Be Ready For Anything
You probably won’t experience a true orthodontic emergency because they’re rare.
But, since they do happen from time to time, our Ann Arbor patients should know how to handle them.
Here to Help
The following orthodontic emergencies and their treatments are listed in the order from least severe to most severe.
Only the most severe emergencies require immediate attention by Dr. Li.
This isn’t an emergency, but it can be uncomfortable or embarrassing. It’s easily fixed with a piece of dental floss.
Try tying a small knot in the middle of the floss to help remove the food or use an interproximal brush or toothpick to dislodge food caught between your teeth and your braces.
Tiny rubber bands or small, fine wires, known as ligatures, hold the wire to the bracket. If a rubber ligature comes off, you may be able to put it back in place using sterile tweezers. If a wire ligature comes loose, remove it with sterile tweezers.
If your wire ligature is sticking out into the lip but is not loose, you can bend it back down with a Q-tip or pencil eraser so it doesn’t irritate your lip. Of course, when one ligature pops off or breaks, others may follow.
Be sure to examine all your ligatures. Missing or broken ligatures should be brought to the attention of Dr. Li. If a rubber or wire ligature is lost, tell Dr. Li so he can advise whether you should be seen.
It is normal to have soreness in your mouth, especially 1-3 days after your orthodontic visit.
Taking over-the-counter pain medicines and rinsing your mouth with warm salt water can usually help. You can also place a rolled wax ball over the offending spots to ease the discomfort.
This discomfort is very normal and only for a short time.
Try eating soft foods and rinse the mouth with warm saltwater.
Patients who are previously prone to mouth sores may find that braces exacerbate sores on their cheeks, lips or tongue. This is not an emergency, but may be very uncomfortable for patients.
Apply a small amount of topical anesthetic (such as Orabase or Ora-Gel) directly to the ulcerated surface using a cotton swab to help temporarily relieve the pain, and reapply as needed.
Sometimes new braces can irritate your mouth, especially when you're eating. A small amount of non-medicinal relief wax makes an excellent buffer between the metal and your mouth.
Simply pinch off a small piece and roll it into a ball the size of a small pea. Flatten the ball and place it completely over the area of the braces causing irritation.
Then, you can eat more comfortably. If you accidentally swallow the wax, it’s not a problem. The wax is harmless.
Occasionally, the end of a wire will work itself out of place and irritate your mouth. If you notice the wire is poking, first try to use a pencil eraser to push the poking wire down.
Additionally, you can also cover the spot with wax. Call us to schedule a repair appointment or wait until your next appointment, depending on your level of discomfort.
If extremely bothersome, and you can't see Dr. Li anytime soon, you may, as a last resort, clip the wire.
Reduce the possibility of swallowing the snipped piece of wire by using folded tissue or gauze around the area.
Use a pair of sharp clippers and snip off the protruding wire. Relief wax may still be necessary to provide comfort to the irritated area.
If your braces come loose in any way, call Dr. Li to determine the next steps.
Brackets are the parts of braces attached to teeth with a special adhesive. They’re generally positioned in the center of each tooth. The bracket can be knocked off if you've eaten one of those hard or crunchy foods you are instructed to avoid, or if the mouth is struck while at play.
We encourage all patients, especially those with braces, to wear a protective mouthguard while playing sports.
If you notice a loose bracket or band and it is still attached to the wire, just place wax on it for stability. If it is detached from the wire, bring it in a ziplock bag to your next appointment.
Call us to schedule a repair appointment if your next appointment is more than a month away or if it still causes unbearable irritation.
If the bracket is off-center, the adhesive may have failed. In this instance, it’s best to notify Dr. Li immediately, who will determine the course of action.
Put the bracket back in place and use sterile tweezers to slide the bracket along the wire until it is between two teeth.
Try to put the loose wire back into place using a pair of tweezers or needle-nosed pliers. Further secure the loose wire with wax. You can wait till your next appointment or call us to schedule a repair appointment if it keeps irritating you.
This is rare, but when it does happen, it can be alarming. It’s important to stay calm.
If you're coughing excessively or having difficulty breathing, you may have inhaled the piece into your airways or lungs.
If you can see the piece, you may carefully attempt to remove it.
DO NOT try if you could cause harm.
If appropriate under the circumstances, examine your braces for problems that may result from the missing piece, such as looseness or irritation, and treat as specified above.
Call Dr. Li immediately if you can’t see the piece and believe you may have inhaled it.