Orthodontic issues rarely constitute a true emergency, but occasionally something can happen that requires prompt attention. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call 911 or proceed to the nearest emergency room. But if your braces or orthodontic appliance are causing you pain or discomfort or if something breaks or comes off when it shouldn’t, you may need to contact your orthodontic office to determine the best way to address it and keep treatment progressing on schedule. Some things can be easily addressed over the phone or by texting a picture. Other times, it may be necessary to be seen by the next business day to avoid adding significant cost and time onto treatment. Our recommendation is don’t panic. Call as soon as you can and know the names of the parts of your braces or orthodontic appliance or be prepared to describe the part(s) causing you trouble.


Brackets are the pieces that are glued on the front side of your tooth. The archwire is tied to the brackets by ligatures. Over time the wire straightens out & the teeth move. Bands are the metal rings that fit around your back molars where the archwire slips into a slot. Occasionally a bracket or band may become unglued & feel loose. If this happens, you should contact your orthodontist as soon as possible during business hours. If it occurs after hours, contact your orthodontist as soon as they open the next day. There is no need to call an after hours number. They will most likely have you come in at a convenient time to have the bracket or band cemented back into place. If it is early in treatment, it will not delay progress. If it is at the end of treatment, not having it repaired immediately can add months onto treatment. The reason is because the tooth is no longer tied in place & can freely move out of place & the slightest movement can mean back tracking.


Sometimes a particle of food can get stuck between a band and your tooth or gums, causing discomfort. If you can’t get it out by brushing, flossing, or using a toothpick, call your orthodontist. They will likely see you the same day if you call during business hours, or the next day if you call after hours to help get you comfortable. If the discomfort is not intense, going a few days to a week is typically fine.


Ckeck for any wires that feel long before you leave the office after each appointment can help to prevent this. Even so, sometimes a wire will shift for various reasons once you leave. If you are not in discomfort, you may wait until your next appointment. If you are in great pain, you can use a wire cutter or nail clippers to cut the wire where you can reach or place some wax on it. Remember to call your orthodontist, if this does not eliminate the irritant.


Of course, it is best to avoid orthodontic emergencies, if at all possible. Here are some ways to help you do that: 

  • Follow eating instructions. The majority of orthodontic emergencies involve foods you are not supposed to eat while wearing braces. Your orthodontist will give you a list of foods you should avoid, and following those instructions will help you avoid damage to your braces and unnecessary pain. In general avoid HARD, STICKY & OVERLY CHEWY FOODS.

  • Follow dental and braces care instructions. Your orthodontist will give you specific instructions for brushing and flossing your teeth with braces. Follow these care instructions to avoid damaging your braces or your teeth. & remember to continue seeing your regular dentist for cleaning at least every 6 mos while in braces..

  • Wear a mouthguard when playing sports. If you have braces and play a sport with any degree of contact, it is a good idea to wear a mouthguard. This will protect your mouth from being injured by your braces if you were to get bumped by another player or a ball. It will also help to prevent damage to your braces.

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