Because orthodontic work is an investment of both your time and money, you'll want to do everything in your power to take good care of your braces. If you have damaged a bracket or archwire, you can get this issue taken care of quickly. If you've dealt with this issue a few times, consider adjusting your habits to prevent future issues. Here are some tips to help you out.
Assess the Damage
If your braces brackets and/or wires were damaged in a way that also caused severe oral damage, go to the ER first. While you may want to get the braces fixed ASAP, your first priority is your health. Bite down on a piece of gauze or a towel if there is bleeding and have someone drive you. The ER staff can make sure there are no cuts on the tongue and mouth that would require stitches. They can also prescribe you antibiotics and painkillers.
If you have only broken a wire or bracket and are otherwise okay, call your orthodontist for an appointment. Broken brackets and wires are a common problem with braces and typically don't require an emergency dental visit.
Minimize Further Damage
If a wire is protruding, it's usually okay to clip it back with a pair of nail clippers. Be very careful while doing this, as you don't want to damage your gum tissue! If you cannot safely cut the wire, use your fingers to push the wire back close to your teeth and away from the inside of your cheeks. You can use dental wax to secure the broken wire. If a bracket is sliding around on a wire, dental wax can temporarily secure it.
The main issue patients face are sores from the braces rubbing the skin—so again, the dental wax can keep these sores from forming. When you change the dental wax, be sure to rinse your mouth out with salt water. This will help you keep your mouth free from infection.
It's also important to eat soft foods so that you don't cause broken archwires or brackets to become even more damaged. You should be eating the right foods anyway, as things like nuts, hard candy, gum, popcorn, and pretzels can break braces.
Avoiding the Issue in the Future
While the wrong foods can certainly cause bracket and wire damage, there are other ways to damage your orthodontic appliances.
Ironically, a common way to break a wire or a bracket is when you're trying to take care of your braces. While it's important to floss and brush around your braces, you need to be gentle. You should angle your toothbrush at about a 45-degree angle on top and bottom of the brackets since these spots are prone to decay. However, you should brush in small circular motions — avoid pressing down on the brackets with force.
Besides adjusting brushing habits, consider your flossing habits as well. Floss can easily shred and wrap around brackets. To avoid this problem, use waxed floss and floss threaders. If you like to use toothpicks, consider swapping those out for a Waterpik. Toothpicks can damage your gumline and damage wires and brackets if you are too rough.
Lastly, sports accidents are a top culprit for broken brackets and wires. Dentalcare.com says that more than 5 million teeth are knocked out every year due to these activities. While you cannot always avoid these injuries, you can lessen the blow. Believe it or not, there are mouthguards which are customized to fit over braces. Some can be bought over the counter, and some can be custom-fitted by your dentist.
If you aren't sure how to act after a broken bracket or archwire, it's a good idea to talk with your orthodontist or dentist. He or she can tell you about the office's policy and how to proceed in an emergency. Contact a dentist in your area for more information.