What to Do If Your Dental Braces Break

Dental braces

Orthodontic treatment can do a world of good for your smile. If your teeth are crowded, crooked, spaced, or if you have an underbite, open bite or overbite, braces can help in correcting alignment and improving your confidence. While braces are incredibly durable and are meant to last for the extent of treatment, they can and will break under certain circumstances.

By sticking to softer foods and avoiding brushing too aggressively, you’ll be able to prevent your braces from breaking. If, however, your braces do break, it’s essential to call your orthodontist immediately to get in for an appointment. Most patients can be seen the same day as the emergency, but there may come a time when your braces break during off-hours or while you’re on vacation or traveling. Understanding what to do if your braces break can help you if you can’t get to your orthodontist immediately.

How Might Your Braces Break?

For patients who have ceramic or metal braces, the brackets themselves may become loose and fall off, causing the wiring to come down with it. The wire might also break or come loose, causing a sharp edge in the mouth before it can be replaced. If you have other orthodontic appliances like palate spreaders or metal bands, these can become loose and even fall out.

For patients who wear invisible braces, the clear aligner tray can break, crack, or go missing. By visiting your orthodontist regularly for your pre-scheduled appointments, wiring, brackets, and bands can be checked to see if they’re loose. However, sometimes these appliances simply fall out when it’s least expected, causing the need for an emergency orthodontic appointment.

Avoid Chewing Gummy, Hard Foods Until You See the Orthodontist

Woman looking in fridge

While it’s important to avoid eating chewy or hard foods while wearing braces, it’s especially important to avoid these foods if your braces are broken. The chewy and hard foods can further break the appliances, pulling them off of the teeth and causing additional irritation. Some of the foods you should avoid eating when you’re dealing with broken braces include:

  • Gummy candies
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Caramel
  • Beef jerky
  • Pretzels
  • Popcorn
  • Gum
  • Corn-on-the-cob
  • Hard pieces of bread (bagels)
  • Ice
  • Nuts

Until you can get in to see an orthodontist, these foods should be avoided to prevent the problem from getting worse. If you make it a habit to eat the foods mentioned above regularly, this could be a reason why your braces might have broken in the first place. It’s recommended that orthodontic patients stick to softer foods during treatment to prevent the brackets and wires from breaking or becoming loose.

Use Orthodontic Wax to Protect Soft Tissue

Orthodontic wax can be purchased at virtually any drugstore or supermarket. The clear wax comes in a small case and can be broken apart as needed. Orthodontic wax can be applied to areas of sharp metal to prevent damage and irritation to the soft tissue of your cheeks, gums, and lips.

Orthodontic wax is safe to use and harmless if accidentally swallowed. Until you can get in to see an orthodontist, the wax is handy for preventing sharp, jabbing metal from irritating your mouth and causing sores, infections or lacerations.

Rinse with Warm Salt Water to Prevent Infection

Water pouring into glass

Warm salt water rinses are a dental staple for any patient experiencing pain, swelling, or mouth irritation. The rinses are often recommended to orthodontic patients to help bring down swelling and to heal cuts and sores inside of the mouth.

To make a saltwater rinse, you will add 1/2 teaspoon of regular table salt to a cup of warm water. You can use this mixture as you would a mouthwash, swishing it around your mouth for about 30 to 60 seconds. The warm salt mixture will help to heal open cuts and sores in the mouth as well as prevent infection. You can do a warm salt water rinse several times a day as needed to help with irritation and soft tissue injuries.

Do Not Attempt to Fix the Braces Yourself

While it might seem tempting to try to fix the braces yourself using superglue or other adhesives, it is vitally important that you seek help from an orthodontist. Superglue and other adhesives are not meant to be used in the mouth and are harmful if swallowed.

What’s more, the glue can damage your teeth when the orthodontist tries to remove the bracket that you fixed yourself. It is always a wise decision to visit the orthodontist for care as opposed to trying to fix the problem yourself. Most patients can be seen on the same day, so there is never an excuse to use superglue or other commercial adhesives.

Bring Any Broken Orthodontic Materials with You

If a bracket, band, wire or other orthodontic material has fallen out completely, bring it with you when going to your emergency appointment. In some cases, the material can be cleaned and reused without having to use brand new. If you are paying for your braces outright or if you have a custom-made orthodontic device, it could save you money and time to bring in what has fallen out.

Put in Your Most Recent Set of Aligners if You Wear Invisible Braces

invisible braces

If you wear invisible braces and the aligner has cracked or broken, put your most recent set of aligners in to continue treatment. It could take some time to have brand new aligners made if your old set has cracked, so by wearing a previous set of aligners, you’re not stalling treatment completely and can progress with the orthodontic care that was planned. This is also why it’s important to keep at least the most recent set of aligners so that they can be worn if your new aligners become lost or broken.

By being careful with what you’re eating and how you care for your braces, you’ll find that you experience fewer emergencies during your orthodontic treatment, if at all. If, however, you do experience an emergency of any kind, call your team of professionals immediately to schedule an appointment and take steps to protect your teeth, gums, and mouth from further irritation until the braces can be repaired.

About the Author

Dr. Scott Futch

Dr. Scott F. Futch, DDS

Dr. Scott Futch has been a clinical director for Absolute Dental since April 2017. Dr. Futch graduated from University of Michigan School of Dentistry and completed his training at the Dawson Academy; a postgraduate multi-disciplinary education clinical research facility dedicated to the advancement of dentistry. Dr. Futch has had over 25 years of experience as a skilled clinician, mentor and coach.

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