How to Fix Broken Braces: What to do When a Wire or Bracket Breaks

January 23, 2024

Braces are a critical component in the journey towards a perfect smile, but they are not immune to mishaps. 

Encountering a snapped wire or a dislodged bracket can be more than just uncomfortable—it can be a setback in your orthodontic treatment. Despite the best care, these incidents, often referred to as orthodontic emergencies, can occur due to a variety of reasons ranging from eating hard foods to an accidental impact. 

While the immediate response might be panic or discomfort, it's important to remember that these are common occurrences in orthodontic care. Knowing how to handle broken braces effectively can be the difference between a minor hiccup and a major issue in your treatment plan. 

As you navigate this unexpected turn, understanding the steps to mitigate damage and manage discomfort is crucial until you can receive professional dental advice from your orthodontist.

How Do I Know If My Braces are Damaged?

Identifying damage to your braces is a crucial first step in addressing orthodontic issues. While some signs of damage are immediately noticeable, others may be more subtle. 

The most common indicator is a visible break or bend in the wires or brackets, often accompanied by a sudden change in the fit or feel of your braces. This could manifest as a poking wire, a loose bracket, or an unattached elastic band.

Another telltale sign is discomfort or irritation in the mouth, which may not always stem from visible damage. 

For instance, if you feel unusual pressure on a tooth or a part of your gums, this could indicate an underlying issue with the braces’ alignment. 

Additionally, if you hear a clicking sound when chewing or speaking, this might suggest a component of the braces is loose or damaged.

It's also essential to regularly check for any changes in your braces after eating, as food particles can sometimes dislodge or damage components. 

A routine examination of your braces in front of a mirror can help you spot any anomalies like bent wires or brackets that have shifted from their original position.

Immediate Steps to Take

When faced with the common yet alarming issue of broken braces, taking immediate action can help prevent further complications. 

While it’s imperative to see your orthodontist as soon as possible, there are effective temporary measures you can take at home to manage the situation.

Temporary Fixes at Home

Step 1: Rinse with Saltwater

Start by rinsing your mouth with a saltwater solution. This helps clean the area and can reduce the risk of irritation or infection.

Step 2: Use Orthodontic Wax

If a wire is poking out or a bracket is causing discomfort, apply a small piece of orthodontic wax over the problematic area. This wax acts as a barrier, protecting your gums and inner cheeks from irritation.

Step 3: Secure Loose Components

For a loose bracket, if it’s still attached to the wire, gently push it back to its position and cover it with wax. If it’s completely out, store it safely and bring it to your orthodontist.

Step 4: Clip Protruding Wires

In cases where a wire is protruding and causing discomfort, use a sterile nail clipper to gently clip the wire. Be cautious and only do this if you can’t see your orthodontist immediately.

Pain Management

Tip 1: Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

For immediate pain relief, over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can be effective. Always follow the recommended dosage and consult with a healthcare provider if unsure.

Tip 2: Soft Foods Diet

Opt for a diet of soft foods to minimize pressure and discomfort on your teeth. Avoid hard, crunchy, or sticky foods that can exacerbate the issue.

Tip 3: Cold Compress

Applying a cold compress outside the mouth can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain. Do this for about 15-20 minutes every few hours as needed.

By following these steps, you can manage the immediate challenges posed by broken braces and mitigate discomfort until professional care is accessible.

Prevention Tips for the Future

Preventing damage to braces is key to a smooth and successful orthodontic journey. 

Adopting best practices for brace care and ensuring regular orthodontic check-ups can significantly reduce the risk of encountering broken braces.

Tip 1: Proper Oral Hygiene

Maintain a stringent oral hygiene routine. Brushing twice a day and flossing regularly helps prevent build-up that can put undue pressure on braces components.

Tip 2: Mindful Eating Habits

Avoid foods that are notoriously hard on braces, like popcorn, nuts, hard candies, and gum. Such items can easily damage wires and brackets.

Tip 3: Use of Protective Gear

If you’re involved in sports or activities that could impact your face, wear a mouthguard. This simple tool can protect your braces from damage due to physical contact.

Tip 4: Avoid Bad Oral Habits

Habits like nail-biting, pencil-chewing, or using your teeth as tools can exert extra force on your braces, leading to potential breakages.

When to See an Orthodontist

While many minor issues with braces can be temporarily managed at home, certain situations warrant immediate professional attention. 

Knowing when to seek the expertise of an orthodontist is crucial for your oral health and the effectiveness of your orthodontic treatment.

Recognizing Emergency Situations

Orthodontic emergencies require prompt attention from a professional. If you experience severe pain that cannot be alleviated with over-the-counter medication, it’s a clear sign to consult your orthodontist. 

Additionally, significant damage to your braces, such as a broken wire that causes injury to your mouth or a bracket that has completely come off and can’t be temporarily fixed, demands immediate care.

Other scenarios that require an orthodontist's intervention include:

  • Severe discomfort or injury caused by braces components.
  • An allergic reaction to any part of the brace, evident through swelling or excessive discomfort.
  • Any incident where a part of the brace is swallowed or causing choking.
  • In these situations, delaying a visit to the orthodontist can lead to more severe complications and potentially prolong your treatment.

Scheduling an Appointment

When you determine that a visit to the orthodontist is necessary, contact their office as soon as possible. Be clear and concise about your situation while scheduling the appointment. Providing detailed information about the issue with your braces will help the orthodontic team prepare for your visit and allocate the appropriate time and resources.

During the call, ask about any immediate steps you should take before the appointment, especially if you are experiencing discomfort. It’s also helpful to inquire about the expected duration of the visit and if there are any specific preparations required on your part.

If you're in Somerville, MA, and facing issues with your braces, or if you're considering starting your braces treatment journey, trust Somerville Ortho to provide the best solutions. 

At Somerville Ortho, we pride ourselves on offering top-notch orthodontic care, tailored to meet the unique needs of each patient. Whether you are dealing with the discomfort of broken braces or seeking a reliable orthodontic service for ongoing treatment, our experienced team is here to help.

So schedule your virtual or in-person appointment today to get started on a journey to healthier smiles with Somerville Orthodontics!

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