Troubleshooting possible orthodontic issues

Orthodontic emergencies can occasionally occur and although they may be a little upsetting, they are usually fairly simple to treat.

  • Food caught between teeth – easily fixed with a piece of dental floss or use or a toothpick to dislodge food caught between teeth and braces.

  • Lost wire or rubber ligature – the tiny rubber bands or small, fine wires known as ligatures, hold the wire to the bracket. If a rubber or wire ligature is lost, notify your orthodontist.

  • If a rubber ligature comes 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. When one ligature pops off or breaks, others may follow. Missing or broken ligatures should be brought to the attention of your orthodontist.

  • It is normal to have discomfort for a day or two after braces or retainers are adjusted or elastics are started, however it can make eating uncomfortable. This discomfort is normal and temporary and can be assisted by use of mild pain relief e.g. paracetamol or ibuprofen.

  • Braces do not cause mouth ulcers, however they may be exacerbated by an irritation from braces. Prompt relief can be achieved by applying a small amount of topical anaesthetic (such as Orabase or Ora-Gel) using a cotton swab.

  • Sometimes new braces can be irritating to the mouth, especially when eating. A small amount of orthodontic wax makes an excellent buffer between metal and mouth.

  • Occasionally the end of a wire will work itself out of place and cause irritation. Use a suitable implement to push the wire so it is flat against the tooth. If the wire cannot be moved into a comfortable position, cover it with orthodontic wax and notify your orthodontist.

  • If braces come loose in any way, notify your orthodontist. This is not always a severe problem or an emergency.

  • Brackets can be knocked-off if eating hard or crunchy foods (which should be avoided) or while playing sport (wear a protective mouthguard). If this occurs, please notify your orthodontist.