What happens if I swallow a braces bracket?

Have you ever wondered what happens if you swallow a braces bracket? After all, your braces are in your mouth… which is a direct route to your stomach.

Swallowing a braces bracket is rare, but it can happen. More often than not, you won’t experience any serious repercussions from a swallowed braces bracket. Our bodies are strong and resilient! 

All our braces have a clip on them that connects to the wire so even if one were to come loose from your tooth, there is very little chance the brace can fall off and be swallowed. This is one of many advantages we love with the self-ligating braces with a clip that we use. 

Regardless, it’s important to be prepared in case it happens. Here’s everything you need to know about what happens if you swallow a bracket or swallow a retainer wire. 

Why would someone 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. There is always an extra tie or clip on your braces to keep them attached to your wire so it shouldn’t come loose in your mouth. However, if it should somehow come loose from the wire by the tie or clip breaking and you simultaneously swallow your saliva (which we do 400 to 500 times a day!), this coincidental timing leaves you with a bracket in your stomach. 

This is why swallowing your bracket is so extremely rare. Once you feel that piece of metal on your tongue or in your cheeks, you typically spit it 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. 

What do I do if I swallow a bracket?

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 won’t dissolve much of the bracket, and it pass through and 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 all of the intestines, 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, stomach pain or abdominal pain. In the event that you experience any of these symptoms, call your primary care physician. Should these symptoms become severe go to an urgent care or emergency department at the hospital.  

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 Caudill & McNeight 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 pokey wire on your braces, use some orthodontic wax to cover the sharp end. 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 a high 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 rare 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. 

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is – only a very small number or orthodontic patients have swallowed braces brackets, and most of those people didn’t even feel the bracket pass and may not even know they swallowed it. 

With any piece of metal or sharp material swallowed, do not make yourself vomit. If you try to vomit the piece back up, more harm than good would possibly come out of it on the way back up! 

It’s best to have a discussion with your primary care physician if you fear that the piece may need to be removed from your stomach or from anywhere in your body to determine if that is the best course of action. Of course we want you to first bring this to our attention at Caudill & McNeight Orthodontics to help guide your decision.

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. 

If you’re looking for a top orthodontist in Melbourne, Merritt Island or Viera, we’d love to meet you! Request a complimentary exam for you or your child today.