Orthodontic Emergencies

Like any new experience, orthodontic treatment has its own set of quirks you’ll need to get accustomed to, whether you are straightening your smile with traditional metal braces or using Invisalign’s clear aligner system.

Every single day here at Seabreeze Orthodontics we field patient questions, and one that’s frequently asked is if orthodontic treatment is painful. To be honest, some initial soreness is completely normal, especially after treatment first begins. Additionally, your teeth may ache now and then when they are moving. However, treatment should never be painful. Most of these aches during orthodontic treatment should be minor, though there are rare occurrences when orthodontic emergencies do occur.

What constitutes a true orthodontic emergency?

Thankfully, there are only a few instances where orthodontic emergencies apply. They include:

  • any major trauma or injury to the teeth, face, or mouth
  • infection and/or swelling and/or bleeding of the gums, mouth, or face
  • severe discomfort or pain in these areas that don’t respond to treatment

If you experience any of the above issues while undergoing treatment, get assistance first and foremost! Call your orthodontist’s office, so they can walk you through your options. If you can’t speak to your orthodontist or feel like your pain is severe enough for a visit to the emergency room, then don’t hesitate to go!

We know deciding if something is “ER worthy” can be tricky. A good rule of thumb is to head to the emergency room for things like a fractured tooth, severe unmanageable pain, or serious swelling. After you attend to the emergency situation, always give us a call and update us on your condition. We can adjust your orthodontic treatment as needed.

Many times, however, orthodontic problems can be remedied from the comfort of your own home! In these situations we recommend that you try to treat the discomfort first and then call our office for an appointment. Just remember, even if you can alleviate your pain caused by a stray wire or broken bracket at home, you will still need to schedule a repair appointment. While you are waiting to see your orthodontist, some of the guidelines and tips below can help you remedy minor emergencies at home.

Minor orthodontic emergencies and remedies

Loose or broken brackets/bands/wires

Often times the cause of issues with brackets, bands, and wires is as simple as user error. Having a piece of hard candy or enjoying some of your grandma’s homemade toffee can make a “harmless” situation turn into something much more complicated. Not only can these diversions cause you discomfort but also extra time in your braces.

If there’s a bracket or band that’s broken but still attached to the wire, don’t connect any elastics to it. Simply wait for your next appointment and leave it alone. If it’s scraping the inside of your mouth or otherwise irritating it, cover the errant wire with orthodontic wax. However, if the piece has completely broken off, store it somewhere safe and bring it to your next appointment. Either way, be sure to give us a call and let us know what’s going on. We’ll be able to recommend what you should do next and schedule a follow-up appointment in our Myrtle Beach office.

Misplaced archwire/bracket/tie

On occasion, as teeth start moving into their new positions, the archwire can begin painfully poking the back of your mouth. This can really irritate your cheeks and gums. Most times you can manipulate the wire into a more comfortable position using the end of a pencil eraser or a Q-tip. Misplaced wires and ties can often be pushed back into place with tweezers.

When wire or brackets are irritating your mouth, cover them with orthodontic wax. Also, be sure to make an appointment to tend to the problem as soon as possible.

Tooth pain or loosening

What’s one of the most common dental fears? Most people would say it’s their teeth falling out! While the idea of teeth coming loose can be very daunting (understandably so), you shouldn’t worry when they start to loosen a bit while you are undergoing orthodontic treatment. It’s totally normal, and proof treatment is working.

Sometimes this movement can cause a bit of tenderness. Try using a salt water rinse twice a day as needed to soothe achy gums. Mix one teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water. Then, swish it around in your mouth for about 30 seconds. If you would like some additional relief, many patients either use a warm washcloth or a heating pad on low on the outside of the jaw.

Broken retainer

broken retainer

Retainers, like most things, break. If the metal or plastic parts of your retainer break, it can lead to an uncomfortable and improper fit. If your retainer breaks or cracks, stop wearing it immediately! Collect the pieces into a plastic bag and make an appointment to see us. Bring the bag to your appointment because we may be able to repair your retainer.

Handling orthodontic emergencies with the help of Seabreeze Orthodontics

While they don’t happen often, orthodontic emergencies can happen. We at Seabreeze Orthodontics always recommend that you seek treatment first if you are experiencing one. However, we know that non-emergencies can cause discomfort and stress as well, so be sure to reach out to us as soon as possible for help at 843.903.3300. Our primary goal is to be there for our patients and make your orthodontic experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible.