Braces are incredible devices that can help transform your teeth and reshape your jaws. However, they are not always fool-proof. Every so often, a patient will have a dental emergency. That may be a bad cavity that needs to be fixed, or a bracket or wire will break. There are only a few dental emergencies that can happen with braces. We can help you to know what to do when each of those emergencies happen!
Origins of Braces
Orthodontic treatments have been around for a long time-even as far back as the ancient Egyptians! Although their ways were archaic, people for centuries have been trying to fix crooked teeth and develop a prettier smile through orthodontic work. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Etruscans were known to have practiced orthodontia, and interestingly, the Etruscans used to attach gold bands to women’s teeth to preserve the position of their teeth after death. Orthodontics saw a surge in progress during the 18th century thanks to Pierre Fauchard. Known as the “Father of Dentistry,” he invented an appliance called a bandeau, which was a horseshoe-shaped piece of metal with regularly spaced holes that fit around the teeth to correct the alignment. He would also use forceps to physically realign teeth into their correct positions and tie them to neighboring teeth until they healed.
Orthodontics in the United States exploded during the 19th century. J.S. Gunnell created a type of headgear that fashioned to the head and exerted a soft pull on teeth while Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber which would eventually become one of the most commonly used appliances in orthodontics. But Edward Hartley Angle, the “Father of Modern Orthodontics,” took orthodontics to another level by identifying the true properties of malocclusion, or misalignment, and addressed them with his own set of orthodontic appliances in 1880. Until the 1970s, orthodontist would attach anchored brackets around each tooth with winding wires, but with the invention of dental adhesives, orthodontists could then stick the brackets to teeth surfaces. Stainless steel then replaced gold and silver as the most popular option for wires, due to its manipulability, and became the most cost-efficient option for braces.
Dental Emergencies and What To Do About Them
Braces have come a long way since their beginnings many centuries ago, but as braces have evolved, so have the problems that come with them. Although dental emergencies are few and far between when it comes to braces, there are some common issues that can be readily addressed and fixed if serious enough. The least serious issues that you can have with your braces is tooth tenderness and lip and cheek sores. As your teeth become accustomed to your braces, your teeth will most likely be sore for 2-4 days. Using headgear, rubber bands, and springs can add to this soreness, but that discomfort normally goes away in the same amount of time. Eating soft foods and taking an over the counter pain reliever can help dull the ache. Loose or broke bands and brackets are also another annoyance that sometimes occur with braces. Although not considered an emergency, they normally break due to patient’s eating prohibited foods or picking at their braces. Whenever this occurs, place a piece of wax on the spot of irritation and wait until your next orthodontic appointment, unless the broken bracket breaks on one of the upper or lower front four teeth, then call your orthodontist as soon as possible.
Protruding wires are not only bothersome, but can stab the inside of your lips and mouth if not fixed. Wires can come loose from eating sticky foods, like candy, or by picking at your braces. If this has occurred, try using a Q-tip or pencil eraser to push the wire in towards the teeth. To avoid accidental damage to the wire, make sure to not bite your nails or pens and pencils. In rare occasions, a piece of the appliance may break and be swallowed by the patient. Although alarming, keep calm and have someone look in your mouth to see if the appliance if visible. If confident that you can remove it, you may carefully attempt to do so. If you are unable to see the piece, are coughing excessively, or having difficulty breathing, that could be a sign that the piece could have been aspirated and you should contact your orthodontist immediately.
How To Protect Your Braces
Unless under extenuating circumstances, most dental emergencies are avoidable. Maintaining good oral health and hygiene throughout your time with braces is vital in ensuring healthy teeth and gums, and preventing cavities. Food particles are easier to get stuck between braces, and when not cleaned thoroughly, can lead to other dental emergencies, like tooth decay, which can cause major complications. Hard foods, sticky foods, and foods high in sugar should be avoided as they are known to break brackets and cause cavities, which you more susceptible of developing while wearing braces. Some of the need-to-avoid foods include hard candy, nuts, apples, popcorn, ice, gum, caramel, and licorice.
Because braces are so notorious for getting food stuck in them, make sure that you are brushing after every meal to prevent staining and reducing bacteria buildup in your mouth. Use a soft brush, and brush each tooth by starting at the top and brushing down, then repeating the motion and brushing up around each bracket. Use threadable floss of a floss threader to get the hard to reach areas in between teeth that are covered by the archwire. Using the pointed end, insert between the teeth and gently move the floss back and forth between the two teeth. For added care, use a proxabrush, sometimes called a “Christmas tree brush,” to scrub between each bracket in an up and down motion to get any extra gunk that might be stuck there. For any dental emergencies that you might be having, make sure to contact Belmar Orthodontics at (303) 225-9016 for your next consultation!
Getting braces on your teeth is an exciting time of life, as you are working towards a straighter, more beautiful smile. However, with hard work, there are often roadblocks along the way. Many patients find themselves with orthodontic or dental emergencies during their time with braces. Bands and brackets can become loose, wires can get pokey and problems with cavities or gum disease can happen. Find out what to do when orthodontic or dental emergencies like these strike and how to prevent them from happening in the first place!
What Dental Emergencies Are Common?
There are countless dental emergencies each year. Millions of people have them, and most don’t know what to do when they happen. Studies show that many people actually go to the emergency room for their dental emergencies instead of a dentist. However, those patients often get sent to their dentist or orthodontist anyways because they are the professionals that help with dental emergencies. If you ever have a dental emergency, call your dental or orthodontic office immediately to know what to do. If the problem is severe enough (such as a broken jaw), then go to the emergency room.
Dental emergencies that are common in patients include:
Cut or injury to the cheek, lip, tongue or gums
A broken tooth
A cracked tooth or tooth fracture
Knocked-out permanent tooth
Bleeding that doesn’t stop after a tooth falls out
If any of these dental emergencies happen to you, you want to promptly seek dental help. Some dental emergencies will have to be fixed by a dentist, while others will need the attention of an orthodontist. Luckily, orthodontic emergencies aren’t as severe as dental emergencies in most cases.
Dental Emergencies with Braces
You have to discern between dental emergencies and orthodontic emergencies. Problems with broken teeth are generally ones that a dentist will have to deal with. However, if you wear braces, then you will want to call both your dentist and your orthodontist. Some problems may need to be fixed without the bracket or wires on the teeth. For example, if a patient is having severe pain from a toothache, the problem could be tooth decay inside the tooth. A dentist can definitely fix the decay and fill the cavity, but the braces archwire or bracket might be in the way. In this situation, your orthodontist can take off your archwire—and even the bracket in certain instances—to fix the cavity.
If you break, crack, or fracture a tooth, you will need the orthodontist to remove your orthodontic appliance pieces in the area to receive your crown or dental implant. This is not something that happens often unless there is severe decay in a tooth that was fixed before braces. Most patients have a dental appointment before they get braces on their teeth to ensure there is no internal decay that will cause dental emergencies in the near future.
Types of Orthodontic Emergencies
Some orthodontic emergencies that can happen during your 18-24 months include:
Tooth Tenderness: The first 2-4 days with braces can leave you with tender teeth. Use over-the-counter pain relievers to help with this pain and warm saltwater rinses, if needed. At every braces adjustment, you may notice soreness for the first 2-4 days that will fade. However, if your tooth tenderness doesn’t go away, seek orthodontic help, especially if the soreness turns into severe pain.
Lip and Cheek Sores: Your mouth will have to adjust to braces. You will notice your braces a lot at first, but over time, the feel of them will become normal. The first few weeks is a common time for patients to get lip and cheek sores from brackets and wires. If you notice sores starting to form, use your orthodontic wax and place it on the area of your bracket or wire that is causing irritation. If that irritation persists, call us to adjust the orthodontic appliance.
Pokey Wires: Wires can come loose from sticky foods or from picking at your braces. When a wire protrudes, it can cut your gums and the insides of your cheeks, causing them to bleed. At home, try using a Q-tip or clean pencil eraser to push the wire in towards the teeth. This should stop the problem, but also call our office to have the wire adjusted or cut so it doesn’t cut up the inside of your mouth.
Loose Bands/Brackets: Brackets and bands can break, especially if you’re eating hard or sticky foods that are prohibited. In general, a broken bracket is not a dental emergency. However, if it causes you significant discomfort, call our office to have it fixed right away. This is especially true if the bracket or band hangs down or interferes with eating.
Seeking Help Promptly
Dental emergencies and orthodontic emergencies are never fun. However, there is a big difference between the two. Dental emergencies generally affect your overall oral health and can cause you to actually lose teeth if you don’t seek help. Anytime there is a broken, cracked, fractured, or knocked-out tooth, you want to seek prompt medical help. If you don’t, a dental implant might be your only option for restoring your smile.
Luckily, orthodontic emergencies aren’t quite as serious as dental emergencies. They can cause problems (even sores and cuts) with your teeth and gums, but you generally won’t lose a tooth in those situations. Your time with braces should be a pleasant, comfortable one. If your braces bother you or are painful, always let us know. For questions about orthodontic and dental emergencies, call Belmar Orthodontics today at (303) 225-9016!
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September 29, 2023
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