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Handling Orthodontic Emergencies

dental emergency orthodontics

Orthodontic Energencies


The following orthodontic emergencies and

their treatments are listed in the order of the

least severe to the most severe. Only the most

severe emergencies may require immediate

attention by an orthodontist. The majority of

these are easily treated with a follow-up by tfre

patient’s orthodontist

Mouth Sores



see the orthodontist anytime soon, you may, as

a last resort, clip the wire.

Reduce the possibility of the patient 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.

Food Caught Between Teeth

This is not an emergency, but can be a little

uncomfortable or embarrassing for the braces-

wearing patient. lt is easily fixed with a piece of

dental floss. Tr y 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 teeth and braces.

Ligatures Come Off



1’rny rubber bands or small, fine wires, known

as ligatures, hold the wire to the bracket. If a

rubber ligature should come off, you may be

able to put it back in place using sterile tweezers.

If a wire ligature comes loose, simply remove it

with sterile tweezers. If the wire ligature is stick-

ing out into the lip but is not loose, it may be

bent back down with a Q-tip or pencil eraser to

eliminate the irritation.

Of course, when one ligature pops off or breaks,

others may follow. Be sure to examine all liga-

tures. Missing or broken ligatures should be

brought to the attention of the patient’s parent!

guardian, who should then inform the orthodontist.

If a rubber or wire ligature is lost, notify the parent!

guardian so that the orthodontist may advise

whether the patient should be seen.


lt‘s normal for a patient to have discomfort for a

clay or two after braces or retainers are adjusted.

But it can make eating uncomfortable. Reassure

the patient that the discomfort is both normal

and temporary. Encourage soft foods. Have the

patient rinse the mouth with warm salt water.

Some patients are susceptible to episodes of

mouth sores. While braces do not cause them,

they may be precipitated or exacerbated by an

irritation from braces. One or several areas of

ulceration of the cheeks, lips or tongue may

appear. This is not an emergency, but may be

very uncomfortable for the patient. Prompt relief

may be achieved by applying a small amount of

topical anesthetic (such as Orabase or Ora-Gel)

directly to the ulcerated surface using a cotton

swab. Instruct the patient to reapply as needed.

Irritation of Lips or Cheeks



Sometimes new braces can be irritating to the

mouth, especially when the patient is eating. A

small amount of non-medicinal relief wax makes

an excellent buffer between metal and 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. The patient may then eat more

comfortably. Let the patient know that if the wax

is accidentally ingested, it’s not a problem. The

wax is harmless.




Loose Brackets, Wires or Bands

CanadianPhotocf thecourtesy


If the braces have oorne loose in any way, the

parent/guardian needs to be notified, and they

should call the orthodontist to determine appro-

priate next steps.

Brackets are the parts of braces attached to

teeth with a special adhesive. They are generally

positioned in the center of each tooth. The

bracket can be knocked off if the patient has

eaten one of those hard or crunchy foods ortho-

dontic patients are instructed to avoid, or if the

mouth is struck while at play. (Encourage all

patients, especially those with braces, to wear

a protective mouth guard while playing sports.)

If the bracket is off center, the adhesive may have

failed. Call the parent/guardian, and recommend

that they immediately notify the orthodontist, who

will determine the course of action.

If the loose bracket has rotated on the wire

and is sticking out and the patient cannot

immediately be taken to the orthodontist, you

can do a temporary fix to alleviate discomfort

and prevent further damage. But take care to

prevent swallowing or other injury.

To put the bracket back in place, use sterile

tweezers to slide the bracket along the wire

until it is between two teeth. Rotate the bracket

back to the proper position, then slide it back to

the center of the tooth.



Occasionally, the end of a wire will work itself

out of place and irritate the patient’s mouth. Use

a Q-tip or pencil eraser to push the wire so that

it is flat against the tooth. If the wire cannot be

moved into a comfortable position, cover it with

relief wax. (See Irritation of Ups or Cheeks

above for instructions on applying relief wax.)

The patient’s parent/guardian will need to make

the orthodontist aware of the problem.

In a situation where the wire is extremely

bothersome and the patient will not be able to

Piece of Appliance is Swallowed

This is rare, but when it does happen, it can be

fairly alarming to the patient. Encourage your

patient to remain calm. lf the patient is coughing

excessively or having difficulty breathing, the

piece could have been aspirated.

If you are able to see the piece, you may care-

fully attempt to remove it. But do not make the

attempt if you could cause harm.

If appropriate under the circumstances, examine

the patient’s braces for problems that may result

from the missing piece, such as looseness or

irritation, and treat as specified above.

If you are unable to see the piece and believe it

may be have been aspirated, notify the parentl

guardian and the orthodontist immediately.

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