Orthodontic Emergencies

Many common orthodontic problems and emergencies can be handled easily at home. If you want to call our office and report the problem, it would be helpful to understand and describe the problem area. The diagram below identifies many of the parts and pieces of a typical set of braces.

braces diagram

A. Ligature tie
The archwire is held into each bracket with a ligature tie, which can be either a tiny elastic o-ring or a twisted wire.
B. Archwire
The archwire is the long wire that is tied into all of the brackets, creating force to move teeth into proper alignment.
C. Brackets
Brackets are connected to the bands, or directly bonded on the teeth, and hold the archwire in place.
D. Metal Band
The band is the cemented ring of metal which wraps around the tooth.
E. Elastic Hooks & Rubber Bands
Elastic hooks are used for the attachment of rubber bands, which help move teeth toward their final position.


True Emergencies

Trauma to tooth or a tooth came out
If a tooth has been knocked out, do not clean off the tooth.

  • Call your family dentist immediately to inform them of what has happened.
  • Upon locating the tooth, hold the enamel end of the tooth, not the pointed root end.
  • Do not rinse the tooth in water and do not scrub the root. You may carefully remove any large debris. If possible, put tooth back in socket where tooth was and hold it in place with gauze or washcloth. If it is not possible to replace the tooth in its socket, put the tooth into cup of milk or saline solution, or put the tooth between the cheek and gum. Do not put the tooth in plain water.
  • Apply an ice pack to the affected soft tissue area to reduce swelling.
  • Do not let the tooth dry out. A tooth can often be saved if cared for properly and re-implanted within an hour.

Broken tooth

  • Clean the injured area and apply an ice pack to the effected soft tissue area to reduce swelling.
  • Save the tip of the tooth (for possible reattachment) and call your general dentist right away.

Piece of the Orthodontic Appliance is Swallowed or Aspirated
If you are able to see the piece, you may carefully attempt to remove it. But do not make the attempt if you would cause the patient harm.

Encourage the patient to remain calm. If the patient is coughing excessively or having difficulty breathing, the piece could have been aspirated (drawn into the lung).

If there is no coughing or difficulty in breathing, and you suspect the piece has been swallowed, call the Dr. Staples for advice and instructions.

If you are unable to see the piece and believe it may be have been aspirated, call 911 (or the appropriate emergency number for your area) and Dr. Staples immediately. The patient should be taken to an urgent care facility for an x-ray to determine the location of the piece. A physician will have to determine the best way to remove it.

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