Help for Braces Problems

Here are some possible problems that can happen with your braces and what to do about them.

And if you ever wanted to learn more about orthodontic treatment and appliances? These videos provide clear examples of what you can expect.


Back Broken Bracket

Front Broken Bracket

Cut a Loose Power Chain

Turn a Schwartz Expander Without a Key

Herbst Screw Removal

Ready For Anything

The following orthodontic situations and their treatments are listed in the order from least severe to most severe.

Only the most severe problems require your doctor’s immediate attention.

Food Caught Between Your 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.

Wow Smiles Dr. Bernstein
Santa Rosa Orthodontist

Ligatures Coming Off

Tiny rubber bands or small, delicate wires, known as ligatures, hold the wire to the bracket. If a rubber ligature comes off, you may 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 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 your ligatures. Missing or broken ligatures should be brought to our attention. If you lose a rubber or wire ligature, tell your doctor so they can advise whether we should see you.


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 the mouth with warm saltwater.

Mouth Sores

You may be susceptible to mouth sores. While your braces don’t cause them, irritation from braces may make it worse.

One or several patches of sores may appear on the cheeks, lips or tongue. This is not a serious problem, 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.

You can reapply as needed.

Ukiah Orthodontist

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.

Simply pinch off a small piece and roll it into a ball the size of a little pea. Flatten the ball and place it completely over the area of the braces irritating your mouth.

Then, you can eat more comfortably. If you accidentally swallow the wax, it’s not a problem. The wax is harmless.

Poking 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’s flat against the tooth.

If the wire cannot be moved into a comfortable position, cover it with relief wax. (See Irritated Lips or Cheeks above for instructions on applying relief wax.)

You'll need to make us aware of the problem.

In a situation where the wire is too bothersome, and you can't visit WOW! Smiles™ anytime soon, you may, as a last resort, clip the wire.

To reduce the possibility of swallowing the piece of wire you’ve snipped off, place a piece of folded tissue or gauze around the area.

Use a pair of sharp clippers and snip off the protruding wire. Relief wax may still be necessary to provide comfort to the irritated area.

Loose Brackets, Wires, or Bands

If your braces come loose in any way, call WOW! Smiles™ to determine the next steps.
Brackets are the parts of braces attached to teeth with a special adhesive. They’re 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’s best to let us know immediately to determine the best 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. Just be careful not to swallow the bracket or injure your mouth.

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. It’s important to 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 try 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 can’t see the piece and believe you may have inhaled it, call WOW! Smiles immediately, or go to the ER in an emergency.