How to Deal with Orthodontic Emergencies

How to Deal with Orthodontic Emergencies

The very nature of an emergency is that it is unexpected. While no orthodontic professional or patient ever enjoys being part of an orthodontic emergency, there is no escaping the fact that they do happen.

When an emergency situation occurs for you or a family member being treated, it is critical to know what to do. Many times, an orthodontic emergency will relate to a malfunction in the orthodontic hardware itself. At other times, the emergency may be situational in nature, such as an injury during an athletic activity.

In this article, learn more about how to handle orthodontic emergencies before they actually arise.

Orthodontic Hardware Emergencies

By far the most common type of orthodontic emergencies relates to the hardware used in orthodontic treatment. Of all the treatment methods used to straighten the teeth and align the bite today, traditional braces continue to generate the majority of these types of emergencies.

However, other systems can have their share of emergencies too, especially when it comes to misplaced, lost or damaged appliances. Invisalign aligners, retainers, spacers, headgear and similar appliances may go missing at a moment’s notice.

Here are some tips about how to handle the most common types of hardware emergencies.

A wire sticks out.

It won’t take much time after this happens before the patient is chomping at the bit for a fix. A wire sticking out is probably poking into sensitive soft tissue inside the mouth causing abrasions or worse.

The best fix is to take a pencil with an eraser and gently ease the wire into a position where it is parallel to the teeth. Then place a bit of orthodontic wax over it until you can be seen for orthodontic care.

A wire, band or bracket comes loose.

When a piece of hardware comes loose, it may require re-applying the adhesive before it will stay in place. This, of course, will require an orthodontic appointment.

However, using a sterilized pair of tweezers to gently guide the loose component back into place can help minimize discomfort until an appointment can be made.

A ligature pops off.

A ligature is a tiny little elastic or wire that wraps around the bracket on each brace to hold the archwire in place. Sometimes these tiny pieces will come loose or pop off entirely.

When this occurs, it is unlikely to cause the whole mechanism to shift out of place. But if it starts happening with more of the ligatures, this may mean a tune-up is in order.


Elastic ligatures are usually pretty easy to pop back into place with a sterilized pair of tweezers. Wire ligatures are less easy to maneuver, and it is usually best to use some orthodontic wax to protect the inner mouth tissues until your orthodontist can see you to fix it.

A piece of hardware is inadvertently ingested.

Sometimes a small piece of hardware may come loose during meals or snacks and end up going down the hatch. Here again, in most cases, this is more alarming to the patient than anything else. But if a straight wire or sharp-edged piece is ingested, it is important to treat this as a true medical emergency and seek care right away.

Your orthodontist should be notified ASAP. If the patient is showing signs of distress, visit your nearest emergency room or follow the orthodontic clinic’s directions for emergency care.

A piece of hardware gets damaged or goes missing.

Teen and tween patients, in particular, can struggle to keep track of orthodontic hardware and accessories. The Invisalign Teen program is particularly forgiving of this tendency, which makes parents and teens alike happy.

Any hardware or accessories that go missing for more than a day or so can cause delays in achieving treatment goals, so it is important to contact your orthodontist to replace or repair the component as soon as possible.

Other Orthodontic Emergencies

Of course, life goes on even while you are wearing braces or aligners. Patients who enjoy athletic activities are the most prone to other types of orthodontic emergencies, but life itself can produce obstacles that may impact hardware or cause injury or distress.

A stray softball, errant drumstick, loose helmet or a new set of roller skates can all cause their share of orthodontic emergencies. Trip and fall accidents, bike or auto accidents or even getting tangled up in the family dog’s leash can result in an impact accident that loosens or dislodges orthodontic hardware.

When any of these types of emergencies occur, be sure to contact the orthodontic clinic immediately for care recommendations and visit the nearest emergency room as needed.

Providing Free Consultations

At McDermott Orthodontics in Baxter, Minn., Dr. Michael McDermott offers a variety of treatments for adults, teenagers, and children. Here are some of the treatments we provide:

• Braces – Damon System, metal, ceramic and lingual
• Aligners – clear plastic devices from Invisalign
• Retainers – to keep teeth in position after treatment

We make it easy to schedule an appointment by having four locations to choose from, including:

• Delano – 763-972-4444
• Pequot Lakes – 218-568-5600
• Brainerd – 218-829-1630
• Baxter – 218-829-1630

Call us today to learn more about a free consultation with our orthodontist.

Call us today to schedule your free consultation at McDermott Orthodontics.

McDermott Orthodontist
708 Elm Ave. E.
Delano, MN
TEL: 763-972-4444