Common Orthodontic Emergencies and How to Act Fast


St. Paul, MN: Orthodontic treatment sets out with lofty goals: to align one’s teeth in a relatively timely manner and allow for more oral comfort and enhanced health. However, sometimes the best-laid plans can go horribly awry.

Serving the greater Minneapolis and St. Paul areas, a leading orthodontist explains, “When undergoing any kind of medical treatment – be it orthodontic or otherwise—it’s important to know when to call for emergency care.”

What Are Examples of Orthodontic Emergencies?

Generally, orthodontic problems fall into two categories: those requiring immediate attention and action, and those that can usually wait until the next business day. It’s up to the patient to decide the urgency of the problem, but there are some general guidelines.

Examples of true orthodontic emergencies are:

  • Trauma: Any direct injury to the mouth, including the teeth, gums, lips, tongue, or face. If any orthodontic appliance (like braces or headgear) is involved, this warrants an emergency situation.
  • Unrelenting or unbearable pain: If there is severe pain in the mouth that can’t be alleviated with ice or over-the-counter medications like Tylenol, immediate care may be implicated.
  • Swelling or infection: This applies to the areas listed above. If the swelling is severe enough to cause difficulty breathing or swallowing, emergency attention is needed. If there is difficulty or pain when eating, care should be sought as soon as possible.

In all of the above cases, an orthodontist should be called immediately, or the patient should be taken to a hospital or emergency room as necessary.

Examples of non-emergencies that still require prompt care include:

  • Loose or broken pieces: For braces, this means wires, brackets, anchors, or bands. Wax can be used to temporarily soothe the pain associated with loose wires, but only an orthodontist can permanently fix the problem.
  • Misplaced wires or pieces: If any mouth hardware is missing or no longer fitting properly, it should be replaced as soon as possible to avoid further complications.
  • General pain or loose teeth: For manageable but persistent pain, or for loose teeth, the orthodontist should reevaluate the patient immediately to correct the care plan.

Sometimes, it’s a judgment call that you as a patient or parent have to make. However, if breathing or swallowing becomes problematic, you should always seek emergency care immediately.

If you’re interested in fixing your current orthodontic woes, schedule a free consultation with an ORTHODONTIST today! If it’s more convenient, you may also set up an appointment by calling (651) 447-6768.

About Your Doctor: Your ORTHODONTIST and team provide skilled and caring orthodontic treatment to patients throughout the St. Paul/Minneapolis, Rosemount, Eagan, and Apple Valley areas. Schedule an appointment today to discover why patients choose us for their new, beautiful smiles.

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