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
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
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.