So, imagine this. You have braces, and you bite down into a Snickers bar (or Almond Joy, or Payday..) and realize, “oh snap! I swallowed a braces bracket!” What do you do now?
Here’s everything you need to know about what happens if you swallow a bracket or swallow a retainer wire.
What happens if you swallow a braces bracket?
Swallowing a braces bracket is rare, but it does happen. The good news is: more often than not, you won’t experience any serious repercussions from a swallowed braces bracket. Our bodies are strong and resilient!
Regardless, it’s important to be prepared in case it happens.
What to do if you swallow a bracket: 3 Steps
Step 1: Keep calm, cool and collected.
Don’t panic if you swallow your bracket. Most of the time, your bracket will pass naturally. Your stomach acids will dissolve as much of the bracket as they can, and the rest will end up in the toilet.
Step 2: Be cautious of any symptoms you experience.
Stay cognizant of any symptoms that appear in your body. Although most of the time, brackets pass through the esophagus, down to the stomach, through the intestines and out through the rectum, it is possible (but rare) that the bracket becomes lodged somewhere in the body.
If the bracket becomes lodged, a person may experience symptoms, such as pain when swallowing, chest pain, difficulty breathing, severe stomach pain, and abdominal pain. In the event that you experience any of these symptoms, have someone take you to the emergency room or call an ambulance immediately.
Step 3: Schedule an appointment with your orthodontist!
Assuming the bracket passed naturally and no health complications occurred, you can schedule an appointment with our team at Wiewiora & Dunn Orthodontics to have your bracket repaired.
We want to get you back on track with your orthodontic treatment as soon as possible to prevent your teeth from shifting out of place. One missing bracket shouldn’t affect your treatment progress, as long as it’s replaced relatively quickly.
In the meantime, if your missing bracket creates an irritating piece or wire on your braces, use some orthodontic wax to cover the sharp end or poking wire. Ortho wax can come in handy for a number of scenarios during your braces treatment!
What to do if you swallow a retainer wire
If you swallow a braces wire or retainer wire, again – don’t panic. The wire will likely be passed naturally – the same way that a bracket would pass. Studies show that “once a foreign object reaches the stomach, it has an 80% to 90% possibility of passing through the gut with no problems. Less than 1% of foreign bodies have caused a perforation” (JBR Journal of Interdisciplinary Medicine and Dental Science).
In a case report published by the JBR Journal of Interdisciplinary Medicine and Dental Science, a young patient swallowed part of his braces archwire. Doctors planned to remove it via surgical procedure, but the archwire passed through the digestive system before they were able to.
Just be cautious of any signs or symptoms that would indicate the wire penetrated your body, consider reaching out to your primary care provider for their opinion, and wait for the piece to pass naturally.
Why would you swallow a braces bracket?
Nobody swallows their braces bracket on purpose, of course. This situation may occur when someone is trying to adjust their bracket on their own, and they pop the bracket loose by mistake. Then before you know it, it goes down the hatch!
It’s also possible that you bite into a piece of food or candy that resides on the “do not eat with braces” list, and the bite pressure forces the bracket to detach from the tooth. At that moment, you may swallow your saliva (which we do 400 to 500 times a day!) and this coincidental timing leaves you with a bracket in your stomach.
This is why swallowing your bracket is rare. Once you feel that piece of metal on your tongue or in your cheeks, you typically spit the piece out or remove it from your mouth.
On the off chance that you don’t realize that your bracket has popped off, you may swallow it. Sometimes, a patient will notice a missing bracket, but didn’t even realize that they swallowed it!
The risk for swallowing foreign pieces doesn’t end at braces either. People who question, “what happens if you swallow a small piece of metal” may have swallowed a temporary dental crown, a metal filling, or a retainer wire. Anything bite-sized that hangs out in your mouth can be swallowed by mistake.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is – many people have swallowed braces brackets, and most of those people didn’t even feel the bracket pass. Your stomach acids will break down a good portion (if not all) of anything you swallow.
With any piece of metal or sharp material swallowed, do not make yourself vomit. If you try to vomit the piece back up, it could cut an organ on the way up!
It’s best to go to the emergency room if you fear that the piece may need to be removed from your stomach or from anywhere in your body.
If you have any questions about braces ‘emergencies’ or what to do in certain situations, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to guide you through your treatment process, from your very first visit to your last appointment.