When embarking on a journey to healthier, straighter teeth, it’s not uncommon to be apprehensive about orthodontic treatment. No matter if you choose traditional metal braces or Invisalign’s clear aligner system, it can take a while to get used to your “new normal.” Like every new experience, there is always a period of adjustment, but it’s nothing that should cause stress or worry!

One of the most frequent questions we are asked by new patients at Craig & Streight is if orthodontic treatment will be painful. When braces are first put on or when teeth start moving into their desired positions, it’s common to feel a bit of soreness or aching, but treatment should never be painful. However, although it’s rare, there are times when a real orthodontic emergency may occur.  


What constitutes a true orthodontic emergency?

Thankfully, there are only a few cases where this applies:

-Trauma or injury to the teeth, face, or mouth

-Infection and/or swelling and/or bleeding of the gums, mouth, or face

-Intense discomfort or pain in these areas that haven’t responded to treatment

If you experience any of the symptoms above, you should seek medical help as soon as possible. We recommend contacting our office first, but if you feel you need to go to the emergency room instead, go there.

Are you unsure about what may constitute an ER-worthy situation versus something a little less urgent?

A fractured tooth is a good example of an orthodontic emergency which needs immediate diagnosis and treatment. Severe pain and swelling also need immediate attention as they can be an indicator of infection and disease. After your emergency has been attended to, your orthodontic treatment can be adjusted if needed.

At Craig & Streight, it’s our goal always to be available to our patients in case a dental emergency arises. If you are experiencing pain or if any part of your appliance is broken, make sure to get in touch with us so that we can assess what’s causing the pain and repair the appliance as quickly as possible. Fortunately, though, a lot orthodontic issues can be taken alleviated at home!

Now, that’s not to say that home remedies will work every time or completely cure the pain, discomfort, or irritation you may be feeling. We recommend that you always try to address and reduce the cause of pain first and then schedule an appointment with our office. However, while waiting for your appointment, the following strategies can help you remedy several minor issues. Just remember: even if you can ease the pain and discomfort caused by something like a broken or misaligned bracket or wire, you will still need to schedule a repair appointment.


Minor orthodontic emergencies

Here are a few common minor orthodontic “emergencies,” and how you can help relieve them at home:

Loose or broken brackets, bands, or wires

Kid playing with orthodontic wax

Sometimes pain is caused by a little “user error” by those who have braces. If you’ve been playing excessively with your braces or eating hard or sticky candy and food, it can cause issues with your brackets, bands, and wires. Issues can lead to extra time in your braces because potential breakage isn’t included in your estimated treatment time! Be sure to stick with your “safe foods” list and to follow all the guidelines we gave you.

If you have a band or bracket that’s broken and still attached to the wire, leave it alone until your appointment (don’t connect elastics to it!). If it’s irritating the inside of your mouth, you can cover the irritating offenders with orthodontic wax. If a broken piece has entirely come off, be sure to save it and bring it to your appointment. Even if the problem seems temporarily solved, be sure to call our office and let us know what’s going on so we can recommend the next steps you should take.

Out-of-place wire, bracket, or tie

As your teeth begin to adjust to treatment, they will start to move. The archwire connecting them may start poking out near the back of the mouth, and that can really irritate your cheeks. One way to remedy this is the use a Q-tip or pencil eraser to move the wire into a more comfortable position. If misplaced wires or ties are your issue, you can use a pair of tweezers to manipulate them into their original position.

Again, take care of the initial irritant and then be sure to get in touch with us as soon as possible so we can fix the actual problem instead of just treating the symptoms.

General tooth pain or loosening

Even though it sounds frightening, it’s perfectly okay for teeth to loosen up slightly during orthodontic treatment. Think of it as proof they are moving in the direction we want them to. Unfortunately, this movement can make your mouth feel a bit tender, especially if you just had your braces put on or adjusted. An effective way to ease this tenderness is by using a salt water rinse twice per day. Combine one teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of water and then swish it around in your mouth for 30 seconds. You can place a heating pad or warm washcloth on the outside of your jaw for some additional relief. And over the counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, such as Tylenol or ibuprofen will help decrease tooth soreness.

A broken retainer

broken retainer

When the metal or plastic parts of retainers or other removable oral appliances bend and break, it can lead to an uncomfortable and improper fit. If this happens, stop wearing the retainer immediately and schedule an appointment with our office. If your retainer breaks or cracks, collect the pieces in a plastic bag and bring them with you to your next appointment. Sometimes we can repair a broken retainer if we have the original pieces.

A quick note about (gulp!) swallowed parts

At times, a patient may aspirate or swallow small orthodontic appliances. If you accidentally swallow any part of your braces, don’t panic; often it will pass through your digestive system without incident. However, if you have difficulty breathing or start choking, seek emergency help immediately.

Orthodontic emergencies with Craig & Streight

While true orthodontic emergencies are uncommon, they do happen from time-to-time, and it’s critical you seek treatment as quickly as possible. We know that any type of emergency situation is stressful, and we aim to make your orthodontic treatment experience as comfortable as possible. That’s why you can always reach a member of our experienced, compassionate team no matter the day and time for real emergencies.

We want making a better, more beautiful smile a comfortable experience so please contact us immediately if you are feeling any discomfort or pain. We will do everything we can to alleviate your discomfort and fix the problem as quickly as possible!

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