Pandemic closures leave orthodontist limiting visits to emergencies, advising at-home work

The pandemic has shut down dental offices for everything but emergency treatments, leaving some orthodontists concerned about patients who are having issues with no way to get help.
William Jackson, 12, and his sister Sophia both have braces and go to their orthodontists every six weeks, but during this pandemic, their office has been closed. Recently, one of the wires on William's braces started to poke into his gums.
Poking or broken wires are a common occurrence for Dr. Natalie Bitton -- braces need constant adjustments.
"It is not a set it and forget it situation, because these are active appliances that are in patients' mouths," she says.
Since she can't see patients regularly now, Bitton has been advising parents to do some at-home dentistry.
"We have been doing the virtual consultations and phone conversations, but that is not the same as in-office visits," says Bitton.
Bitton has even put videos online explaining what to do. In William's situation, she recommended nail clippers or cuticle cutters to trim the wire.
"It was a group effort ... my husband had the cuticle cutters, I had a flashlight, my other son was trying to distract William," says Christine Jackson, William's mother.
However the effort didn't work, and because Bitton didn't want an infection to set in, she authorized an emergency office visit and quickly fixed the situation.
Dr. Bitton says anyone with braces should be watching what they eat and to brush carefully and often.
"We don't want anything to be moved, so staying away from the hard, sticky, chewier foods that we would recommend you staying away from is even more important at this time, because if something does go wrong, it's very hard to obviously address," Bitton says.
Orthodontists say that if your braces are giving any trouble to call them immediately to see if there are any simple things that can be done to prevent an emergency visit.