There’s nothing like taking a bite into your favorite piece of candy just to have your braces break! Fortunately, orthodontic emergencies with braces, retainers, and Invisalign are not too common, but they are also easily fixed.
Orthodontics has come a long way since the first modern braces for teeth were invented in 1819 by Christophe-Francois Delabarre. The first metal braces were a bit unwieldy and unsightly – though still perhaps better than the ancient Egyptian method of using catgut (animal intestines) to try to pull gapped teeth together!
Modern braces and orthodontic appliances are much less likely to cause problems than even the clunky metal braces of the 1970s and 80s. Today’s “traditional metal braces” use smaller brackets, which don’t get as much in the way of everyday behaviors such as chewing. Invisalign clear aligners are in many ways almost foolproof – unless you abuse them or lose them.
But, on occasion, an orthodontic emergency can still happen. Concerned about orthodontic emergencies in Santa Barbara? Here is what to look for and how to handle it.
Today’s braces come in two main types: traditional metal braces and clear aka ceramic braces. Both use smaller brackets that previous braces, which means they won’t get in the way as much when you chew. However, you can still run into occasional problems with modern braces.
First, you should be aware that clear (ceramic) braces are more prone to breakage than traditional metal braces. Ceramic braces give a more “invisible” look that many teens and adults prefer. However, the drawback is that clear ceramic is a bit more fragile than metal, and thus you need to be more careful with it than metal braces.
That said, both ceramic and metal brackets can break off of teeth, and that can happen when we eat certain types of hard foods such as hard candies or chew on ice.
Broken brackets are just one possible orthodontic emergency with braces. You might also have a wire coming out of the braces. This can be very uncomfortable if it is poking the gums or inside of the mouth.
If you have a wire coming out of your braces, you can cover the pointy end with a bit of wax before coming to our office to have it fixed.
Because Invisalign clear aligners don’t have a lot of parts such as metal wires or brackets, they are less likely to incur orthodontic emergencies than traditional braces. Probably the most common orthodontic emergency with Invisalign clear aligners is just losing the aligner. This can happen, for example, if you take the clear aligner out to eat out at a restaurant and leave it on the table.
Another problem that can occur with Invisalign clear aligners is warping or cracking. This is much more likely to happen if your Invisalign trays aren’t stored properly – for example, if you expose your clear aligners to extremes of hot and cold temperatures.
Once in a while, someone may come in because their Invisalign clear aligners were completely broken – which can happen if they fall off a table and someone steps on them.
Unlike traditional braces, Invisalign clear aligners can’t be repaired or fixed if they become cracked, warped, or broken. We can work with you on how best to approach an Invisalign problem, which could include ordering a new clear aligner tray, reverting back to the previous set of aligners, or moving forward to the next clear aligner. Either way, don’t worry, we can get you back on track with your orthodontic treatment.
Retainers, like Invisalign clear aligners, can be easily lost or misplaced if you aren’t careful. So be sure to keep track of your retainer, and if you need to take it off at a restaurant, first put it in its case and then put it in your purse, bag, or pocket, rather than leaving it on the table.
Losing retainers is more common among distracted kids and teenagers so be sure to educate your children on the importance of good habits in taking care of them.
Retainers can also warp if they are left on a hot dashboard, so be careful about leaving them in a car on a hot summer day.
The wires that are attached to retainers can sometimes also dislodge or break. If this happens, you’ll want to contact us right away at (805) 284-0826.
Other orthodontic emergencies can include problems such as an ill-fitting device suddenly causing pain in the mouth. Any sort of dental emergency, such as chipping, breaking, or losing a tooth, can also become an orthodontic emergency if it impacts braces or another orthodontic treatment.
One possibly overlooked orthodontic emergency is infection. Our mouths have bacteria in them. This is normally not a problem unless we allow the bacteria to gain a strong foothold via poor dental hygiene. If you don’t brush and floss properly, you could end up with gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) or periodontitis, which is when the inflammation has progressed to a full-blown infection. Infected gums can be painful, and gum disease can lead to loose teeth and eventually lost teeth.
Acute and/or chronic bacterial infections in the mouth, such as a dental abscess aka tooth abscess, can actually become quite serious if left untreated. You can develop sepsis, which is a life-threatening condition.
Thus, if you have bleeding gums that are suddenly taking a turn for the worse, you should come visit our dental office in Santa Barbara right away. This can be especially problematic if you are an adult with braces, so don’t wait! If you start developing a high fever and your face is swollen, and it’s after hours, you should go to the nearest emergency room.
The best way to avoid problems with braces, Invisalign clear aligners, and retainers is to maintain your dental hygiene through proper brushing and flossing. If you or our child have braces, please be sure to come in for your regular checkups and adjustments. Avoid eating foods such as popcorn, toffee, or hard candies that can put stress on your braces. Also, develop good habits and make sure you keep track of your retainer or Invisalign clear aligners. Let us know if you have any questions!
See Me Smile Dental & Orthodontics is the premiere dental office in Santa Barbara, California. We are experts in quickly resolving orthodontic emergencies. If you are having issues with your braces, retainer, or Invisalign clear aligners, contact us right away by calling (805) 284-0826.