How to handle orthodontic emergencies

Thank you for bearing with us while the practice is closed. We will reopen as soon as possible, but in the meantime, we’re here to support you however we can.

Unfortunately, we’re unable to see patients at the practice right now, even if you experience a problem with your braces. However, to help you cope at home, we’ve outlined some of the more likely brace predicaments and their solutions.

You can also find video instructions for dealing with common complaints on the British Orthodontic Society’s website.

If you need our help, or you’re experiencing a high level of discomfort, please contact our practice manager

Your braces are ready to remove

If your braces are due to come off, we’ll contact you to rearrange your debond appointment as soon as we get the go ahead to reopen. In the meantime, wearing your braces for a bit longer won’t harm your teeth in any way. Just make sure you keep them clean and avoid sugary snacks and drinks.

You’ve reached your last Invisalign aligner

When you reach your final Invisalign aligner, keep wearing it at night. Otherwise, your teeth could move, and your next aligner won’t fit properly. If anything happens to your last aligner, wear the previous aligner for two weeks, then continue to wear it at night until we can see you again.

Your archwire is poking your cheek

If you have a thin archwire in place, it may have shifted to one side, leaving one end poking out. Using tweezers, you may be able to gently move the wire back into position. If this doesn’t work, you can use nail clippers or scissors to trim the very end of the wire.

If your archwire is thicker, it will be more challenging to move or trim. Instead, try covering the protruding end with a small piece of dental wax. Roll it into a ball and push it over the end of the wire.

We can send you some wax in the post, but in an emergency, you can also use cheese wax (the kind you find on Babybel) or even sugar-free chewing gum.

You’ve lost your removable retainers

If you lose your removable retainers, we might advise you to purchase a custom-mouldable mouthguard online. You can wear this at night to minimise the risk of your teeth moving. Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee that this will stop your teeth from shifting, but it may be better than nothing.

Your fixed retainer has broken

If your fixed retainer breaks, use your fingers or tweezers to flatten the wire. If the broken ends of the retainer are still poking out and irritating your tongue, you can try trimming them with some nail clippers or scissors. Alternatively, you can use dental wax, or your wax substitute, to cover any sharp areas.

If you experience any problems with your fixed retainers, wear your removable retainers more frequently to avoid any unwanted movement.

A bracket has fallen off your tooth

A loose bracket isn’t an emergency unless it’s damaging your gums or the inside of your mouth. In this instance, we may need to guide you on how to remove the bracket safely at home.

If you’re not in any pain, you can use dental wax to stop the bracket moving around. Roll a piece of wax into a ball (roughly the size of a pea) and place it over the escaped bracket.

Your power chain has detached

Your power chain is designed to stop working after 4–6 weeks, so if it’s not causing you any problems, it doesn’t need to be removed.

If it starts to detach from your brackets, you can carefully trim the loose section using nail clippers or scissors.

An elastic ligature has snapped

The small coloured ligatures/bands that hold your archwire in place may start to wear out and break. This could cause your archwire to come away from your brackets. If this happens, you can use tweezers to gently place the archwire back in position.

Without an elastic ligature, your bracket may start to rub the inside of your mouth. You can use dental wax to smooth the bracket and secure the archwire in place.

You may be able to replace the elastic ligature yourself. The BOS have put together this very handy guide. If you need more elastic bands, please contact

A metal tie has unravelled

If your brackets are secured by metal ties instead of elastic ligatures, these can occasionally unravel and become uncomfortable.

You may be able to persuade the tie back around the tooth using the end of your tweezers or similar. Or, failing this, you can use dental wax to stop it rubbing.

You’ve run out of elastic bands

If you’re wearing elastic bands to improve the position of your jaws, contact us when you start running low. We can pop some more in the post to you, or we may advise you to stop wearing your elastic bands until your next appointment.

How to avoid an emergency

Most orthodontic emergencies are minor, and many can be avoided. To keep your teeth and braces healthy during the COVID-19 lockdown:

  • Brush and floss your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day
  • Make sure you clean carefully around your brackets and between your wires
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks, especially between meals
  • Don’t bite into anything hard, chewy or sticky – this could break a bracket or bend your archwire
  • Store your retainers and aligners safely in their cases when you’re not wearing them
  • Keep your previous set of Invisalign aligners, just in case you need to step back

We’re looking forward to seeing you again soon and getting you back on track for a fantastic result. Rest assured, when we reopen, we’ll do everything we can to see you as quickly as possible.

Meet our Invisalign orthodontist

Read more

Are orthodontists different to dentists?

Read more

The perils of mail-order braces

Read more