Like most new experiences in life, orthodontic treatment takes a little getting used to. Whether you’re investing in traditional metal braces, trying out Invisalign’s clear aligner system, or something in between, there’s a learning curve involved. It’s not unusual to be nervous about all the ins and outs of this journey towards straighter, healthier teeth, but there’s nothing to fear!
When going over orthodontic options with patients here at Bret Johnson Orthodontics, one of the most recurring themes is worry over whether or not treatment will be painful. While it’s not uncommon to experience some soreness when braces are first put on, or some minor aching when your teeth begin moving into the desired positions, treatment should never hurt. Most aches and pains fall into the realm of normal, but there are times a genuine orthodontic emergency may occur, although this is rare.
So what, exactly, constitutes a true orthodontic emergency?
Luckily, there are only a few instances where this would actually 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 find yourself experiencing any of these issues at any time during the course of your treatment, you should seek help as soon as possible. Start with your orthodontist’s office, but if you feel as though the emergency room is your best or only option, please don’t hesitate to go. We know it can be confusing sometimes to decide whether something is ER-worthy or a wait-and-see situation. A good example of problems needing immediate treatment are things like a fractured tooth, severe pain, or serious swelling. Remember that once an emergency has been attended to, your orthodontic treatment can be adjusted if needed. There’s no reason to avoid diagnosis and treatment if the situation warrants it!
The good news, though, is that many, if not most, orthodontic problems can be remedied at home. As a general rule, we recommend that you try treating and soothing the immediate cause of discomfort first, then schedule an appointment with our office. Even if you’re able to alleviate some or all of the pain and discomfort caused by something like a broken bracket or stray wire, you’ll still need a repair appointment. However, while you’re waiting to be seen, the following guidelines can help you resolve many minor orthodontic “emergencies” at home.
Minor orthodontic emergencies and remedies
Loose or broken brackets/bands/wires
“User error” is a common cause of issues with your brackets, bands, or wires. This can be something as simple as eating hard candy or indulging in some kind of sticky food. It’s important to be mindful of the braces guidelines given to you – your estimated treatment time doesn’t allow for any breakages, and loose or broken braces can actually prolong the time you’re in braces.
If it’s a band or bracket that’s broken, but is still attached to the wire, don’t connect any elastics to it, and leave it alone until your appointment. If it’s irritating the inside of your mouth, cover it up with orthodontic wax. If the broken piece has actually come off, put it somewhere safe and bring it to your next appointment. Either way, get in touch with our Spokane or Colville offices to let us know what’s going on. We’ll be able to recommend the next steps for you to take.
As your teeth begin to adjust to treatment and start moving into their new positions, the archwire connecting them may begin poking out near the back of the mouth. This can cause some irritation to the soft tissue of your cheeks. This wire can often be pushed into a better place by using the eraser end of the pencil or a Q-tip. Misplaced wires or ties can be gently manipulated back into place using a pair of tweezers.
Orthodontic wax is a good friend to braces patients everywhere! When wires or brackets are causing irritation to your mouth, covering the parts that are poking out with orthodontic wax will often help ease the discomfort. Just remember, you should still get in touch with us as soon as you can to make an appointment. It’s important that we fix the problem instead of only masking the symptoms.
Tooth pain or loosening
Have you ever had a dream about your teeth falling out? The whole idea of loose teeth in a teen or adult can be scary, but it’s actually entirely normal for teeth to loosen slightly during orthodontic treatment. It just shows that they’re moving the way we want them to! Sometimes, though, this movement can be accompanied by tenderness, especially after your braces are first placed or have just been adjusted. Using a salt water rinse twice a day can be really helpful and soothing to tender gums. 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 on the low setting can also be placed on the outside of your jaw for additional relief.
It’s possible for the metal or plastic parts of your retainers or other removable appliance to bend or break, leading to an uncomfortable or improper fit. If this happens, stop wearing your retainer immediately and call us for an appointment. In the event of your retainer cracking or breaking, place all the pieces in a plastic bag and bring them with you to your next appointment. We’re sometimes able to repair a broken retainer.
Handling orthodontic emergencies with the help of Bret Johnson Orthodontics
True orthodontic emergencies may be rare, but they do happen, and we urge you to seek treatment immediately if one happens to you. However, we know that even a non-emergency situation can be upsetting, and it’s our goal to make your orthodontic treatment experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Bret Johnson Orthodontics aims to always be available to our patients experiencing a dental problem requiring immediate attention, and that’s why a member of our experienced, caring team is available 24 hours a day for emergency calls. If you’re having intense pain, or if any part of your appliance is broken, please reach out to us as soon as possible so we can evaluate what’s happening and fit you in for an appointment if needed. We’ll do all we can to correct the problem as quickly as possible!