What does a broken bracket look like – and how do you repair yours if it breaks?
Metal braces are probably the most tested and proven orthodontic treatment in the world. You cannot go wrong with it; it can correct almost all types of malocclusion, from teeth alignment to bite problems, from the simple to the most complex and severe cases. However, braces components aren’t unbreakable, and broken brackets are pretty common – almost all patients experience it. Unfortunately, broken brackets can cause severe discomfort; protruding wires can cause abrasions and cuts inside the mouth. And if left unfixed, the whole orthodontic treatment becomes less effective. How to know if you have a broken bracket? What does a broken bracket look like? More importantly, what should you do if you have a broken bracket?
The metal brackets and wires of braces are generally strong. However, through wear and tear and bad habits, they can get loose or break. Broken brackets, also referred to as loose brackets, or floating brackets are actually a common problem with braces. They break for several reasons, sometimes for the silliest reasons, such as biting hard on crunchy or sticky foods, brushing your teeth too vigorously, sustaining a mouth injury from playing contact sports, etc.
How to spot a broken bracket
First, you need to know what to look for if you suspect you have a broken bracket.
What you need to look for is a loose bracket, broken or protruding wire, loose bands, and loose spacers (if you have spacers). If the bracket is broken, it will come off altogether. However, sometimes the bracket will partially remain in its place, and the wires may still be attached or protruded in different areas. Assess the area with the broken appliance. It can be really tempting to touch and test the braces, but it will be best to contact your dentist or orthodontist for advice before you do anything with them.
What to do if you have broken brackets
You could be camping in the middle of nowhere, having dinner with friends, or munching late-night treats at home. Whatever it is, braces almost always break in the most inopportune times. And most often than not, your dentist will not be available for an emergency fix at the clinic. What should you do?
Moving brackets or broken wires can be sharp, and you need to take action to protect your mouth before your dentist can see you.
For a quick fix, you will need:
- Nail clipper
- Orthodontic wax
- Cotton swab
Obviously, the tweezers and nail clippers should be clean and sanitized. Wash the tweezers and nail clippers thoroughly with antibacterial soap or use alcohol to clean them.
You will need the tweezers to move the broken bracket to a more comfortable position. In most cases, you may need to trim the sharp wire using the clippers so it will not hurt the inside of your mouth. Avoid touching the broken wire with your tongue, lips, or gums.
More importantly, you need the orthodontic wax to cover sharp points and help stabilize the bracket and protect your mouth. Once you have applied the wax, try not to touch it again.
If your bracket has fallen off, use the cotton swab to push and slide it back to place before applying the wax.
Quick Repairs for Broken Braces Brackets
Here are some quick tips on how to do emergency repairs for your broken braces brackets
If the bracket comes off
Brackets are attached to the tooth through special dental adhesives. If a bracket pops out of position or dislodges from the tooth, it will still be on the wire. It will, however, rotate and move along the wire. This problem rarely causes serious damage or pain, but the floating bracket can still rub on the inside of your mouth, causing discomfort.
Use the tweezers to push and slide the bracket through the wire and position it between two teeth or right at the center of the tooth. Rotate the bracket so it faces the correct direction. If the floating bracket feels uncomfortable, then use dental wax to protect your mouth.
A broken archwire is another common occurrence with metal braces, the wires can poke the inside of your lips, gums, or cheeks, causing them to bleed and increase the risk of infection. To keep the wires from hurting your mouth, use nail clippers or small pliers to cut off the tip. Place a tissue inside your mouth so you don’t swallow small pieces of clipped wires.
Eating hard and chewy food can cause the wires of your braces to bend. When this happens, the bands could get loose, and will no longer be pulled to pull your teeth in the right direction and position. If you notice any sign of bands bending, call your orthodontist right away to schedule the repair so it will not compromise the treatment process of the braces.
As your teeth move, there is a risk the wire may come out of the last bracket. The wire may poke your gums or cheeks. Again, use the nail clippers to cut the end of the wire and finish it nicely to keep it from hurting your mouth. Also, make sure to cover the sharp end of the wire with orthodontic wax. Call your orthodontist right away to schedule a replacement for the wire.
How to heal the cuts and sores caused by broken brackets
As said earlier, broken brackets are very common and almost unavoidable in most cases. Unfortunately, that means cuts and ulcers in the mouth too. While mouth sores usually heal quickly, broken braces that keep irritating the sore spots can disrupt the natural healing process, causing it to take longer. New braces cause the most irritations, particularly on the inside of the cheeks, as do broken brackets and sharp wire ends.
You can use a small amount of dental wax for quick relief of cuts and sores. This can provide a good buffer between the inside of your mouth and the metal bracket. Roll a pea-sized amount of wax and apply it over the bracket, make sure you flatten it evenly. Dental wax is pretty harmless, you can actually leave the wax while eating, and it’s not a big deal if you accidentally swallow some. You can also use numbing creams to help with the pain.
To help soothe the pain and heal sores quickly, rinse your mouth with saltwater. Mix a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water. Rinse your mouth thoroughly with the mixture multiple times a day. You can use an antiseptic rinse designed for oral care to clean your mouth and prevent further irritation and infection. Stick to soft food and avoid drinking too hot or too cold drinks if you have cuts and sores.
Braces require a lot of care for them to do their job properly. Accidents can happen, but there are ways to minimize the risk. Prevention is always better than cure, so stay away from hard and chewy food. Observe good oral hygiene, but make sure you don’t brush and floss your teeth too hard.
Never use a toothpick to dislodge any food debris trapped in your braces brackets. If you really cannot help it, then at least be very careful in using a toothpick. Also, you may use a plastic toothpick since they are softer and more flexible. But then again, be very cautious in using it on your braces.
If you don’t think you can secure the bracket, then it is best to leave it as it is. Store the bracket in a clean plastic bag and call your dentist right away to schedule an appointment. Your dentist will take care of the rest.
If you think you have swallowed some parts of your bracket, don’t panic. Your body can either break it down or pass it out. Of course, you should see a doctor if you experience pain or you have difficulty breathing.