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Problems with braces can include:

  • Broken braces (brackets)
  • Broken wires
  • Loose bands
  • Loose braces
  • Wires sticking out

Call and discuss the problem with your orthodontist or office staff. You may need to visit right away, or you may be able to fix the problem yourself until your next visit to the office. If an injury (such as a blow to the mouth) caused the problem, seek help right away. Your orthodontist will let you know if you need immediate attention or if the problem can wait until your next appointment.


Braces, bands or wires sometimes break or fall off. Usually this is caused by chewing hard or sticky foods. More often, one of the parts will come loose. This can cause some discomfort. Here are a few possible problems:

  • Loose bracket — Brackets are the metal or ceramic pieces that are attached to each tooth. They're usually attached using a material called composite resin. It is similar to the tooth-colored material used for some fillings. If you chew something hard or sticky, the resin can weaken or break. When that happens, a bracket can come loose. It may poke into your gums, tongue or cheek. When you first get your braces, your orthodontist will give you a special wax. You can put the wax over the bracket to keep it from poking you. This should provide some comfort until you can see your orthodontist.
  • Loose band — Bands are the metal rings that are cemented around back teeth (and sometimes around front teeth). If a band becomes loose, call for an appointment to have it re-cemented or replaced. If the band comes off completely, do not try to put it back on. Save it and bring it to your appointment.
  • Protruding or broken wire — This is a common problem. If a wire breaks or sticks out, it can hurt your cheek, tongue or gum. You may be able to use the eraser end of a pencil to push the wire into a better position. If that doesn't work, put a small piece of orthodontic wax over the end of the wire. If you don’t have orthodontic wax you can pick some up at a pharmacy. Do not cut the wire. A cut wire can be accidentally swallowed or inhaled. If the wire has caused a sore, rinse your mouth with warm salt water or an antiseptic rinse. For salt water, use one-half teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water. Rinsing will keep the area clean and reduce discomfort. You can also use an over-the-counter pain reliever (such as Anbesol). This will temporarily numb the area. Contact your orthodontist to schedule an appointment to address the displaced or broken wires. Even if there is no immediate problem such as pain you should contact your orthodontist to get a broken wire taken care of as soon as possible. When the wire is broken, it can't help with moving your teeth.
  • Loose spacer — Spacers or separators are rubber rings that are put between your teeth. They are left in place usually for a few days. They open a small space between your teeth so that orthodontic bands will slip onto your teeth easily. Springs or brass wire may be used for this purpose. Sometimes spacers can slip out of position or fall out. If this happens, make an appointment with your orthodontist. You are probably ready to have the band placed.
  • Lost O-Ring — This is the rubber band that holds the wire to the bracket on the tooth. If it comes loose you often can reapply it with a disinfected tweezer. You can push the wire back into the bracket with a “Q-Tip” if necessary.


Broken brackets, loose bands or wires take time to repair. Sometimes your orthodontist will adjust, reposition or reattach the existing wires or brackets. Sometimes your orthodontist will replace brackets or wires.

If you do not have any discomfort and the problem will not interfere with treatment, the orthodontist may delay repairs until your next regular appointment. In any case, call the office before that regular appointment. Make sure enough time is scheduled to complete the repairs.

Also keep in mind that some discomfort is normal and expected during orthodontic treatment. Regular strength acetaminophen (325mg) or an ibuprofen (200mg) is usually sufficient to reduce the discomfort experienced from tooth movement.

Updated- November 20, 2020




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