What Should I Do in an Orthodontic Emergency at School?

If you or your child is a first-time braces wearer, you may have many questions regarding how everything works and how you will navigate life with braces. Some college students wearing braces for the first time are particularly anxious about what to do in an orthodontic emergency that occurs at school.

While wearing braces does require an adjustment in lifestyle, true emergencies involving these orthodontic appliances are rare. However, smart wearers will understand just what can go awry and just what actions to take if they do.

The first thing to remember is that if you are in tremendous pain, losing blood, or blacking out, you or someone near you should call 911 immediately, or you should go to the nearest emergency room. Don’t panic, though. Most orthodontic emergencies can be handled easily by you or by your orthodontist.

Let’s explore some typical orthodontic emergencies so you can feel more comfortable with how to proceed safely if one of these happens to you.

What to Do for Standard Orthodontic Emergencies at School

Whether your child is in middle school, high school, or college, sending them off to school in braces for the first time can be anxiety-provoking for you and for your child wearing the braces. That is why it is important to understand and plan for any emergencies that may arise when your child is out of your care.

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Please go over these with your child so that they know what to do in the event any of these occurs.

1. An Impact to the Mouth or Jaw

Kids from ages five through 18 account for about 2.4 million sports-related injuries, 6% of which involved concussions. If your child receives a blow to the head, mouth, or jaw because of a sports injury or other accident at school, they may require urgent care.

While a school nurse or other authority will be able to know immediately if you need to head to the emergency room for treatment, they may not be looking at the interior of your mouth when making their assessment. If you have an injury to your gums or have chipped, cracked, or lost a tooth, you should see an emergency dentist right away, after which you should contact your orthodontist.

2. Swallowed Bracket or Band

While it only happens rarely, swallowing a broken bracket or band can be unsettling. If you can’t stop coughing or have trouble breathing, you may have breathed the piece into your lungs, and you should go to the emergency room.

If you aren't having any difficulties breathing, then, believe it or not, your appliance will most likely pass through your digestive system without any issues, but you should immediately contact your orthodontist and make an appointment to get a checkup and braces repair.

3. Wires Poking Into Your Cheek or Gums

Sometimes a wire can work itself out of place and poke into your cheek and gums. If this happens in-between visits to your orthodontist, you may be able to fix it on your own. Here are some simple steps you can take:

First, try repositioning the wire on your own using an eraser or the end of a cotton swab to gently move it flat against your tooth. If that doesn’t work and the wire is still poking into your soft tissues, cover the end of it with some special wax you can get from your orthodontist to have on hand. If you don’t have any wax, you can use a cotton ball or soft gauze to hold you over until you can schedule a visit with your orthodontist to address the situation.

4. Broken/Loose Brackets

Sometimes the adhesive that holds the brackets — the part of your braces that attach directly to your teeth — fails, and the bracket comes loose. Other times, patients can contribute to broken and loose brackets by eating sticky or crunchy foods or even by an impact to the mouth during sports or other activities. Some braces wearers tend to play with their brackets, and this habit can also contribute to the loosening of brackets.

If you have a loose bracket, make a call to your orthodontist so you can get an appointment to have it re-seated. If the free bracket has rotated and is sticking out of place, you can sterilize a set of tweezers and slide it back into the center of the teeth for better comfort.

5. Lost Retainer or Aligner

Because you have to take out retainers and aligners in order to eat, they often get forgotten, lost, or even inadvertently thrown into the trash. Not wearing your retainer can cause your teeth to shift out of place, and not wearing your aligners means you are not making any progress toward your perfect smile.

If you lose an aligner, wear the previous week’s aligner until you can schedule an appointment with your orthodontist and receive a replacement aligner. If you lose your retainer, contact your orthodontist’s office immediately so they can create a new one for you as soon as possible to keep your teeth from shifting.

Orthodontics of Santa Barbara — You Can Count on Us in an Orthodontic Emergency!

At Orthodontics of Santa Barbara, we know how scary it can be to encounter an orthodontic emergency while you are at school. While your school nurse can help direct you, you should have some basic ideas of how to proceed to keep your confidence high in the event that any of these happens to you.

You can also download this great PDF from the American Association of Orthodontics that covers some other emergencies that can be an issue for braces wearers. In the meantime, our office is focused on providing fast, convenient care for all our patients with a flexible appointment system that will get you seen as soon as possible.

Experiencing an orthodontic emergency? Contact us at (805) 979-9070, and let’s get you seen as soon as possible!

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