Blog

How to Handle Orthodontic Emergencies

At some point during your treatment, something will go wrong with your braces. At home, on vacation, or running on a sports field, it can spark fear to feel your braces start to break. These orthodontic “emergencies” are actually relatively minor, even if they don’t seem that way at the moment! Your orthodontist is well equipped to reattach a wire or a bracket, or adjust a loose or poking piece of metal. But, it’s always best to be prepared. So, there are some things to do after a braces emergency to make sure your treatment continues without a hitch.

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How Long Do Braces Take?

“How long do braces take?” is the most common question we’re asked by patients. People want to know how long they’ll have to make room in their life for their braces – it’s understandable. Braces are hard to brush and floss around, they come with food restrictions, and they can be a source of embarrassment for teens at school or professionals in the workplace. 

Even our patients who are most excited to begin treatment inevitably cannot wait for it to end. We give each patient and their family an estimated treatment plan and timetable when they receive an evaluation. Of course, they always hope that we can somehow speed up time and make their smiles perfect as quickly as possible.

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Your Habits and Your Teeth

As we know, it’s common for young children to put anything and everything into their mouths. This curiosity about the world around them is normal, and unless it carries into later childhood, is beneficial to development. Habits like nail-biting, thumb sucking, using a pacifier excessively, and tongue thrusting as you swallow all have negative long-term effects on your oral health. What’s more, these bad oral habits can cause disease or other health problems all over the body. 

 

Self Soothing: Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Use

Children are born with a natural sucking reflex, which is why they tend to gravitate towards thumb sucking or get attached to a pacifier as a self-soothing tool. This impulse disappears around the four-month mark, but most children keep the habit for much longer. The natural timeline for thumb sucking or severe attachment to a pacifier is between six and seven months, or between ages two and four. This is natural, and most children end up growing out of any habitual thumb sucking or pacifier use by age four at the latest. Stopping this habit by age four is ideal, and usually results in no long-term orthodontic issues, because the habit is long gone by the time that permanent teeth begin to grow in. 

These self soothing methods are problematic for several reasons. But primarily it is an issue because the pressure applied to teeth through the continuous sucking motion can cause issues with tooth positioning and the growth of the jaw bones. This can later manifest in an open bite, buck teeth, or underdeveloped lower jaw and chin. 

Orthodontists usually recommend that children and parents work to break these habits on their own before treatment starts. If that fails, there are appliances that an orthodontist can install that make thumb sucking and self-soothing less pleasurable for the child. 

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Flossing with Braces

Flossing can sometimes get forgotten or skipped in a nightly oral hygiene routine. But, flossing is actually essential to maintaining oral health, especially throughout orthodontic treatment. Before we get into how to become an expert braces flosser, here’s some more information about why flossing is so critical in the first place. 

 

Flossing is just as important as brushing your teeth to prevent gum disease, cavities, and bad breath. It helps eliminate the accumulation of harmful bacteria and plaque resulting from food particles that get trapped between the teeth and under the gum line. These places are hard for a toothbrush to clean, and with braces or appliances, it’s even harder to make sure your mouth is as clean as it should be!

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