Common Orthodontic Issues

Food Caught Between Teeth

This isn’t an emergency, but it can be uncomfortable or embarrassing. It’s easily fixed with a piece of dental floss. Try tying a small knot in the middle of the floss to help remove the food, or use an interproximal brush or toothpick to dislodge food caught between your teeth and braces.

Ligatures Came Off

Tiny rubber bands or small, fine wires, known as ligatures, hold the wire to the bracket. If a rubber ligature should come off, you may be able to put it back in place using sterile tweezers. If a wire ligature comes loose, remove it with sterile tweezers. If your wire ligature is sticking out into the lip but is not loose, you can bend it back down with a Q-tip or a pencil eraser, so it doesn’t irritate your lip. Of course, when one ligature pops off or breaks, others may follow. Be sure to examine all ligatures. Missing or broken ligatures should be brought to Dr. Just’s attention. If a rubber or wire ligature is lost, tell Dr. Just so he can advise whether you should be seen.


It’s normal for you to have discomfort for a day or two after braces or retainers are adjusted, but it can make eating uncomfortable. This discomfort is very normal and only for a short time. Try eating soft foods and rinse your mouth with warm saltwater.

Mouth Sores

You may be susceptible to mouth sores. While your braces don’t cause them, they may be made worse by irritation from braces. Patches or sores may appear on the cheeks, lips, or tongue in one or several areas. This is not an emergency, but it may be very uncomfortable for you. Get quick relief by applying a small amount of topical anesthetic (such as Orabase or Ora-Gel) directly to the area with sores using a cotton swab.

Irritated Lips or Cheeks

Sometimes new braces can irritate your mouth, especially when you’re eating. A small amount of non-medicinal relief wax makes an excellent buffer between the metal and your mouth. Pinch off a small piece and roll it into a ball the size of a small pea. Flatten the ball and place it completely over the area of the braces, causing irritation. Then, you can eat more comfortably. If you accidentally swallow the wax, it’s not a problem. The wax is harmless.

Protruding Wire

Occasionally, the end of a wire will work itself out of place and irritate your mouth. Use a Q-tip or pencil eraser to push the wire so that it is flat against the tooth. If the wire cannot be moved into a comfortable position, cover it with relief wax. You’ll need to tell Dr. Just about the problem. In a situation where the wire is extremely bothersome, and you can’t see Dr. Just anytime soon, you may, as a last resort, clip the wire. Reduce the possibility of swallowing the snipped piece of wire by using folded tissue or gauze around the area. Use a pair of sharp clippers and snip off the protruding wire. Relief wax may still be needed to provide comfort to the irritated area.

Loose Brackets, Wires, or Bands

If your braces come loose in any way, call Dr. Just to determine the next steps. Brackets are the parts of braces attached to teeth with a special adhesive. They are generally positioned in the center of each tooth. The bracket can be knocked off if you’ve eaten one of those hard or crunchy foods you are instructed to avoid or if the mouth is struck while at play. We encourage all patients, especially those with braces, to wear a protective mouthguard while playing sports. If the bracket is off-center, the adhesive may have failed. In this instance, it is best to immediately notify Dr. Just, who will determine the course of action. If the loose bracket has rotated on the wire and is sticking out and you can’t come to our office immediately, you can do a temporary fix to alleviate discomfort and prevent further damage, but take care to prevent swallowing or another injury. To put the bracket back in place, use sterile tweezers to slide the bracket along the wire until it is between two teeth.

You Swallow a Piece of Your Appliance

This is rare, but when it does happen, it can be alarming. Make sure you stay calm. If you’re coughing excessively or having difficulty breathing, you may have inhaled the piece into your airways or lungs. If you can see the piece, you may carefully attempt to remove it. Do not attempt if you could cause harm. If appropriate under the circumstances, examine your braces for problems that may result from the missing piece, such as looseness or irritation, and treat as specified above. If you cannot see the piece and believe it may have been inhaled, call Dr. Just immediately.