What Is Orthodontic Emergencies
Starting orthodontic treatment is a big step and it’s exciting to think about the amazing results you’ll experience. Obviously, most patients want everything to go right so they can show off their brand new smile as soon as possible. That’s why it’s totally understandable when our Sleepy Hollow Invisalign and braces patients tell us they’re worried about an emergency with braces or aligners, especially while they’re traveling. However, take it from Dr. Kothari, a true orthodontic emergency is extremely rare and unlikely. Usually, issues are very minor and easy to fix even when you’re away from home. To help, we’ve compiled our very best orthodontic emergency information. Here are some common Invisalign and braces problems and how to address them:
Food in Your Braces
Getting a piece of food stuck in your hardware isn’t exactly a braces emergency but it is annoying. You can avoid smiling at friends, family or, even worse, your crush with broccoli jammed in your brackets by taking a preventative approach. Make a braces kit to bring with you when you’re traveling or anywhere in the outside world like school or work. Put some dental floss, a travel toothbrush and toothpaste, disposable interproximal brushes and a small mirror in it. This way, you can check out your teeth after eating and head to the bathroom to brush or floss if necessary (though we know you’re brushing after every meal anyway, right?). If you forget your supplies, carefully dislodge the food with a toothpick and then rinse your mouth really well with water. If you’re at home, simply brush and floss as usual or use your interproximal brush to get into the nooks and crannies. Pro tip: Tie a knot in the middle of a piece of dental floss, thread the floss under your archwire and then use the knot to free the piece of food.
When you’re new to braces, it takes a little bit for the inside of your mouth to toughen up. While you’re getting acclimated, you might experience some lip and cheek irritation. We promise, this will go away on its own within a few days. In the meantime, whether you’re spending your winter break out of town or sitting in your living room, you can soothe your mouth with a saltwater rinse. Mix ½ teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water, stir and then swish the solution around in your mouth before spitting it out. Repeat this as often as you need. You can also warm up a bit of orthodontic relief wax between your fingers, roll it into a ball, flatten it and stick it over any particularly bothersome brackets to act as a barrier between your soft tissues and your braces. Patients who are prone to mouth sores may find the irritation makes them worse. If that’s the case, use a clean cotton swab to apply some topical anesthetic, like Orabase or Orajel, directly to the sore.
A poking wire might not feel too awesome but it’s actually a fairly simple fix. Use a cotton swab or the eraser end of a pencil and gently push the wire so it’s flat against the tooth. If you can’t get the wire out of the way, you can use your handy dandy wax again to cover the part that’s sticking out. Call our office and let us know about the problem. Usually, you’ll be able to wait until your regularly scheduled appointment unless it’s still uncomfortable. If the above steps don’t work and you’re traveling or it’s really irritating and you’re not able to visit us right away, as a last resort, clip it yourself. Clean and disinfect nail clippers with alcohol and very carefully snip the wire. Just in case the piece is swallowed, cover it with gauze or a tissue before clipping. Contact us if you need guidance and we’ll walk you through it.
Broken or Loose Bracket
Eating one those hard or sticky treats that you’re supposed to avoid or playing sports without a mouthguard and getting hit in the mouth can result in damaged braces. So, what do you do when one of your brackets for braces comes loose? If it rotated and is sticking out, you can carefully try to move it along the wire with sterilized tweezers so it’s between two teeth. Then, rotate it back into position and slide it to the center of the tooth. To prevent it from causing irritation or any further damage, cover it with dental wax to temporarily hold it in place. If the bracket is at the back of the mouth, you may be able to slide it off the wire and push the excess wire out of the way with a cotton swab and cover it with wax. Again, as a last resort, you can snip the leftover wire with sterilized nail clippers. Call us so we can schedule you for a repair appointment.
Lost or Loose Ligature
The little rubber bands or thin wires that hold your brackets and archwires together are called ligatures. If you loose a rubber band, try to find it. Then, carefully put it back on with sterilized tweezers if possible. If a wire ligature comes loose, you can take it off with your tweezers. If it’s just sticking out, attempt to bend it back with a cotton swab or the eraser end of a pencil so that it doesn’t poke your lips or cheeks. If this happens while you’re away, don’t panic. You’ll be fine until you return and can come see us. If you’re home, be sure to contact our office and let us know.
Lost Invisalign Aligner
If you lose an Invisalign aligner, call us right away and we’ll order you a new one to keep your treatment on track. Don’t just automatically pop in your next one since Dr. Kothari plans out your tooth movements prior to the start of treatment. Each tray is meant to move the teeth in a certain prescribed way. Take an aligner from your last set, which is why we always recommend that patients keep their old aligners, to hold teeth in position. When you call us, we’ll let you know what to do. Depending on where you’re at in your wearing schedule, we could have you move forward or just wear the old one until you can pick up your replacement. Thankfully, patients using Invisalign Teen have a few free replacement aligners built into their plan. You can avert this whole scenario by always keeping your aligners in their case when you’re not wearing them. Putting them in a napkin during a meal is a surefire way to throw them out by accident!
It’s normal for patients’ teeth and jaws to feel sensitive when they first get braces or Invisalign, after adjustments or when popping in a new set of aligners. Any discomfort will go away in a day or two. Try swishing with the saltwater rinse we talked about earlier and stick with soft foods and cold drinks until you’re ready to resume your regular eating habits. If you still feel discomfort, you can take a mild over-the-counter pain reliever. If you know you’re going away on a trip, try not to schedule an adjustment right before leaving.
Handling Orthodontic Emergencies
While the issues we covered so far aren’t serious and can be dealt with at home or while you’re on the go, there are the very rare situations where a patient has to seek out emergency orthodontic care.
Traumatic Dental Injury
If there’s even the slightest chance that you could get hit in the mouth in any sport or activity, use a mouthguard even after you’re finished with orthodontic treatment. A lot of sports don’t require them but that doesn’t mean you should skip wearing one. If you sustain a blow to the face and the braces to mouth contact causes significant bleeding that doesn’t stop, go to the emergency room. If a tooth gets loosened or chipped, contact your general dentist right away. For a tooth that gets knocked out, it’s imperative that you act quickly. A tooth can often be re-implanted within an hour of the injury. Pick up the tooth by the crown (not the root) and rinse it off. You can try to put the tooth back in the socket, still without touching the root, and bite down firmly on gauze or hold it in place with your fingers. If that’s not possible, hold it in your mouth by your cheek (don’t do this with little kids who might swallow the tooth) or put it in a container of milk. Never store it in tap water. Bite down on gauze to control bleeding. Call your general dentist or, if it’s afterhours, find an emergency dentist. Once the dentist or hospital treats you, let our office know so that we can fix any damaged hardware.
Swallowed Piece of Appliance
If you swallow a piece of wire, a bracket or other part of your appliance, stay calm. Younger patients should find an adult. Since the piece is likely small, in the vast majority of cases, it won’t cause any problems. Just be sure to call us for a repair appointment. However, if you’re coughing excessively or having trouble breathing, it could have been aspirated. Have someone look in your mouth and throat with a flashlight. If they can see the piece, they can try to gently and carefully remove it. If they’re unable to see it, go to the emergency room.
We hope you feel confident about caring for your braces or Invisalign both at home and while traveling now that you have the scoop on common orthodontic woes. If you have any problems, questions or concerns, contact us via phone or email, text us at (914) 205-4293 or give us a shout using Facebook Messenger and we’ll be more than happy to help. If you’re not a patient yet and you’re interested in braces or Invisalign in Westchester County, NY, schedule your appointment at 914 Orthodontics today!