It can be scary to be at home, school, or sports practice and feel a part of your braces loosen or even fall completely off your tooth. The good news is that most times these emergencies are minor. A bracket that’s come loose, a wire out of place, or even something falling out of your appliance can be easily fixed by your orthodontist. But here are a few general rules and tips for how to handle these situations in the moment and until you can get into the office for a visit.
What are Some Common Orthodontic Emergencies?
Most emergencies involving braces center around a wire or rubber band coming detached. These two issues are minor and can be easily fixed by your orthodontist. Sometimes a bracket can come loose, and in extreme situations, a bracket could come completely off your tooth. These are times that you would keep the fallen bracket in a safe place and take it with you to your orthodontic appointment.
The most common question patients ask us is “When will my braces come off?”. More often than “What can I eat with braces?” or “Can I still play my favorite sports?” Patients want to know how long they’ll have to deal with braces at all. It’s an understandable question. Braces are hard to brush and floss around, they come with food restrictions, and they can be a source of embarrassment for teens at school or professionals in the workplace.
It’s common for patients to be excited to begin treatment, but it’s standard for every patient to begin to wonder when they’ll finally get those brackets off. Even though each patient is given an estimated treatment time wearing braces when they start, patients always hope they’ll be the exception that gets their braces off early.
It’s common for young children to put anything and everything into their mouths. This curiosity is normal, and unless it develops into bad habits that carry into later childhood, is beneficial to development. Habits like nail-biting, thumb sucking, using a pacifier excessively, and tongue thrusting as you swallow all have negative long-term effects on your oral health.
Thumb Sucking and Excessive Pacifier Use
Children are born with a natural sucking reflex, which is why they tend to gravitate towards thumb sucking or get attached to a pacifier as a self-soothing tool. This impulse disappears around the four-month mark, but most children keep the habit for much longer. This is natural, and most children end up growing out of any habitual thumb sucking or pacifier use by age four at the latest. Stopping this habit by age four is ideal, and usually results in no long-term orthodontic issues.
The pressure applied to teeth through the continuous sucking motion can cause issues with tooth positioning and the growth of the jaw bones. This can later manifest in an openbite, buck teeth, or underdeveloped lower jaw and chin.
Orthodontists usually recommend that children and parents work to break these habits on their own before treatment starts. If this proves ineffective, there are appliances that an orthodontist can install that make thumb sucking and self-soothing less pleasurable for the child.
Like thumb sucking, the anatomical reasoning for tongue thrusting should cease on its own. Tongue thrusting has to do with how someone swallows. When young children swallow, their tongues push against their teeth, as they grow older this should transition to the tongue applying pressure to the roof of the mouth during the swallowing process.
Some people never grow out of swallowing with their tongue on their teeth. This is what orthodontists refer to as tongue thrusting, or more formally orofacial muscular imbalance. Tongue thrusting eventually causes tooth displacement and an openbite. Oftentimes other non-orthodontic underlying issues must be addressed before orthodontic treatment can become effective.
These underlying issues must continue to be treated beyond orthodontic treatment as well to maintain the work your orthodontist has done. This of course means wearing your retainer, but also means that your dentist or another doctor may address a second issue with you.
Nail biting is another common bad habit in children and teens. While it certainly isn’t a good habit to keep up because of the dirt and germs residing under your nails, there are many more negative effects.
Biting your nails is bad for your general and oral health because you’re introducing bacteria and dirt into your mouth. The germs and grime you ingest while biting your nails can cause illness and the consistent biting is hard on your enamel.
Chewing your nails results in unnecessary wear on your teeth. It weakens the enamel and can even lead to chipping or the teeth becoming crooked. When you have braces, chewing your nails slows down orthodontic treatment. In addition to weakening the roots and making the teeth susceptible to movement, biting your nails can also displace brackets and wires. This makes your braces less effective and can result in more appointments to fix appliances or brackets.
Flossing isn’t the most exciting part of your nightly routine, but it’s essential to your oral health. Maintaining that excellent oral health is an integral part of your orthodontic journey! Before we get into how to become an expert braces flosser, here’s some more information about why flossing is so critical in the first place. Flossing is just as important as brushing your teeth to prevent gum disease, cavities, and bad breath. Flossing helps eliminate the accumulation of harmful bacteria and plaque resulting from food particles that get trapped between the teeth and under the gum line. These are places that the toothbrush can’t always reach!
Often the first step of orthodontic treatment is an expander. Expanders, or palatal expanders, are orthodontic appliances that increase the space between the halves of the upper jaw. While that sounds scary and painful, expanders are very common! Many young and growing orthodontic patients have expanders, and they can help make sure you don’t have to undergo surgery later!
One of our most common questions from patients is “What can I eat with my braces?” or “What foods do I have to give up?” and we have a few simple guidelines to share. Getting braces is a big change, and on top of the wires, brackets, or Invisalign trays, there’s a whole new set of habits you must get used to.
Luckily, we’re here to help and answer any questions you may have during treatment! If you keep these in mind, your smile and diet will be happy and healthy!
Suggestions and Tips for Braces Eating
When eating with braces, we always recommend brushing after meals. If you forgot your toothbrush, you could run to the bathroom and swish some water around to loosen stuck food particles.
If a bracket or wire comes loose while eating, you should call your orthodontist as soon as possible to replace or repair it. Keep any pieces of your appliance that fall out for your appointment! As always, contact your orthodontist with questions – we’re here to help!