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Sporting Smiles
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Orthodontic Emergencies

How can we help you?

When it comes to your child's health, being engaged matters. We are here to answer your questions and help you feel confident in the decisions you make. 

We've collected some of the questions we hear most often here at Sporting Smiles. If your question isn't on this list or you need more information, please don't hesitate to call our office. 

Orthodontic Emergencies

It takes some time for the skin inside your mouth to adjust to the new appliances on your teeth. In the meantime, though, we can help you feel more comfortable. 

One of the tools we'll provide you with is orthodontic wax. Here's how the wax works: 

  1. Pinch off a small piece of your wax and roll it into a tiny ball. 
  2. Flatten this ball and then place it over the spot on your braces that is causing the irritation. Press it into place and mold it around the bracket. 
  3. If the wax falls off (or you don't have any handy), you can also use a small piece of wet cotton. Even a little piece of orange peel is often enough to smooth out the uncomfortable area. 

The wax will help you eat more comfortably, speak more clearly, and just plain feel better since it provides a sort of buffer between the edges pf your brackets and the soft tissues of your cheeks and lips. If you swallow the wax, don't worry. Wax is perfectly harmless! 

One thing to remember about wax, however, is that it's designed to be a short-term solution. If the irritation persists, please call our office so we can look at other options or whether adjustments need to be made to your brackets. 

Some soreness is normal for about a day or two following the placing of new braces or an adjustment appointment (what patients often refer to as "tightening"). While this isn't an emergency situation, we do recognize that it can be quite uncomfortable, especially when you are trying to eat! 

During this time period, it can be helpful to stick to soft foods, like soups, stews, and macaroni and cheese. Smoothies, yogurt, puddings, and eggs can also be good choices. Stock your pantry accordingly so that you are ready for any soreness after an appointment. A lot of patients enjoy a frozen treat like a frozen fruit bar following an adjustment! 

Most patients also find that over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are helpful as well. Follow the directions on the package and, of course, avoid any medications that contain ingredients you are allergic or sensitive to. 

It might be helpful to know that this soreness is occurring because the braces are loosening up the ligaments that hold your teeth in place. Once the ligaments are loose, the discomfort will stop and the teeth will be able to move. In other words, the soreness means your braces are working and your beautiful new smile is on its way!

Traditional bracket-and-wire braces can sometimes be associated with sore spots on the soft tissues of the mouth, like the insides of your cheeks and lips and sometimes the tongue. While this is a fairly common problem, we know it doesn't feel good. 

Fortunately, we have a few solutions to help you get through this until the skin inside your mouth adjusts to the new braces. Topical anesthetics like Ora-Gel and Orabase are usually helpful for relieving the discomfort. Plus, they include ingredients that will help the sore spots heal! You can reapply this medication as frequently as you need to. Just make sure that you are using a cotton swab to apply it and not your finger since you don't want to accidentally introduce bacteria to the sore and cause an infection. 

We can also look at options like wax to cover the corners of the brackets, but we don't recommend that you use this too frequently because it won't allow the skin to adjust to the braces. If your braces continue to cause discomfort after a couple of days, please let us know. We can double check that there aren't any sharp areas on your brackets and adjust them if there are. 

Brackets serve as handles to hold the wire of the braces in place. Brackets are generally bonded to the teeth with adhesive. They are tough, sturdy, and stable. But if you eat hard, crunchy, or sticky types of food, the brackets can indeed loosen. If you get hit in the mouth, the brackets can loosen, too. That’s why you should ask your dentist or orthodontist about wearing a mouth guard during any and all types of physical activity.

The best thing to do if a bracket breaks or comes loose is contact your orthodontist. They will want to examine your mouth and decide the best course of action to fix the bracket. Plus, they have all the tools and expertise to make the fix. If you can’t get to your orthodontist right away, you can do a temporary fix to alleviate discomfort and avoid further damage by using sterile tweezers to slide the bracket along the wire until it’s between two teeth. Rotate the bracket back to the proper position then slide it back to the center of the tooth. Again, this is just a temporary fix to get you by until you can see your orthodontist, which should be as soon as possible.

The arch wire of braces fits in the horizontal slots in each bracket. The wire is secured to all of the brackets, and occasionally, simply by the act of biting and chewing, the end of a wire will work itself out and cause irritation.

The best way to alleviate the discomfort is to push the wire back down. Use a Q-tip or pencil eraser to push the wire back so it’s flat against your tooth. If you can’t get the wire back to a comfortable position, cover it with relief wax to have a buffer between your braces and the area of your mouth that’s irritated.

In an extremely bothersome situation, and as a last resort, clip the wire. Reduce the possibility of swallowing the snipped piece by putting a folded tissue or piece of gauze around the area. Use sharp clippers and snip off the wire. Use relief wax if the area is still irritated.

Make a follow-up appointment with your orthodontist to make sure the braces are still secure and to get a different wire if necessary.

The rubber band that stretches around your bracket is known as the "bracket ligature band." It has an important purpose. The band holds the wire to the bracket, creating the pressure that moves your teeth. In some cases, a type of twisted wire will be used, but rubber ligatures are the most common. 

If the ligature does come off, you can try to replace it with a pair of sterile tweezers. You can sterilize metal tweezers by boiling them or soaking them in rubbing alcohol. A wire ligature can be removed with the sterile tweezers. 

If you have a wire ligature that is sticking out and poking your lip, you can use either a cotton swab or a pencil eraser to try to bend it back into place. 

We'll need to check a loose or lost ligature, so if this happens, please give us a call so you can be seen. Once one ligature is lost, it's likely that you may lose others. Without the ligatures in place, your braces won't do their job properly. We will likely need to replace any lost ligatures, and you may need an adjustment as well to make sure that your treatment stays on track.

It can certainly be embarrassing to get a piece of food stuck between your teeth and behind your braces! Not to mention, it's usually pretty uncomfortable. Fortunately, it's an easy fix. Just a single piece of dental floss is all you need.

To prepare the floss, tie a knot in it. This knot is going to be what you actually use to remove the food. Thread the floss between your wire and your teeth and gently run it so that the knot pushes against the piece of food and pops it out. 

No floss handy? You can also use an interproximal brush (a type of brush with a long, slender tip that can be used to clean between teeth) or even a plain old toothpick. Just be gentle so that you don't injure your gums or damage your braces by bending the wire. 

If you still can't get the piece of food out (or you've accidentally bent your wire), please call our Gainesville orthodontic practice today so we can help. You don't want to leave food trapped. It can lead to bad breath, decay, and even gum disease. Avoid eating extra crunchy foods or sticky foods, since these can damage your braces.

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