Broken Braces: What to Do If Your Archwire Snaps

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The tension applied to your braces in order to adjust your teeth is delivered via the archwire. This is the wire that was threaded through the brackets attached to your teeth. Is it strong enough to consistently apply the required tautness to your brackets throughout your treatment? Absolutely. Can it withstand being regularly adjusted and modified by your orthodontist? Definitely. Can it be guaranteed that your archwire will never break? No. While a broken archwire isn't a likely problem, it's something that anyone who wears braces should acknowledge as a possibility. So what happens when your archwire breaks? 

Causes of Breakage

Not to point fingers at anyone, but oftentimes when an archwire breaks, it's due to the patient's actions. Those dietary guidelines your orthodontist gave you shouldn't be treated as a rough suggestion. Excessively chewy, sticky, crunchy, or generally hard foods aren't especially compatible with orthodontic braces. They can apply disproportionate torsion to the archwire, causing it to twist out of position, weaken, and break. Of course, an accident that causes blunt force trauma to your mouth can also cause a breakage of your braces' archwire. Whatever the reason, this is an urgent matter, and you must see your orthodontist immediately.

A Temporary Pause

With the breakage, the archwire has lost the ability to apply the necessary gentle force to your teeth. For the moment, your braces are almost strictly ornamental. Your teeth aren't in any danger as such, but your orthodontic treatment has been paused, and will remain so until you visit your orthodontist. There are some short-term risks which may need to be managed, although this is largely due to the fact that the broken archwire has the ability to inflict lacerations on the soft tissues inside your mouth.

No DIY Repairs

Your broken archwire might feel slightly uncomfortable, and will at least feel slightly awkward or cumbersome. Despite this feeling, you must resist the temptation to make any major adjustments yourself. Do not attempt to trim the wire, or remove it (unthread it) from its brackets. You risk damaging both your teeth and the soft tissues inside your mouth. At most, you should apply some dental wax to any sharp edges of the archwire. This is very much a stopgap solution, and you may need to reapply the dental wax as needed. 

As soon as you're able to visit your orthodontist, your broken archwire can be safely removed and replaced, and your orthodontic treatment is back on track again. A broken archwire isn't a catastrophic problem, but it's a problem that can only be solved by your orthodontist.