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Orthodontic Emergencies

What Should I Do if I Have an Orthodontic Emergency?

Let’s talk about orthodontic emergencies. They are not very common, but it’s always a good idea to know how to act when they happen; furthermore, many patients are worried because they don’t know when they should contact their orthodontist.

Don’t worry. It’s never a bother for us when you call in for advice when something alarming happens with your orthodontic appliance. Usually, it’s far better when we take care of minor complications as soon as necessary; the alternative means setbacks for your orthodontic care and potential additional complications that endanger your oral health.

We should also make a quick note here. Orthodontic emergencies are not the same as dental emergencies. As we will explain further down, some situations are life-threatening, and you should immediately contact emergency services for professional care.

When in doubt, contact 911 and reach out to Salem’s finest for emergency health care. Orthodontic specialists and general dentists will breathe a sigh of relief when they know you took care of an emergency by contacting ER services first.

Let’s take a closer look at what are some general dental emergencies, the more specific orthodontic emergencies, and what you should do in either case.

Dental Emergencies vs Orthodontic Emergencies

The key difference here is that one type of situation can have fatal consequences while the other even has some DIY solutions.

If you have a dental emergency, you should immediately contact emergency services or go to the ER for professional care.

“Dental emergency” is an umbrella term referring to life-threatening situations developing in your maxillofacial region; pay attention to sudden feelings of pain, swelling, or uncontrollable bleeding as they may all indicate the development of a dental emergency.

Many such situations could hold a relationship with the development of a tooth abscess. This accumulation of infected material below your gum line is a result of a bacterial infection. As such, the following throbbing toothache, swelling, sensitivity, and tenderness are all symptoms of a complex problem that requires immediate attention.

Orthodontic emergencies, however, are not life-threatening, and you could even spend a couple of days without professional treatment without any major consequences.

Common Orthodontic Emergencies

As with any treatment, you can experience minor complications with orthodontic care. We try to minimize as many risk factors as possible, but accidents can always happen.

First of all, we should clarify something important. Discomfort is not an orthodontic emergency, but you should always be attentive to how you feel after the initial installation of your orthodontic appliance.

The nature of this specialized dental care changes your dental structures, and the movements may result in some initial discomfort; furthermore, some cases require tooth extractions.

You can expect your mouth to feel different and some teeth to feel loose during the first few weeks of treatment. Still, if you notice that your pain doesn’t go away, or remains under control with over-the-counter medication, contact the orthodontist to check that all is going well. We are always careful not to plan a treatment that is too harsh on your teeth and causes damage.

While you should expect some discomfort, you should always consult with your orthodontist to verify there are no additional concerns in your case.

To avoid any of the following situations, you should pay close attention to your orthodontist’s recommendations and dietary restrictions. Dr. John McDonald explains what could happen if you’re not careful about what you eat during braces treatments.

Let’s review some common orthodontic emergencies with braces that don’t involve minor discomfort or pain.

Broken Bracket

If you decided to forego the multiple warnings about popcorn or hard taco shells, you might find yourself with a broken or loose bracket. The adhesive used to bond brackets to your teeth is very strong, as you may have seen in our video, but they’re no match for the laws of physics and a little geometry.

Hard leftover food particles can serve as a wedge and leverage away your brackets, making them slide over the archwire and away from their anchor tooth. Make sure you or the patient does not swallow the bracket on accident. Check if the bracket remains attached to the archwire via the elastic bands and contact your trusted orthodontist.

Well-secured brackets are essential for this treatment as they anchor the archwire in the right position and translate any movements required for the proper tooth alignments. If the bracket is off-center, you can ask someone else for help or take some sterile tweezers to slide the bracket and rotate it when necessary.

Loose Wire

The same situation can happen with your metal archwire. When a ligature fails or something else wedges the metal wire away, this piece might become loose and hinder your treatment’s progression.

Another recurring situation involves a protruding wire. The ends of the wire might poke at the inside of your cheeks, causing irritation and discomfort.

The good news is you can quickly solve this with readily available tools. Our preference will always be for sterile tweezers, but you can take any blunt object to relocate the end of the wire.

Use tweezers if you have to maneuver the wire back into place. Still, a simple pencil eraser will do the trick too. If you wish to get rid of the end that’s poking at your cheeks, you can ask someone else for help. Place a paper towel in the back of your mouth to catch any falling debris, and use a wire cutter to snip the end of the wire.

Always call your orthodontist first to consult if such home remedies are useful or appropriate for your case.

To prevent any additional soreness, you can also cover the protruding wire with orthodontic wax and ask your dental specialist for a visit where they can fix any such orthodontic emergency.

Getting the Help You Need

There are many more situations that require urgent care, while others can wait for a little until your next visit. Always get in touch with your orthodontist to ask for help, but keep in mind that you should contact ER services first if there’s a life-threatening situation.

For any other situations where it’s a little irksome but not life-threatening, call in for advice or try a DIY method included in this article.

We hope to see you soon for a routine examination, but if you need us for an orthodontic emergency, then you’re in luck. Dr. McDonald is the best orthodontist Salem residents have at their disposal. Give us a call and come for the care you need!