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Handling Orthodontic Issues at Home

Due to COVID-19, your orthodontist’s office may currently be postponing any non-emergent appointments and you may be wondering how to handle potential orthodontic issues at home. While there are steps you can take to temporarily fix or alleviate discomfort and prevent additional damage, your orthodontist should always be notified. Contact them if you have any concerns during this time.  Many times, they may be able to handle the issue over the phone or virtually through video communication.

During this time, make sure to stay in contact with your orthodontist about when they plan to reopen if you need to have any appointments rescheduled. For many offices, information regarding this is available on practices’ Facebook pages and/or websites.

Tools + Supplies

With these tools and supplies on hand, you will be prepared to handle the most common orthodontic issues

  • Orthodontic relief wax
  • Dental floss
  • Disinfected tweezers
  • Q-tips
  • Salt
  • Interproximal brush
  • Toothpicks
  • Non-prescription pain reliever (acetaminophen or ibuprofen)
  • Topical Anesthetic (such as Orabase or Ora-Gel)

Lost O-ring

An “O” ring is the tiny rubber band or sometimes a very thin wire (ligature), that holds the orthodontic wire in the bracket/brace. If a rubber o-ring should come off, you may be able to put it back in place using disinfected tweezers. If a wire ligature comes loose, simply remove it with the tweezers. If the wire ligature is sticking out into the lip but is not loose, it may be bent back down with a Q-tip or pencil eraser to eliminate the irritation.  Should this happen, be sure to contact your orthodontist to notify them and come up with a plan for repair. Note: self-ligating brackets don’t use o-rings.

Discomfort

It’s normal to have some discomfort during orthodontic treatment as your teeth move however it should not last longer than a couple days. Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water and over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may alleviate some discomfort.  If the discomfort lasts longer than a couple days, be sure to call your orthodontist to discuss.

Mouth Sores

Some patients are susceptible to episodes of mouth sores. While braces do not cause them, they may be precipitated or exacerbated by an irritation from braces. One or several areas of ulceration of the cheeks, lips or tongue may appear. This is not an emergency but may be very uncomfortable. Prompt relief may be achieved by applying a small amount of topical anesthetic (such as Orabase or Ora-Gel) directly to the ulcerated surface using a cotton swab – reapply as needed.  If after a couple days the discomfort does not resolve, call your orthodontist to discuss.

Irritation in Mouth

Sometimes braces or wires can be irritating to the mouth, especially when eating. A small amount of orthodontic relief wax makes an excellent buffer between metal and mouth. Simply pinch off a small piece and roll it into a ball the size of a small pea. Flatten the ball and place it completely over the area of the braces causing irritation.  Wax can be purchased at any drug store if you are unable to get some from your orthodontist during this time.

Protruding Wire

Occasionally the end of a wire will work itself out of place and can irritate the mouth. Use a Q-tip or clean tweezer and try to push the wire so that it is flat against the tooth. If the wire cannot be moved into a comfortable position, cover it with relief wax. Should changes with your wires occur during this time be sure to contact your orthodontist to make them aware of the issue.

Loose Braces or Bands

If the braces or bands have come loose in any way, call your orthodontist to determine appropriate next steps.

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Trust an AAO orthodontist

You can work with an American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) Orthodontist to achieve a healthy, beautiful smile at any age. Orthodontists are experts in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics – properly aligned teeth and jaws – and possess the skills and experience to give you your best smile. Find an orthodontist near you at aaoinfo.org/locator.