Orthodontic treatment consists of moving and straightening the teeth. It has many benefits, including improving your appearance as well as your oral health. Orthodontists use various fixed and removable appliances to accomplish this, which together are called dental braces.
Braces put pressure on the teeth and slowly make changes in the jaw to move the teeth in the right direction. Any of the various components of dental braces, such as brackets and wires, can become loose, dislodged from their normal position, broken, or fall out of the mouth completely.
If you wear braces and a bracket or wire breaks – don’t panic. But don’t ignore it either. Damaged braces can be uncomfortable and can cause cuts in the mouth, leading to infection. If left unfixed, broken braces can make your orthodontic treatment less effective. Keep reading to learn how to recognize a broken brace, what to do about it, and when to go to your orthodontist for proper repair.
Do braces brackets break easily? Why do braces break?
There have been many advances in dental appliances, materials, and bonding techniques. As a result, orthodontic brackets and wires do not break easily.
Rarely, braces do break, however. This usually occurs when you do something such as eating hard candy or sticky foods that are not allowed with braces. Brushing too vigorously, using the wrong brushing technique, or improper flossing can also lead to broken braces. Picking at your teeth with a toothpick can break one of the components of your braces. Last but not least, a mouth injury can cause broken braces.
What happens if braces break?
Sometimes, brackets come loose, and this is what is most commonly referred to as broken braces. A bracket can become dislodged from the tooth while remaining attached to an archwire. Such a floating bracket may not cause discomfort but could rub and irritate the gums and inside of the cheek, if not fixed.
Another common problem is a broken archwire with the sharp end poking into the gums or cheek, causing pain and bleeding. A bent wire or loose wire does not always cause symptoms. However, you should be vigilant about these changes as they can compromise your treatment.
If an orthodontic band comes loose, it can easily come off the tooth because it is not usually attached to the archwire. This puts you at risk of swallowing it or choking on it. Until you can get into the orthodontic clinic, try lifting the band off the tooth with your fingers or clean tweezers. If you can’t do it yourself, ask someone for help.
What to do when braces break?
One of the most common problems is a broken wire. Oftentimes, when this occurs, the wire sticks out and causes discomfort by poking into the gums or cheek. Your first instinct may be to cut the offending wire with nail clippers, but this is not advisable. You could end up damaging your braces, leading to costly repairs. There’s also the risk of inadvertently swallowing the wire. If a broken wire is sticking out, use an eraser or a clean pair of tweezers to gently push it into a better position where it doesn’t cause pain. If this doesn’t work, you can place orthodontic wax over the sharp end of the wire to reduce discomfort while you wait to get in to see your orthodontist. If a broken wire has caused a sore in your gums or cheek, rinse your mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash or saltwater solution. You can also take an over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) until you see your dentist.
Another common problem is a broken bracket. Brackets are small ceramic or metal components that attach to the front or back of your teeth. They are secured to the teeth with a resin but can sometimes come loose. You may be able to fix this with the orthodontic wax that you got from your dentist. This is a temporary solution until your appointment with the orthodontist to properly fix the broken bracket. If a bracket falls off completely, don’t attempt to put it back in place. Save it carefully and bring it with you to the dental clinic.
The rubber rings that make space for bands to fit comfortably around the teeth are called spacers. If you have a loose spacer or if a spacer falls out completely, do not worry. Spacers are only put in place for a few days before applying the braces to your teeth. If any spacers have become loose and fallen off, it simply means they’ve done their job and you’re ready to get bands put in.
Is a broken bracket an emergency?
Broken braces are not usually a dental emergency. You should try the quick fix solutions mentioned above and speak to your orthodontist as soon as possible. They will evaluate your situation and determine if you need to come in immediately or if you can wait until your next scheduled appointment.
How can I tell if my braces are broken?
A visibly loose, floating, or broken bracket and a broken wire are easily identifiable if you check your mouth regularly. Severe pain in the mouth or jaw is a sign that your braces need to be examined and fixed by your orthodontist.
Can you fix a broken bracket at home?
You should not try to do any permanent repairs on your broken braces. However, you can do several things to stay comfortable and prevent further damage while waiting to see your orthodontist, as noted above.
The first thing you should do is inspect your mouth carefully and identify the problem. Then, call your orthodontist and describe the problem to them. They will guide you on what to do and how soon to come into the clinic. Sometimes, you may be able to wait until your next regularly scheduled appointment. At other times, you will need to go in for a visit sooner.
How much does it cost to fix broken braces?
If you have broken braces, you should call your orthodontist as soon as possible to let them know about the problem and get it fixed before it becomes worse. Every dental office has its own policies regarding braces repairs. Many orthodontists will waive their fee as a courtesy and fix the first 5 broken brackets for free. After this, fixing a broken bracket will invite a charge, which can be anything from $25 and up for metal braces and $50 and up for clear braces. Some orthodontic offices offer an unlimited broken brackets plan. If you sign up for such a plan, you get unlimited replacements of broken brackets.
How to avoid damage to braces?
You can avoid breaking your braces by avoiding crunchy, hard, and sticky foods like raw fruits and vegetables or caramel. Be careful when playing sports to avoid injuries that can lead to broken braces. Always use the recommended devices like protective mouthguards. Brush and floss your teeth as recommended by your orthodontist, taking care not to be too vigorous.
Finding an orthodontist for broken braces
You will need to see your orthodontist to fix broken braces. However, you may need to see an emergency dentist if you’re having severe pain or other problems after hours.
Express Dentist is a nationwide network of leading dental care providers. You can call the toll-free hotline 1-844-593-0591 at any time of day or night, seven days a week, and connect with a partner dentist in your area.
Every Express Dentist provider is vetted to ensure you receive the best dental care. When you choose Express Dentist, you gain access to same-day dental care in your community from accredited practitioners at affordable prices.
We have partnered with hundreds of top-rated dentists and orthodontists in the United States to make it easy for you to get dental care where you need it when you need it. Our exhaustive directory of emergency dentists means you don’t have to wait for an appointment if you’re in pain.
Call Express Dentist on 1-844-593-0591 and connect with a dentist in your area today. Our toll-free hotline is open 24x7x365 for emergency dental referrals. We give you instant access to dental experts even if you don’t have dental insurance (you’ll incur an out-of-pocket cost for repair of the broken braces).
Last updated: October 29, 2021
About the author
Dr. Greg Grillo
Dr. Greg Grillo DDS studied at the University of Washington where he received a bachelors degree with Honors and later attended dental school on the same campus. Following school Dr. Greg served in the United States Navy as a dental officer. During this time he received advanced training in specialty areas of dentistry while also treating families of members of the military.
As well as sharing valuable information on dentistry and oral health, Dr. Greg remains a practicing dentist to this day. He works with families in the Okanogan Valley where he lives with his wife and three children.