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Glossary / Emergency



A word commonly used to describe a fixed orthodontic appliance, usually comprised of brackets, bands and wires.  The diagram below illustrates and names each part of a typical set of braces.

A. Ligature-The archwire is held to each bracket with a ligature, which can be either a tiny elastic or a twisted wire.

B. Archwire-The archwire is tied to all of the brackets and creates force to move teeth into proper alignment.

C. Brackets- Brackets are connected to the bands, or directly bonded on the teeth, and hold the archwire in place.

D. Metal Band-The band is the cemented ring of metal which wraps around the tooth.

E. Bracket Hooks- The bracket or band extensions that are used for the attachment of rubber bands.


As a general rule, you should call the office when you experience severe pain or when you have a painful appliance problem that you can't take care of yourself. However you might be surprised to learn that you may be able to temporarily solve many problems yourself until you can schedule a repair appointment in the office.


The following solutions may help you relieve your discomfort until you can get into the office:

Poking Wire

Using a pencil eraser, push the poking wire down or place wax on it to alleviate the discomfort.

General Soreness You may be experiencing some discomfort after beginning treatment or at the change of wires or adjusting of appliances. This is normal and should diminish within 24-72 hours. A few suggestions to help with the discomfort:

For soreness of the teeth –

Eat a soft diet, take whatever you normally take for a headache or similar pain as directed on the bottle. Many patients find that popsicles, ice cream or cold drinks ease the tension on the wires and relieve the soreness. This should only be necessary for 2-4 days.

For soreness of the lips, cheeks or tongue –

This can be relieved by rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater rinses. Dissolve one tablespoon of salt in 8 ounces of water and rinse your mouth vigorously.  Placing Orabase on the affected area may help; this can be found over the counter at a pharmacy.  If the tenderness is severe, take whatever you normally take for a headache or similar pain as directed on the bottle.  The lips, cheeks, and tongue may also become irritated for one to two weeks as they toughen and become accustomed to the surface of the braces.  You can put wax on the braces to lessen this.  We’ll show you how!

Loose Bracket or Band

If your bracket or band is still attached to the wire, you should leave it in place and put wax on it.

Loose Wire

Using tweezers, try to place your wire back into place. If doing this and using wax doesn’t help, as a last resort use a small fingernail clipper to clip the wire behind the last tooth to which it is securely fastened. If your discomfort continues, place wax on it.

Headgear Does Not Fit

Sometimes headgear discomfort is caused by not wearing the headgear as instructed by your orthodontist. Please refer to the instructions provided by your orthodontist. If the facebow is bent, please call our office for assistance. Surprisingly, the headgear may hurt less if it’s worn more, so be sure you’re getting in the prescribed hours.

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