“Help! I swallowed my braces bracket.” Not something you hear everyday, but a concern that we hear from many people when they start their orthodontic treatment.
You may have even seen the recent story about a woman in Australia who had a piece of orthodontic wire removed from her intestine 10 years after having her braces removed.
That’s enough to make anyone just a little paranoid about accidentally swallowing a piece of their braces.
Fortunately, this is one of those things that’s easier said than done. The odds of accidentally swallowing a piece of your braces is rare, but it’s important to know how to handle it if you do.
How Swallowing Part of Your Braces Happens
There are several ways that braces brackets or wires can break off in the mouth. If you are trying to adjust a loose bracket on your own, you may knock it loose and swallow it before you know what happened.
Swallowing may also happen as a result of a dental trauma that occurs while you are wearing braces. In this case, you will likely need to consult your dentist and/or orthodontist for emergency services following the injury. 1st Family Dental has staff on call 24/7 to assist patients in emergency situations.
On rare occasions, brackets can be mishandled while you are in the orthodontist’s chair having your braces adjusted or replaced. If this would happen to you, the orthodontist is right there to assist in whatever way needed.
The risk for accidental swallowing doesn’t just apply to braces. Patients swallow temporary crowns, metal fillings, and other dental related objects. The same rules for whether to seek medical help apply in all cases.
Don’t Panic if You Swallow Part of Your Braces
Swallowing a braces bracket or wire might seem like a dire situation, but it’s not that serious in most cases, according to 1st Family Dental’s Dr. Budi Kusnoto.
Kusnoto said that the metal will move through the body on its own in more than 90 percent of cases. The human GI tract has enough acidity to dissolve small pieces of metal within minutes.
Anything that remains will be excreted in a day or so after swallowing. Eating foods that are high in fiber like corn and bread can help with this process.
“As long as it doesn’t get dislodged in the lung, most of the time it will pass right through,” Kusnoto said. “Especially if it’s unsharpened small metal such as one piece of orthodontic braces.”
The human GI tract has acidity of 1.5 – 4.0 on the pH scale. This is the part of the body where “predigestion” occurs and the stomach uses hydrochloric acid and pepsin to break down food. A swallowed braces bracket or wire would become part of this process.
When to Seek Help
If you swallow a bracket, wire, or rubber band and notice that you are having difficulty breathing, it may mean the piece is caught in your lung. You should seek immediate medical attention if this is the case.
Upon receiving X-ray results, a doctor will determine the appropriate course of action for removing the object and notify your orthodontist of the situation. You may need to visit the orthodontist for a replacement once the item is safely removed.
Along the same lines, see a doctor if you experience stomach pain after swallowing your bracket. This could mean that it is caught in your digestive tract and will not pass without medical intervention.
According to a study published in Science Direct, surgery is required in less than 1 percent of these cases. Even if surgery is required to remove the bracket, it is not large enough to cause permanent damage to your body.