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If you have braces, a thin wire called an archwire runs through brackets that are attached to your teeth. The ends of the wire may be attached to metal bands that have been placed around your back teeth (molars).

An orthodontist periodically adjusts the archwire to apply force. This works to gradually push or pull your teeth and jaw into the desired positioning.

Regardless of the type of archwire you have out of three common materials, it’s possible that it may break or pop out of place. This can cause a variety of problems. Read on to learn what causes wire breakage, the risks involved, and what to do if it breaks or pops out of place.

Types of archwires

The type of wire you have depends both on your condition and your orthodontist’s preference. You might also have different types of wires throughout your treatment.

The types of archwires include:

  • stainless steel
  • nickel-titanium (NiTi)
  • beta-titanium

Archwire breakage is not uncommon. According to a 2020 study of 395 orthodontists, wire breakage leading to injury was the second-most cause of emergencies.

There are several things that may cause your wire to break or pop out of place.

Eating inappropriate foods

When you have braces, some types of food are more likely to damage them. These include:

  • Sticky foods: Foods like gum, taffy, and other chewy candies can get stuck to your braces which can pull on the wire or brackets.
  • Hard or crunchy foods: Biting into foods like corn on the cob, apples, and popcorn can break parts of your braces, including the archwire.

Mouth injury

Having an injury or blow to your mouth may cause your archwire to break or come out of place. This is most likely to happen while participating in sports or engaging in rough play.

Poking and prodding

Poking or prodding at your braces — using a toothpick or finger to try and remove a piece of food stuck in your braces, for example — may dislodge a wire or bracket.

A broken wire can pose a variety of risks. These include:

  • Discomfort: A broken archwire can poke into the inside of your lips or cheek, causing pain and discomfort.
  • Cuts: It’s possible that a broken wire can lead to cuts and bleeding on the inside of your mouth.
  • Sores: A wire that’s broken or popped out of place can irritate the tissues of your mouth. This may lead to the formation of mouth sores.
  • Infection: A cut or sore that’s developed from a broken wire may become infected with bacteria. When this happens, you may have symptoms like:
    • fever
    • increasing redness or swelling
    • rising pain or tenderness in the affected area
    • pus draining from the cut or sore

If your wire has broken, contact your orthodontist. This is important for two reasons:

  1. A break may negatively impact your treatment, because your wire is what applies the force that works to adjust your teeth and jaw.
  2. A broken archwire can lead to various complications, such as discomfort, cuts, and sores.

The treatment can depend on the specific situation, but may include:

  • completely replacing a broken wire
  • readjusting an archwire that’s popped out of place
  • prescribing antibiotics if there is a bacterial infection

In the meantime, there are several things you can try at home if your wire breaks and is poking you. Let’s explore these in a little more detail.

Dental wax

Dental wax serves as a temporary barrier to keep the wire from poking you. It’s made from several materials, including silicone.

To do this:

  1. Pinch off a small piece of dental wax.
  2. Using your fingers, roll the wax into a small ball.
  3. Press down on the ball, flattening it slightly.
  4. Gently press the dental wax onto the protruding wire.

Pencil eraser or cotton swab

Sometimes you can use a soft object, such as a pencil eraser or cotton swab, to push a protruding archwire away from your lips and cheek.

To move the wire, use the pencil eraser or cotton swab to apply gentle pressure to the protruding wire. Try to orient the wire so that it rests flat against your teeth and no longer irritates the inside of your mouth.


According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), clipping a protruding archwire is only recommended as a last resort. This is because you could potentially swallow part of the wire.

To do it safely:

  1. Place a piece of folded tissue or gauze around the area. This can help to trap the clipped portion of the wire.
  2. Use a pair of sharp nail clippers to clip away the protruding part of the wire.
  3. Apply dental wax to any areas that still cause irritation.

Caring for cuts and sores

If a broken archwire has caused a cut or sore, there are ways to ease discomfort and help it heal.

  • Rinse your mouth with salt water.
  • Use a toothbrush with soft bristles until the cut or sore heals.
  • Choose foods and drinks that are cool or soft (like popsicles, ice cream, and cool water).
  • Avoid spicy or acidic foods, which may irritate the cut or sore.
  • Apply an over-the-counter (OTC) topical oral anesthetic to a sore.

If there’s a break in your archwire, you need to visit your orthodontist to remove the broken wire and replace it with a new one. If part of the wire has popped out of place, your orthodontist will carefully move it into place.

Do not try to remove a wire that has broken or come out of place yourself. Not only can this impact your treatment, but it may also cause injury.

You can help to lower your risk of a wire breakage with the following steps:

  • Brush gently: Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently brush your teeth after every meal, then rinse your mouth thoroughly to help dislodge remaining bits of food from your braces.
  • Use floss to remove stuck food: If food is stuck around your braces, use floss to remove it instead of a toothpick or a finger. A tool called a floss threader can help do this.
  • Avoid some foods: Foods that are sticky, hard, or crunchy can damage your braces.
  • Wear a mouthguard while playing sports: Not only does a mouthguard help to protect your teeth from damage, but it shields your braces from damage.

If you have braces, it’s possible that you may experience a break in your archwire. A broken wire can poke into the inside of your lips or cheek, leading to pain, cuts, or sores.

Call your orthodontist promptly if your archwire breaks. They can replace the broken wire with a new one. In the meantime, there are things you can do at home to temporarily ease discomfort from a broken wire that’s poking you.

You can prevent a wire breakage by taking steps to protect your braces.