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There are rarely true emergencies during orthodontic treatment. Most orthodontic problems are actually fairly simple to treat, and you may be able to offer temporary relief before coming to the office.

Discomfort: It's normal for a patient to have discomfort for a day or two after braces or retainers are adjusted. The discomfort is temporary, but it can make eating uncomfortable. Eat soft foods, and rinse the mouth with warm salt water. If you or your child is allowed to have over-the-counter pain relievers, acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be effective.

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Food Caught Between Your Teeth: This is easily fixed with a piece of dental floss. Try tying a small knot in the middle of the floss to help remove the food., or use an interproximal brush or toothpick to dislodge food caught between teeth and braces.

Mouth Sores: Some patients are susceptible to episodes of mouth sores. While braces do not cause them, they may be precipitated or exacerbated by an irritation from braces. One or several areas of ulceration of the cheeks, lips or tongue may appear. Prompt relief may be achieved by applying a small amount of topical anesthetic directly to the ulcerated surface using a cotton swab.

Irritation in the Mouth: Sometimes new braces can be irritating to the mouth, especially when eating. A small amount of non-medicinal relief wax makes an excellent buffer between metal and mouth. Simply pinch off a small piece and roll it into a ball the size of a small pea. Flatten the ball and place it completely over the area of the braces causing irritation. If the wax is accidentally ingested it's not a problem. The wax is harmless.

Protruding Wire: Occasionally the end of a wire will work itself out of place and irritate the mouth. Use a Q-tip or pencil eraser to push the wire so that it is flat against the tooth. If the wire cannot be moved into a comfortable position, cover it with relief wax. Call us to schedule a quick appointment to clip the wire.

Loose Wires, Brackets or Bands: If any part of the braces have come loose, call us to determine the appropriate next steps.

Bracket Knocked Off: This can be due to eating hard or crunchy foods, or if the mouth is struck while at play. A protective mouth guard should always be worn while playing sports.

Bracket Off Center: The adhesive may have failed. If the loose bracket has rotated on the wire and is sticking out, you can do a temporary fix to alleviate discomfort and prevent further damage.  To put the bracket back in place, use sterile tweezers to slide the bracket along the wire until it is between two teeth. Rotate the bracket back to the proper position, then slide it back to the center of the tooth. Take care to prevent swallowing or other injury, and call us to schedule an appointment.

Lost Ligature: Tiny rubber bands, known as ligatures, hold the wire to the bracket. It is not an emergency if a ligature is lost. If a rubber ligature should come off, you may be able to put it back in place using sterile tweezers. Call the office so we can schedule a quick appointment to replace the ligature.

***Courtesy of American Association of Orthodontics