Almost any procedure designed to change the shape and structure of your teeth is going to take a fairly long time. Braces, retainers and any other appliances which shift your teeth typically take several years to deliver results.
The slow nature of orthodontics means true emergencies are actually pretty rare. Let’s take an in-depth look at orthodontic problems, orthodontic emergencies and solutions for both.
What are True Orthodontic Emergencies?
Most orthodontic emergencies aren’t directly related to orthodontic appliances. Rather, they’re general dental emergencies which can happen to anyone. Unfortunately, orthodontics can often complicate a dental emergency.
Total or partial tooth loss is one of the biggest potential dental problems. On the plus side, orthodontics requires quite a few visits with a dental professional. So the possibility of tooth loss due to dental decay is minimal, because your teeth will be watched carefully for potential health problems.
If tooth loss or damage does occur, it’ll likely be the result of an accident. Unfortunately, braces and other appliances can result in additional damage to the mouth, gums and lips in an accident. This is why you’ll always want to wear a mouth guard when playing sports or otherwise engaging in physical activity.
What Should I Do if I Lose a Tooth?
If a tooth is knocked out, cracked or otherwise damaged, here’s what to do. First, you’ll need to handle the tooth carefully. Only touch the crown, which is the top part of the tooth. Rinse the tooth in clean water for about 10 seconds.
Traditionally, a knocked-out tooth should be inserted back into the socket for temporary storage. Tooth fragments should normally be stored between the gum and the cheek. Orthodontic work makes that difficult. Instead, store your tooth in a glass of whole milk.
Get to a dentist as soon as possible. Within 30 minutes is the ideal time window. While your regular orthodontist is the best option, the closest dental professional will be just fine.
What are Common Orthodontic Problems?
Braces will be on for anywhere between 18 months up to three years. During that time you’ll visit with the orthodontist about every six months. This gives you and the orthodontist plenty of opportunities to assess your concerns and potential problems. As a result, most orthodontic issues will naturally be dealt with during normal office hours.
There are still quite a few issues which aren’t exactly an emergency, but which do warrant a trip to the orthodontist within a day or two.
How Do I Handle Loose Wires, Brackets and Other Faulty Hardware?
Loose brackets, wires and appliances are some of the most common orthodontic problems. They can poke at the inside of your mouth. While this can be irritating, the function of the braces usually isn’t impaired.
If you have to wait a day or two to see the orthodontist, try placing wax on the irritating part of the appliance. Loose wires can sometimes be put back into place with tweezers. A pencil eraser can also sometimes work to push loose wires back into place. The urgency to visit the dentist really depends on how much pain the appliance is causing.
How Serious is Soreness?
Braces often cause slight pain following adjustments. This pain can include general soreness in your mouth and teeth. Bite pressure may also feel weak and tender.
A simple salt water rinse can help. Dissolve about a teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water. Rinse throughout your mouth. You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever. If the pain is still noticeable five days after the adjustment, make an appointment to see your orthodontist soon.
How Do I Pay for Orthodontic Emergencies?
One of the most effective ways to reduce costs for both general orthodontics and orthodontic emergencies is with a dental discount plan. This is an alternative to dental insurance with has a few perks which apply to orthodontic issues.
Dental discount plans are membership clubs which offer discounts of 15% to 60% on a wide variety of dental procedures, including many orthodontic procedures. Members present their discount card directly at the orthodontist’s office for instant savings.
Most dental insurance policies will only cover braces and other orthodontic if a separate orthodontic policy is purchased. Plus, the policy must be purchased before the orthodontic work is applied. If you already have orthodontic work in place, most dental insurance won’t help cover costs.
Dental discount plans have no such restrictions. Depending on the specifics of the discount plan, you can save on checkups and other standard orthodontic procedures. Plus, discounts can also be available for emergency services such as hardware repairs and tooth replacement.
Fortunately, true orthodontic emergencies are pretty rare. But they can still happen. Proper preparation will keep you comfortable without damaging your long-term tooth-straightening plan.