them at home:

Orthodontic treatments such as braces consist of multiple components. Sometimes, brackets, bands, or wires might come loose or break. This is often a result of consuming hard or sticky foods, or fidgeting with the braces. If a band or bracket remains tethered to the wire, don’t tamper with it, especially avoid attaching any elastics. Using orthodontic wax can help if it’s causing oral discomfort. If it’s detached, store it safely. Always reach out to the orthodontic office to explain the situation, and they’ll guide on the next steps.
With the progression of teeth realignment, the connecting wire, or the archwire might start to poke or irritate. Repositioning the troublesome wire with tools like a pencil eraser or a Q-tip might help. If it remains stubborn, a sterilized nail clipper might help in trimming it, but always consult your orthodontist before doing this. Tweezers can also be handy in adjusting a misaligned wire or tie. If any metal components cause discomfort, applying orthodontic wax can offer relief. It’s crucial to schedule an appointment for professional assistance.
Feeling your teeth slightly loosen is an expected part of orthodontic treatments. This indicates movement. At times, this can come with some tenderness, especially post adjustments or placements of braces. For mild pain, over-the-counter pain relievers can be helpful. Another remedy includes a salt-water rinse: dissolve a teaspoon of salt in an 8-ounce warm water glass and swish around your mouth for 30 seconds. Applying warmth externally, like using a warm washcloth or heating pad on the jaw, can be soothing.

While most orthodontic concerns aren’t severe, they can still lead to discomfort or irritation.