Recognizing What Isn't An Orthodontic Emergency And What You Can Do Until You See A Dentist

Few orthodontic problems need immediate medical attention. Although uncomfortable, pain and soreness are typical side effects, especially when braces are first put on. Since many symptoms and repairs can wait, there are self-help steps you can take to get temporary relief until you can see your orthodontist or dentist who does orthodontics.

Problem: Tenderness and minor tooth pain are common when you wear braces. Wearing braces can be uncomfortable in the beginning until you get used to the added pressure on your teeth.

It's also normal for your teeth to feel a bit loose. After all, braces straighten your teeth by moving them into their proper alignment and positions.

Self-treatment: Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen for mild to moderate toothache pain. However, some dentists and orthodontists recommend not taking ibuprofen for brace-related pain. Animal studies have suggested that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory analgesics may interfere with orthodontic tooth movement.

Placing a cold compress on the outside of your cheek where it hurts also can ease pain by numbing the area.

When you see your dentist or orthodontist: Ask if your braces can be loosened. The pain may be coming from braces that are too tight. If this isn't the case, your dentist will explain that getting used to wearing braces takes time and patience.

Problem: Eating hard or sticky foods can cause a bracket or band to break or come loose.

Self-treatment: If the bracket is still attached to the wire, cover it with orthodontic wax. Dry the area first with a clean cloth or tissue and then press the wax onto the bracket or wire. This will keep the broken bracket from irritating the inside of your mouth. If the bracket has broken off or the band comes off, keep it until you can see your dentist.

Avoid consuming acidic foods and beverages, which can irritate mouth sores that may develop when your braces rub against the inside of your cheeks.

When you see your dentist or orthodontist: If the problem isn't causing you discomfort, your orthodontist may wait until your next regular appointment to reposition or reattach a loose or broken bracket, wire, or band. In some cases, you may need to have a bracket or wire replaced.

Problem: Once braces start to move your teeth in place, the archwire can poke and irritate the inside of your cheek.

Self-treatment: Use the tip of a cotton swab or the eraser at the end of a pencil to gently move the wire into a better position. If that doesn't work, try using tweezers to move the wire. Do not cut the wire.

When you see your dentist or orthodontist: Your dentist may snip the ends of wires on your braces that are protruding and rubbing against your tongue, gum, or the inside of your cheek.

While most orthodontic problems can wait, if you break a tooth, experience severe pain, or have swelling of the face, mouth, or gums that could be a sign of infection, you need to see a dentist, like those at Peak Family Dentistry & Orthodontics, immediately.