What to do in orthodontic emergencies when at home or on vacation

Orthodontic emergencies can be stressful and painful, especially when you are at home or traveling and don't have access to your usual orthodontic care. However, there are steps you can take to minimize the discomfort and damage to your teeth and braces. Here is what you can do in an orthodontic emergency at home and while traveling:

  1. Loose or broken braces: If one of your braces comes loose or breaks, try to put it back in place or cover the sharp edges with wax or orthodontic adhesive. If the brace is completely detached, keep it in a safe place and bring it with you to your next appointment. In the meantime, use wax or adhesive to keep the loose wire from poking or scratching your cheek or tongue.
  2. Loose or missing bands: If a band comes loose or falls off, try to put it back in place using wax or adhesive. If the band is missing or cannot be reattached, contact your orthodontist as soon as possible to have it replaced.
  3. Wire irritation: If a wire is poking out of your braces and causing irritation, try using the back of a spoon or a pencil eraser to gently push the wire back into place. If this doesn't work, cover the wire with wax or a small piece of gauze until you can see your orthodontist.
  4. Lost or broken retainers: If you lose or break your retainer, contact your orthodontist as soon as possible to have it replaced. In the meantime, try to avoid eating hard or sticky foods that could damage your teeth.
  5. Toothache or jaw pain: If you have a toothache or jaw pain, rinse your mouth with warm salt water and take over-the-counter pain medication as needed. Avoid biting down on hard or chewy foods and contact your orthodontist for further treatment.
  6. Broken rubber bands: Every once in a while, the tiny elastic bands or little wire ties that hold your brackets and wires together, known as elastomeric ligatures or "o-ties", can rip, tear, or break off. If it’s a rubber band, sterilize your tweezers and use them to gently try to put the wire back in place. If the o-tie becomes completely disloged or broken, let us know so we can add a new one. If it’s a wire ligature and it’s just sticking out, use a cotton swab or a pencil eraser to push it back to where it belongs. If it’s really loose, take it out with tweezers.
  7. Sensitive Teeth: When you first get your braces put on and after your visit with an orthodontist and the wire is changed or tightened, or whenever you pop in a new set of Invisalign or Invisalign Teen aligners, your teeth can be a little sensitive for a few days. This is normal and not a concern. If possible, try to schedule your orthodontic appoints so they’re not right before you leave for vacation since, of course, you don’t want sore teeth while you’re enjoying your time on vacation. Regardless, stick to soft foods and cold drinks for the first day or two if necessary. You can also try swishing with salt water or taking an over-the-counter pain reliever.
  8. Lost Separator: There aren’t really any DIY remedies for a lost separator and it just happens sometimes. Contact our office and we’ll let you know if you should come in to have it replaced before your next scheduled appointment. Generally speaking, if your next visit is within 1-2 days it shouldn't be too much of an issue. However, its better to be safe than sorry and call us as soon as possible.
  9. Lost Invisalign Aligner: Always carry your case with you and put your aligners in it when you take them out. If you accidentally lose the current aligner and you still have aligners remaining in your set scheduled to be worn later, its generally okay to jump to the next aligner. Try in the next aligner and if it appears that it fits well with no spaces in between the teeth and the plastic, then continue wearing until your next visit. If you’re traveling, you’ll also want to call us so we can determine the best course of action. If you don't have any next set of aligners, then try to go back to your previous set of aligners until you can be seen in the office for evaluation. Regardless, whenever you lose an aligner you should call our office to best determine how to proceed.

While traveling, it is a good idea to pack a small emergency kit with supplies such as wax, adhesive, and a small pair of scissors or pliers in case you need to make any temporary repairs to your braces. It is also a good idea to have the contact information for your orthodontist and a nearby emergency dental clinic in case of a more serious problem.

Remember to always follow your orthodontist's instructions for caring for your braces and teeth, and don't hesitate to contact them if you have any questions or concerns. By taking care of your braces and seeking proper treatment when needed, you can minimize the risk of orthodontic emergencies and keep your teeth and braces in good condition.

NOTE: The author, Dr. Graydon Carr, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Chico, California with his partner Dr. B. Scott Hood. Dr. Graydon Carr was trained at the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, California, and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas School of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. Dr. Graydon Carr & Dr. B. Scott Hood’s are experts in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems. This blog is for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. B. Scott Hood & Dr. Graydon Carr are licensed to diagnose and treat patients in the state of California. They cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can they select treatment plans for readers. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author.