How To Avoid Orthodontic Emergencies

As a patient here at Texas Family Orthodontics, you’ll learn a lot about your smile throughout your orthodontic journey. It’s important to us that you understand everything from how we move your teeth to why you need to care for your appliance, and we want you to feel confident in your knowledge. That’s why we will always take the time to explain to you what we’re doing and why we’re doing it! 

At a time like this, when many orthodontic offices are temporarily closed, being familiar with your treatment plan can keep you calm and prepared for any issues that may pop up while you’re in braces or aligners. Currently, our practice is only seeing patients for orthodontic and dental emergencies. This includes, but is not limited to, problems such as:

  • serious injury or trauma to the face, neck, mouth, teeth, or gums
  • swelling, infection, or bleeding of the gums or mouth
  • severe pain or discomfort in your teeth, mouth, face, or neck

Generally speaking, most true orthodontic emergencies happen unexpectedly and are often unavoidable. That being said, there are plenty of ways that you can be more conscious of your oral health in your day-to-day life. To learn more about how you can minimize your risk of an emergency situation, keep reading below!  

Think before you eat

Food restrictions can be one of the biggest learning curves to come with braces, but they’re in place to protect your teeth and your appliance. Because crunchy and chewy foods can wreak havoc on braces by bending the brackets or warping the wires, you’ll need to avoid things like

  • chips
  • ice
  • gum
  • some raw fruits and veggies
  • popcorn
  • caramel
  • and many types of candy

throughout the treatment process. Although this can be frustrating, remember that it’s only temporary! Before you know it, we’ll be removing your braces and showing you your beautiful new smile for the first time.  

Protect your smile

Although school and community sports are on hiatus at the moment, many athletes are still finding ways to practice their skills from home. Whether you’re kicking a ball around in your backyard or hitting balls in an empty field, it’s still a good idea to keep your mouth protected. The easiest way to do this is by wearing a mouthguard! 

Mouthguards are simple to use and very effective in preventing damage to your teeth, gums, or braces. It only takes a small amount of pressure on your braces to irritate your mouth or cause tiny cuts and abrasions to your gums and cheeks. Keeping a mouthguard in even during practice sessions will cushion your lips and keep them from bumping against your teeth and braces.  

Although regular mouthguards provide some protection, we tend to recommend an orthodontic mouthguard for our braces patients. Regular mouthguards are made of thermal plastic, which heats up in your mouth and then molds to your teeth. This leaves it unable to change with your teeth as they shift during treatment, which can eventually end up working against the straightening process!

Orthodontic mouthguards, on the other hand, are made from a high-grade silicone that protects the brackets from any impact-related damage and helps prevent painful scenarios like your lip getting caught in your braces. Since they’re designed to fit over your braces, they tend to be a bit bigger than regular mouthguards, but they’re just as comfortable to wear.

Over-the-counter options are available online, and these will provide you with effective protection while meeting all your basic mouthguard needs. If you’re looking for the assurance and safety of a customized orthodontic mouthguard, however, Dr. Vo is happy to help!

How To Avoid Orthodontic Emergencies
Portrait of a beautiful woman with braces on the teeth, cleans teeth with toothbrush, isolated on a white background

Stick to a good oral hygiene routine

Dental hygiene should really be a priority for everyone, but it’s especially important when it comes to active orthodontic patients. We recommend you brush your teeth at least two times each day with fluoride toothpaste, for at least two minutes. Aim to do this after eating and before bed for the best results. 

If you wear braces, pay special attention to the areas between the brackets and gums since food particles can get stuck there. Carefully clean between the wires and teeth, too! If you find it hard to do this part effectively, an interdental brush or waterpik can help remove any plaque and food debris from hard-to-reach areas.

Flossing is also an essential part of maintaining oral health. You should aim to do this every night before bed. If you’re having trouble flossing effectively with braces, floss threaders or waterpiks are useful for removing pesky food particles and plaque. Just remember that these items are designed to be supplemental tools, and shouldn’t take the place of a regular brushing and flossing routine!

Treat non-emergency issues at home

A number of minor complications can actually be treated from home. These remedies can be very effective at lessening or relieving your symptoms from issues like:

Mouth sores

Orthodontic treatment itself doesn’t cause mouth sores, but some patients are unfortunately more susceptible to them while they’re in braces. You can get relief from these painful ulcers on your cheeks, lips, tongue, or gums by swabbing a small amount of topical anesthetic directly to the sore.

Loose or broken brackets, bands, or wires

If any part of your braces comes loose or breaks during treatment, let us know as soon as possible so we can determine what your next steps should be. If a band or bracket is broken but still attached to the wire, try to leave it alone until you speak with us. Don’t connect any elastics to it during this time. 

If any piece of your braces has completely broken off, place it in a secure bag and we’ll advise you on what to do. If you’re experiencing irritation, you can cover the component that’s bothering you with a small amount of orthodontic wax for relief.

Misplaced archwire, bracket, or tie

As your treatment progresses, your teeth will begin to move towards the desired positions. This can sometimes cause the archwire connecting them to shift, which may result in it poking out a bit near the back of your mouth. If this has happened to you and is irritating your cheeks or gums, you can use the eraser end of the pencil or a clean cotton swab to gently move it back to where it’s supposed to be.

Likewise, wires or ties that have moved can often be gently manipulated back into place using a pair of clean tweezers or the eraser end of a pencil. A pinch of orthodontic wax over the parts that are poking out can help relieve the immediate discomfort, too.

Tooth pain or loosening

Your teeth will loosen slightly during orthodontic treatment to accommodate the movements we want them to make. This can sometimes cause mild tenderness or discomfort. Salt water rinses are a tried and true remedy for relieving soreness! Simply mix one teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water, then swish it around your mouth for about 30 seconds before spitting it out. A warm washcloth or heating pad placed on the outside of your jaw can offer some relief as well.

How To Avoid Orthodontic Emergencies

What if you’re wearing Invisalign aligners?

Because Invisalign aligners aren’t constructed with wires and brackets, the risk of an orthodontic emergency is really low. It’s still possible to break or lose an aligner, though, so be sure to contact our office if this happens so we can keep your treatment plan on track! Continue to practice excellent oral hygiene, and be sure to care for your aligners as well by cleaning them gently and keeping them in a case when they’re not in your mouth. 

Texas Family Orthodontics is here for you and your smile

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us immediately if you are experiencing a true orthodontic emergency! Even though our office locations are currently closed, Dr. Vo is still available to meet your needs, and our team is committed to providing you with an orthodontic experience that is safe and stress-free. Thanks to modern technology, we can use phone calls, texts, and virtual visits to ensure you get the high-quality care you’ve come to expect from us. 

If you’re concerned about any aspect of your orthodontic treatment, please reach out. We’ll be happy to answer questions or address any concerns. It’s our goal to keep a happy, healthy smile on your face!