woman getting a dental exam

What Is Considered an Orthodontic Emergency?

An orthodontic emergency can happen at any time - even after office hours. When something goes wrong or does not feel right, it is natural to question whether or not you should be concerned. And, it is really easy to start panicking in moments like this, too. 

If you find yourself here, relax. Panicking is not going to help. Besides, most orthodontic emergencies aren’t really emergencies at all - they just feel that way. The best thing you can do is have a good understanding of the mishaps or problems that may arise with your orthodontic treatment - and have a plan to handle them if they do. 

Different Levels of Pain

Discomfort is normal when you go through certain orthodontic treatments, such as braces. When they are first fitted, when they are tightened, and the initial adjustment can all lead to a lot of uncomfortable moments. This is normal. Severe pain, however, is an emergency. 

The following are not considered orthodontic emergencies. 


You may experience mild pain or inflammation as the brackets or wires aggravate the inside of your mouth. New aligners may need time to adjust and bring you some discomfort, too. This is all expected and should disappear within several days. Rinse with salt water, use an over-the-counter pain medicine, and apply ice to areas of inflammation. 

Irritating Wires

If you feel poking from wires or the inside of your mouth is getting scratched, you may have encountered some shifting - which is what your orthodontist intends. Of course, this doesn’t make your cheeks feel any better. Try to push down the wire so it is no longer poking you. You may want to try using some orthodontic wax, too. Then, when possible, contact your orthodontist for an appointment to have the wire cut. 

The following are considered orthodontic emergencies. Should you experience any of the following, contact your orthodontist immediately. 

Severe Pain

You shouldn’t have intense or severe pain. Therefore, if you do, then it is considered an orthodontic emergency. If you have tried cold compresses, rinsing with salt water, and orthodontic wax, and nothing has worked, then it is time to contact your orthodontist for an appointment. 

Broken Orthodontic Appliances

If any part of your appliance breaks with no temporary fix, you will want to contact your orthodontist for an appointment. The same holds true if you have a wire poking your cheek without the relief we talked about above, then contact your orthodontist. 

Mouth Sores

Mouth sores are common when you have orthodontic appliances in your mouth or are receiving orthodontic treatment. While they can be incredibly uncomfortable, they do not necessarily constitute an orthodontic emergency. Rinse your mouth with salt water and use an over-the-counter anesthetic gel. If the sore doesn’t show signs of healing over the next few days, then you will want to contact your orthodontist for an appointment. 

Loose Brackets and Rubber Bands

If you have traditional metal braces, you know that the brackets are glued onto each tooth rather sturdily - which means it is rare for it to just pop off. Nonetheless, it happens. If it does, then you should call your orthodontist as soon as possible. The bracket is still attached to wires, so it isn’t going anywhere, but you will want to have it reattached quickly. 

Issues with rubber bands are not considered an emergency. If your orthodontist is using rubber bands as a way of correcting your bite, then you may encounter a time when it pops off, breaks, or simply disappears. Using the rubber bands you should have at home, replace the rubber bands. That’s all you need to do. 

Lake Minnetonka Orthodontics is there for You in Case of Emergency

At Lake Minnetonka Orthodontics, we want you to have the most worry-free orthodontic experience. If you ever find yourself dealing with an emergency, reach out to us. We will ease your worry and schedule an appointment for you to come in at the location that is most convenient for you.