Braces are a considerable investment in your confidence, or that of your child. They’re hardy since they are intended to be worn for a long time, but they are not unbreakable. Braces need special care, and to protect them from damage, your orthodontist will ask you to avoid some foods and perform some routine maintenance.
But even when you’re caring for your braces well and following all the rules, they may still get loose, break, or fall off. Things like injuries, accidents, or even the gradual movement of your teeth can loosen or break some parts of the braces, requiring you to seek emergency orthodontic treatment near you.
In the event that you need emergency braces removal, this procedure should only be performed by a licensed orthodontist, since trying to do it yourself at home or by an unskilled person could result in more harm than good.
What is considered an orthodontic emergency?
An orthodontic emergency is any issue that requires immediate attention from an orthodontist to alleviate severe pain or prevent further damage to teeth, gums, or orthodontic appliances such as braces or Invisalign aligners.
Orthodontic emergencies include:
- Severe tooth or jaw pain
- Injury to the mouth, face, or teeth,
- Loose or broken braces, wires or brackets,
- A broken or lost aligner/retainer.
Emergencies for orthodontic patients are relatively uncommon, and even when they do occur, they are usually not debilitating. That said, it’s important to contact your orthodontist as soon as possible to prevent complications and ensure timely treatment.
Generally, damaged or misplaced aligners should be replaced as soon as possible to prevent the teeth that have moved from reversing, while loose wires and damaged brackets can make eating or talking with your braces quite uncomfortable, in addition to putting you at risk of injuring the soft tissues.
Here are some likely problems with braces that may be regarded as orthodontic emergencies, and their possible temporary solutions before you can see your orthodontist:
1. Loose bracket
Brackets or braces refer to the metal or ceramic pieces attached to each tooth using a composite resin material. This substance is similar to the tooth-colored substance used for some dental fillings, and chewing on something hard or sticky can cause the resin to break or weaken. When that happens, the bracket on that tooth may loosen, poking into your gums, cheek, or tongue.
When receiving your braces, your orthodontist should give you a special dental wax, which you can apply over the bracket to prevent it from poking and give you some comfort until your next visit.
2. Loose band
Bands refer to the metal rings cemented around back teeth (or front teeth in some cases) to strengthen your braces and hold them in place. When the cement weakens, metal bands can loosen and compromise the stability of your braces.
If this happens, schedule an appointment with your orthodontist to get it re-cemented or replaced as soon as possible. If the band comes off, you should never try to re-attach it. Instead, take it with you on your appointment.
3. Loose spacer
Spacers, also known as separators, refer to the rubber rings placed between your teeth for just a few days. They provide a small gap between teeth for the orthodontic bands to slip onto your teeth with ease. Brass wire or springs are often used for this purpose.
If the spacers slip out of position or completely fall out, schedule an appointment with your orthodontist to get the band replaced.
4. Broken or protruding wire
Broken or protruding wires can hurt your gum, cheek, or tongue. If it causes a sore, rinse your mouth with an antiseptic rinse or warm salt water to reduce discomfort and keep the area clean. You can also take a painkiller to numb the area.
A protruding wire can be pushed into a better position using the eraser end of a pencil, and held in place with a small piece of orthodontic wax, until you see your orthodontist.
5. Broken or lost aligner
If the aligner is lost or damaged during the first few days of wear, it may not be a significant problem, as the teeth may not have had time to shift significantly.
However, if the aligner is lost or broken during the middle or end of the treatment, it can be a cause for concern as the teeth may shift back to their original position, requiring additional treatment. As such, you should contact an orthodontist near you as soon as possible to schedule an appointment to have a replacement made.
In the meantime, you should try to wear the previous aligner to prevent the teeth from shifting. If a portion of the aligner is broken, you should also contact the orthodontist for advice on whether to continue wearing the damaged appliance or to wait for a replacement.
6. Damaged or misplaced retainer
If you have a damaged orthodontic retainer, it is important to get it replaced as soon as possible, since you’re still required to wear your retainer all the time after completing your treatment. Delaying replacement can lead to the teeth shifting back to their original position, which can undermine the results of your orthodontic treatment.
You should contact your orthodontist as soon as possible to schedule an appointment to replace a damaged retainer. Your orthodontist will examine the retainer and determine if it can be repaired or if a new retainer needs to be made.
Emergency braces removal
In some cases, you may need to get your braces removed earlier than planned due to an emergency situation. Emergency braces removal may be necessary due to several reasons, such as trauma, infection, or discomfort. For instance, if you experience severe pain or swelling in your gums, even if the braces are intact, they may need to be removed to alleviate the pressure.
In some cases, emergency braces removal may be required due to damage to the braces or wires as discussed above. If the braces or wires are broken, it can cause discomfort or irritation to the cheeks or gums. In this case, the orthodontist may need to remove the braces or wires to prevent further damage or infection.
It is important to note that emergency braces removal should only be performed by a licensed orthodontist or dentist near you. Attempting to remove braces at home or by an untrained individual can cause more harm than good.
After the braces have been removed, your orthodontist will likely recommend follow-up treatment to address any remaining orthodontic issues. This may include the use of a retainer or other orthodontic appliance to help maintain the results achieved with the braces.
It is important to follow your orthodontist’s instructions for wearing and caring for your orthodontic appliances, including braces, aligners, and retainers, as failure to do so can increase the risk of damage, injury, and even reversal of your treatment.
Additionally, you should avoid eating hard, sticky, or chewy foods that can damage the appliance, especially if eating while wearing your Invisalign aligners. If an aligner or retainer is lost or broken due to an accident or injury, you should seek medical attention first before contacting their orthodontist.
Keep in mind that not all orthodontic issues are considered emergencies! Depending on your specific case, the orthodontist may delay repairs until your next appointment if the problem does not interfere with your treatment, and there is no pain or discomfort.