What Is an Orthodontic Emergency?

Slightly sore teeth with braces are a normal part of the straight smile experience, but what happens when more serious issues come up? If you’re wondering what to do in case of an orthodontic emergency, keep reading to learn how Dr. Chamberlain and the Chamberlain Family Orthodontics team help patients through any situation. 

What Is An Orthodontic Emergency?

The term “orthodontic emergency” refers to any condition that requires attention before your next scheduled appointment with Dr. Chamberlain. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation, however, which is why we divide emergencies into two categories: major and minor. Your reaction will be different depending on the type of emergency you’re facing, so it’s important to understand the two types and what exactly constitutes a “true” orthodontic emergency.

Major Emergencies

“True” orthodontic emergencies are rare – but they are not impossible. While you will likely never face an emergency at this scale, it’s essential to be prepared for the worst just in case. Major conditions include trauma to the face or teeth, which may leave a tooth loose or fractured. Oral infections, allergic reactions after appliances are placed, and swallowed appliance parts are other examples of major emergencies that may require immediate attention.

For those who experience a serious condition, the first thing to do is stay calm and assess the level of care you need at that moment. If you’re experiencing a life-threatening emergency or cannot reach Dr. Chamberlain, it’s best to visit the nearest urgent care or emergency room. If the situation is pressing, but you don’t believe it requires immediate medical intervention, you’ll want to call our office to set up an appointment as soon as possible to ensure your teeth stay healthy and your treatment stays on track. 

Minor Emergencies

Although minor emergencies are still extremely important to address, they are not as urgent as major emergencies. Issues like pokey wires, loose brackets, broken appliances, or lost retainers all count as minor conditions. Left unchecked, these problems can snowball, leading to pain and discomfort or additional time spent in braces or aligners, which is why it is so important to address these issues as soon as possible. 

Some conditions, like loose brackets or broken appliances, require an in-office appointment, but other conditions, like pokey wires, can be managed at home. Orthodontic wax is an excellent tool to reduce soft tissue irritation caused by poking wires or bands. You can also try a salt water rinse, warm compress, or over-the-counter pain reliever to ease discomfort.

If you’re unsure how to approach a minor emergency, call our office for additional guidance. 

Comfort Care & Repair Appointments

Any and all orthodontic emergencies should be taken seriously, but our team’s approach to managing them may be a little different depending on the type of emergency you’re dealing with. 

If you or your child are facing a major emergency, you’ll want to call our office right away. Dr. Chamberlain will be available to offer orthodontic assistance if you choose to go to the emergency room. 

Otherwise, if you are experiencing a minor emergency, we can set up an appointment as soon as possible so that our team can provide comfort care. Please note that broken brackets or appliances may still require a separate repair appointment because we cannot complete repairs during routine adjustments. It’s important to call the office to report minor emergencies as far in advance as possible so that we can plan accordingly. 


The best way to stay healthy and happy while going through treatment is to put plans in place that help you prevent emergencies before they occur. Try these options below to protect your smile during treatment.

Use an Orthodontic Mouthguard

One way to keep your smile safe, especially while participating in contact sports, is to wear an orthodontic mouthguard. These removable appliances fit directly over and around your braces and teeth. They’re designed to protect the soft tissues in your mouth from being cut or scraped by your braces, and will also prevent brackets or bands from breaking and slowing your treatment progress. 

Avoid the Wrong Foods

Foods like popcorn or hard candies are a no-go for braces patients. In fact, orthodontic patients should avoid sticky, crunchy, and chewy foods, as these could cause the brackets and wires in your mouth to bend or break. Broken brackets and bent wires cause your treatment to take longer, so following this rule is a must!

What Is an Orthodontic Emergency?

Trust the CFO Team!

Taking care of your smile with braces or aligners is about more than just brushing your teeth correctly or attending your appointments. Preventing orthodontic emergencies and reporting them promptly if they occur is a big responsibility, but with the Chamberlain Family Orthodontics team on your side, there’s nothing to worry about. 

Haven’t started orthodontic treatment yet? Don’t wait! Schedule your free braces or Invisalign consultation with Dr. Chamberlain in Redlands or Beaumont today!