‘Tis the Season, for all the events, the yummy foods, and on occasion, an orthodontic emergency. Emergencies for patients in braces and Invisalign tend to be relatively infrequent and fortunately should not keep you from enjoying the holidays. Nevertheless, the discomfort from a problem with braces can be irritating to your tongue or cheeks.  

As always, we at CHT Orthodontics are here to help and walk through the braces journey with you.

As we all know, prevention is always better than having to solve a problem at all. Please take the opportunity to listen to your clinician when explaining foods to avoid and how to care for your braces and retainers.  Ninety percent of emergencies are preventable.

Please avoid sticky and chewy foods such as certain candies, treats and chewing gums.  Do not eat anything hard, like tough pizza crusts, or crispy baguettes. Slice hard fruits and vegetables, like carrots and apples, into bite-sized pieces. Do not chew on pens or pencils and keep fingers out of your mouth. When braces have a hard force against them from a foreign object, the braces can loosen and come off of the tooth.


Overall oral discomfort due to shifting teeth

In the course of your treatment, you will have some days with more discomfort than others. There are a few things that you can do to get some relief. For starters, try an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen prior to your first two appointments, prior to getting separators (spacers) placed, or as needed after an appointment. Please be sure to follow the instructions on the bottle carefully.

Above all, at the times when pressure on your moving teeth is more intense, please be gentle with your teeth and with yourself. Eat soft food and cut harder things into smaller pieces, and drink soothing warm beverages. Know that you will be more comfortable soon, as your teeth find their new positions.

Mouth Sores

The most common “emergency” is the when the braces have a tendency to feel rough against the cheeks, lips, and tongue, especially soon after the braces are placed. This will sometimes lead to soreness and cause discomfort. The tissues will develop a callous over time, so this becomes less of a problem as treatment progresses. In the initial stages of treatment, wax can be used in areas that are particularly painful. However, limiting the use of wax will help the patient build up the calloused tissues.

Think of the discomfort as the equivalent to that experienced when breaking in a new pair of running shoes. The first time you go for a run, they may feel uncomfortable, tight, and cause blisters. But over time, you break them in and they become comfortable and no longer cause blisters.  

Poking Wire

The most common orthodontic “emergency” is a poking wire. Many times as the teeth move in the early phase of treatment, the wire used to straighten the teeth has no place to go except out the back of the molar band area. Also, if spaces are being closed or if the bite is being corrected, the wire will begin to get longer at the back of the braces. Fortunately, most times this can be handled at home very simply with some orthodontic wax. It is important to try and dry the area first (with a q-tip or cotton ball), then roll up a piece of wax into a ball and warm it up in between your fingers. Place the ball of wax into the area of the poking wire. The wax will smooth the area and keep the tissue from getting caught on the end. Another alternative to wax is a product called Gishy Goo


If you feel comfortable, you can simply clip the wire using nail clippers or something equivalent. When doing so, you want to make sure you are clipping the wire to be flush with the last bracket it is secured in.

Broken Braces/Brackets

Broken or loose braces/brackets are not considered an urgent problem in most cases. There are times when a loose bracket may cause some problems, however, so it is best to call our office when the problem occurs. When a bracket comes off of a tooth, it is still normally attached to the wire with an elastic tie. This will prevent the bracket from being swallowed, but it may move or spin around on the wire. If this is a problem for the patient, a little wax pressed against the bracket will keep it from moving around.  If the bracket comes off completely, save the bracket in a ziploc baggie and bring to your appointment.

Lost/Broken retainers

There are a number of variables that determine whether this is a more urgent situation or not. For example, if the braces had recently been removed, there is a greater chance that the teeth will shift and move if a retainer is not replaced relatively quickly. However, every patient may differ with the potential amount of relapse. Also, certain types of tooth movements may have a greater tendency for relapse than others. For example, a space between the upper front teeth may have a greater tendency to reopen in some patients, so it may be important to replace the retainer sooner rather than later. If a patient has been out of braces for a long period of time, and the teeth are in a relatively stable position, the chance of significant shifting in the short term is lower.

As always, we are only a phone call away. Even if it is after hours, there will always be a number on our voicemail that you can call or text to get a hold of us for any questions or concerns at (630) 323-1201 or contact us on our website here