What Is An Orthodontic Emergency?

Having orthodontic appliances can come with some challenges and risks, though you can rest assured our team at Moon Orthodontics is more than prepared to take them with you. Today, we’re going to explain an important question: What is an orthodontic emergency?

Parts of Braces

To understand how they can sustain damage, you first need to know the components of braces. They have a lot of parts that work together to achieve alignment.

  • Brackets: Brackets are tiny, square-shaped pieces that attach to the front of the teeth when braces are applied. They are bonded with a strong adhesive but can still be removed with force.
  • Wires: These connect your brackets to one another and provide guided pressure over time. We’ll check them regularly and make adjustments as needed.
  • Bands: These small elastic bands can reinforce pressure on certain teeth. They come in a variety of colors. Larger ones can be used for jaw adjustment.

Examples of Potential Emergencies

An orthodontic emergency refers to a situation where there’s a problem or complication related to treatment that requires immediate attention from an orthodontist like Dr. Moon. These can arise with braces, aligners, or more advanced appliances, as well as from dental conditions like toothaches or injuries. Here are some examples:

  • Broken or Loose Brackets: If a bracket comes detached, this can cause discomfort and disrupt other parts. You should always get prompt attention.
  • Poking or Irritating Wires: Wires that protrude or poke into the cheeks, tongue, or gums can cause pain and irritation or injury to the soft tissues of the mouth.
  • Loose or Lost Bands: Bands that come loose or fall off may need to be reattached or replaced by Dr. Moon to maintain the effectiveness of treatment.
  • Severe Pain or Discomfort: Persistent or severe pain associated with your treatment, such as jaw pain or toothaches, may indicate underlying issues that require prompt evaluation and treatment.
  • Traumatic Injuries: Trauma to the mouth or face, such as a knocked-out tooth or injury to the jaw, may require immediate attention to prevent further damage and preserve dental health.
  • Swelling or Infection: Swelling, redness, or signs of infection around the gums or teeth can indicate underlying dental problems that require urgent evaluation and treatment to prevent complications. 

What Is An Orthodontic Emergency?

Taking Action

When an emergency arises, it’s important not to ignore it or postpone treatment. Also, remember that if the emergency is life-threatening or extremely severe, call 911 or visit an emergency room. For those that aren’t, let’s look at a good course of action to take:

  • Identify: Determine the nature of the dental or orthodontic issue. This can include what we discussed above regarding your appliance or other visible infection symptoms like pus or swelling. 
  • Assess: How severe is your issue? Symptoms that would be considered extremely serious include severe bleeding, difficulty breathing, or loss of consciousness—and will be best addressed immediately by the emergency department.
  • Contact Us: For non-life-threatening emergencies, contact our office as soon as possible. Explain your situation to us and follow the initial instructions we provide. This can include avoiding certain foods, over-the-counter pain relief, or applying cold compresses to reduce swelling.
  • Temporary Relief: While awaiting professional care, take medical action. For example, if you’re dealing with poking wire causing irritation, apply orthodontic wax to the affected area, or use a clean pencil eraser to gently push the wire into a more comfortable position.
  • Prevention: Take steps to prevent future emergencies by practicing good oral hygiene, caring for and maintaining your device per our guidance, and wearing protective mouthguards during sports or other activities. 


In these situations, try not to panic. Here are some additional answers that might help give you peace of mind:

Q: What if I’m unable to reach my orthodontist during an emergency?

If the emergency occurs on a day that we’re closed, locate a nearby emergency dental service or urgent care facility for more minor situations. They can offer you immediate evaluation and treatment options. If you’re in a facility that doesn’t specialize in orthodontics, explain your situation thoroughly.

Q: What if it’s a dental emergency?
If you’re dealing with lost or chipped teeth, for example, you should prioritize contacting your dentist. If you are unable to reach them, contact us.

Q: Will my insurance cover an emergency?
This will always vary based on your carrier and coverage. For accurate answers, contact them directly and ask about your coverage for orthodontic emergencies and any associated costs or reimbursement procedures.

What Is An Orthodontic Emergency?

Solutions You Can Trust

In the face of an orthodontic emergency, we’ll always make every effort to accommodate you for an emergency appointment. Don’t wait until your next scheduled visit—and even if it’s a day or two away, still give us a courtesy call to make us aware of the situation. We are here for you! You can reach our Overland Park or Olathe offices at (913) 914-9261.