Broken Braces – Guide to Handle Unexpected Breakages

Broken Braces – Guide to Handle Unexpected Breakages

Dec 29, 2023

Broken braces can occasionally occur despite the sturdy construction of orthodontic appliances. When a bracket or wire breaks, it can be distressing, leading to discomfort and potentially derailing your treatment progress. This guide is intended to offer helpful insights on how to effectively address the issue of broken braces.

Orthodontic braces are complex tools designed to gently manipulate your teeth into their ideal positions. They consist of numerous components, each serving a specific purpose. The main elements include:

  • Brackets: These are tiny squares bonded directly to each tooth, acting as the anchors for the braces.
  • Orthodontic Bands: These encircle the teeth providing an additional anchor for the braces.
  • Arch Wires: These connect the brackets, applying constant pressure to gradually move the teeth.
  • Spacers: Small, rubbery rings placed between the teeth to make room for orthodontic bands.
  • Elastics: These apply additional pressure to the braces, helping to align the teeth and jaws.

Further information about the components can be found on our blog post “What are the parts of the Braces? – Perfect Smiles Orthodontics (

Common Breakages and Their Causes

There are several common reasons why braces may break. One of the most common causes is eating hard or sticky foods that can exert excess pressure on the braces. Chewing on ice, popcorn kernels, or sticky candies can lead to brace breakages.

Another reason is accidents or injuries to the mouth, such as falling or being hit in the face. It’s essential to be cautious and take preventive measures to avoid such situations.

Here are some typical scenarios you might encounter:

  • Loosened or detached brackets
    These incidents frequently occur due to eating hard or sticky foods, or from an injury to the mouth.
  • Broken or protruding wires
    These can pose a significant discomfort risk, potentially poking into the soft tissues of your mouth.
  • Dislodged spacers
    These usually fall out when sufficient space has been created for the orthodontic bands.

A combination of factors can contribute to these breakages, including dietary habits, biting patterns, and even the initial application process of the braces.

Immediate Steps to Take

If you suspect a breakage, the first step is to assess the situation and to stay calm. Identify the broken part and the potential cause. However, remember that not every discomfort signifies a breakage, especially in the early stages of the treatment.

If you find a loose wire, you can use a clean cotton swab or the eraser end of a pencil to push it back into place. If a bracket has come off, store it safely and bring it to your next orthodontic appointment.

Once you’ve ascertained a breakage, reach out to your orthodontist immediately. They will provide specific advice based on your situation and schedule an appointment to rectify the problem.

Dealing with pain and discomfort

Dealing with pain and discomfort caused by a broken brace is essential for your overall well-being.

Over the counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help alleviate the pain temporarily. Rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater can provide relief as well.

If the discomfort persists or becomes unbearable, it’s crucial to seek professional help from your orthodontist.

Temporary Fixes

While awaiting professional help, you can employ some temporary solutions to ease discomfort:

  • For a loose bracket: If the bracket is still attached to the wire, use orthodontic wax to hold it in place.
  • For a protruding or broken wire: Use a cotton swab or pencil eraser to gently reposition it. If it’s still protruding, cover the pointed end with orthodontic wax.
  • For a loose spacer: If the spacer falls out entirely, you’re probably ready to have your bands put on.

Remember, these are only temporary fixes. They cannot replace professional repair and should be used as a last resort.

Coping with Cuts and Sores

If a broken wire has led to a cut or sore, there are ways to ease discomfort and promote healing:

  • Saltwater rinse
    This helps keep the area clean and soothe the sore.
  • Soft bristle toothbrush
    Use this until the cut or sore heals.
  • Avoid spicy or acidic foods
    These could irritate the cut or sore.
  • Topical oral anesthetic
    Over the counter versions can provide temporary relief.

What Not To Do

Avoid removing a wire or bracket yourself. Not only can this interfere with your treatment, but it may also lead to injuries.

Also, refrain from eating hard, crunchy, or sticky foods that may worsen the situation.

When to Seek Emergency Care

While most breakages are not considered orthodontic emergencies, certain circumstances require immediate attention.

If you’ve swallowed or inhaled a piece of wire or bracket, visit an emergency department immediately, especially if the swallowed piece is larger than 10mm.

Long term Prevention

Preventing future breakages of braces is possible with some simple preventive measures.

To prevent future breakages:

  • Brush gently
    Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and rinse your mouth thoroughly after every meal.
  • Use floss
    Utilise floss to remove stuck food instead of a toothpick or a finger. A floss threader can be handy for this.
  • Avoid certain foods
    Sticky, hard, or crunchy foods can damage your braces.  Cut your food into smaller, bite sized pieces to minimize stress on the braces.
  • Wear a mouthguard
    If you play contact sports, a mouthguard helps protect your braces from damage.
  • Regular dental check ups
    Following your orthodontist’s instructions for oral hygiene are also crucial in preventing breakages.

Take Control

It’s essential to know how to handle broken braces before it happens. Familiarise yourself with the different components of your braces and understand the most common breakages and their causes. This knowledge will empower you to take immediate action, adopt temporary fixes, and avoid worsening the problem.

Final Thoughts

Orthodontic treatment is a journey, and like any journey, there are bound to be a few bumps along the road. With the right knowledge and a responsive orthodontist, you can navigate these challenges without hampering your progress towards a confident, beautiful smile.

Remember, when it comes to broken braces, early intervention is key. Don’t ignore a breakage, hoping it will resolve by itself. Seek professional advice immediately to prevent complications and ensure your treatment stays on track.