Having braces is a rite of passage for adolescents, but it’s not just for teens. We are seeing an influx of adults and older populations investing in their teeth with braces because a beautiful smile never goes out of style. Adult or child, however, you will sometimes need an emergency orthodontist. What do those situations look like, and how do you handle them? At Central Texas Orthodontics in Austin, TX, we are ready to help, emergency or not.
Dealing With Orthodontic Emergencies and an Emergency Orthodontist
Acute Orthodontic Emergencies
This kind of emergency will require immediate attention, usually from an orthodontist or other medical personnel. An acute emergency comes from an acute injury that usually happens suddenly. Acute orthodontic emergencies will often require medical attention to make sure that you are safe.
If you think it’s possible that you have an acute emergency and are worried about your health and safety, call us to talk to a professional.
Sign 1: Traumatic Injury
You’re going about your day and enjoying every moment. Maybe you’re playing a game of basketball with your friends when unexpectedly, the basketball hits your face. You feel the impact of the ball against your face, and you’re worried you’ve damaged your braces. How do you handle a traumatic injury?
An easy way to create an orthodontic emergency is with a blow to the mouth. Depending on the accident, you may need to immediately visit an emergency room or your orthodontist; or you may need to visit both.
If you are bleeding heavily from the mouth, you should head straight to the emergency room because you likely will need stitches. This also applies if you are bleeding from the head or have any symptoms of a concussion. Once your immediate safety is assured, be sure to contact the orthodontist to see about your braces.
Sign 2: Infection or Unmanageable Pain
You know that braces aren’t supposed to be painful, but you’re experiencing severe pain. You’re having a hard time talking, eating, and getting through your day. When you look in the mirror, you can see that your face has started to swell up.
If you are experiencing abnormal and unmanageable pain, you should make an emergency appointment with your orthodontist. They will be able to look at your braces and assess what can be altered to help the experience be more comfortable. If you find that your gums seem swollen or infected, or if there is serious swelling in your face, you should see your orthodontist as soon as possible.
If your orthodontist is not immediately available, go to an urgent care center or emergency room. Even if you opt to go to urgent care or the emergency room, however, you should still make an appointment with your orthodontist so we can make any necessary changes to your braces.
Sign 3: Swallowed Appliance
You notice that a normal piece of your braces is no longer there. It must have broken off, but you don’t remember it falling out of your mouth. You think you may have even swallowed the small piece of metal. What happens next?
If a part of your braces break off or become unattached, you may swallow it. If this is the case, have someone shine a flashlight into your mouth and throat. If you can’t see the broken piece, and if you are having difficulty breathing or experiencing excessive coughing, you should go to an emergency room. It’s possible you have aspirated, or breathed, the piece into your lungs.
If you aren’t having any trouble breathing, you have probably swallowed the piece into your digestive system. It should pass without any medical issues. However, it’s important to call your orthodontist so you can be fitted for a repair and your treatment can continue unhindered.
Standard Orthodontic Emergencies
Unlike acute emergencies, standard orthodontic emergencies don’t put you in danger and don’t require immediate medical assistance to ensure your safety. They can, however, be uncomfortable and cause your orthodontic treatment to take longer than originally intended. To take care of standard orthodontic emergencies, make an appointment to see your orthodontist sooner than your next regular visit.
Sign 4: Food Stuck in Gums
You’ve gotten food stuck in your braces and gums before, but you have always managed to get it out. But this time, it doesn’t seem like the food is going to budge. Maybe it’s wrapped around your brackets or wires, or maybe it’s so large that it seems permanently stuck. Is it time to visit the emergency orthodontist?
Getting food stuck in your braces is a right of passage. Most of the time, you can get it out yourself with some work. However, there are some severe cases where all your attempts to remove the food particle don’t work and you need to see your orthodontist for help. If you discontinue eating any food your orthodontist has suggested, this should be avoidable.
Sign 5: Poking Wire
You’re used to feeling your braces against the inside of your mouth, but something is different about this. Your braces have never felt this sharp before, and when you look, you can see a long wire poking out. Before the end of each orthodontic visit, your orthodontist will check to make sure that all of your wires are in their proper place and that you aren’t being poked by any them. Your orthodontist will also ask you to make sure that you’re comfortable.
However, as your teeth move and adjust, there can be excess wire that pokes areas of your mouth. In some cases, this will necessitate seeing your orthodontist, while in other cases, you may be able to fix the wire yourself.
To fix it yourself, first try applying wax to the piece of wire that is sticking out. If you don’t happen to have any wax, you can also try a cotton ball. If these options don’t work, use a pencil to move the wire. Sanitize the eraser end of a pencil and use it to push the wire so that it is no longer poking your cheek. If these ideas don’t help, or if the wire is cutting into the inside of your mouth, you should call your orthodontist and schedule a visit to address the situation.
Sign 6: Broken Brackets or Bands
It’s been a long day, and you’re snacking on your favorite foods. Maybe you’re just not being careful, or maybe you’re snacking on foods you know your orthodontist wouldn’t approve of, and it happens. You crunch down and feel a bracket loosen and pop off. Suddenly, the bracket is spinning loosely on the archwire, completely free of your tooth.
The easiest way to break off your brackets, or the bands that are on your molars, is to eat hard or sticky foods. This is why your orthodontist will encourage you to stay away from certain foods while you have braces. Another easy way to break or loosen your braces is to play with them or to put objects in your mouth.
If an accident occurs and something breaks, don’t worry. It shouldn’t cause a major change in your projected treatment timeline. Call your orthodontist to see if you need to come in before your next regularly scheduled appointment. If it’s more than a few days before your next visit, or if the bracket is in a highly noticeable area, the orthodontist will likely have you come in to get fixed up.
While you’re waiting to get your brackets fixed, try to not fiddle with it. If it’s uncomfortable, cover it with some wax to help keep the bracket still. This also is a good idea if you are struggling with the temptation to play with it.
Sign 7: Irritation in the Mouth
The orthodontist said that you would get used to the feeling of your braces rubbing the inside of your mouth, but you haven’t. Your braces don’t hurt, but it feels like the inside of your mouth is far more sensitive than usual. Maybe you’ve even developed tiny bumps or ulcers on the inside of your mouth.
When the inside of your mouth is used to rubbing against smooth teeth, having brackets placed can be quite uncomfortable. It’s normal to experience some slight irritation inside your cheeks or lips after you first get braces or after an adjustment. To help with this, your orthodontist will give you wax that you can place over brackets or other pointy and uncomfortable places.
You can also take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen. If your sores and irritation don’t get better over time, or if they grow larger, you should call your orthodontist. They can give you more specific instructions on how to clean and care for your mouth=.
Sign 8: Broken Ligatures
When you look in the mirror, you notice that one of the small, colorful bands around your brackets is no longer there. Maybe you even felt the rubber ligature break while you were talking or eating. Is it time to visit the emergency orthodontist?
The small rubber bands that hold the archwire to the brackets can sometimes break or pop out of place. One of the reasons that these rubber ligatures are replaced every time you visit the orthodontist is because they aren’t particularly strong. After all, they’re made of rubber. If a ligature breaks or pops out of place, you’ll need to make an orthodontic appointment to have your ligatures fixed. If one ligature breaks, it’s likely that others will too, so be mindful of what you’re eating in the meantime.
It’s important to also be mindful of your archwires. Your rubber ligatures are what hold your archwires in place, and they connect the archwires to your brackets. Without the ligatures in place, your braces are far less sturdy and more likely to break in other ways as well.
Get Help When You Need It
Having braces is an important part of getting the perfect smile that you deserve. When caring for your braces, or for your loved one’s braces, it’s important to know what to expect and what could possibly go wrong. By preparing yourself for any possible emergency, you will know what to do and how to handle anything that arises.
Armed with your knowledge, and the help of an emergency orthodontist, your journey to a beautiful smile will that much smoother. To schedule a consultation or to have your orthodontic questions answered, contact us at Central Texas Orthodontics in Austin, TX today.