How to Remove Dental Braces

A reader has asked how to remove dental braces in case of emergency.  Is there a danger of fracturing a healthy tooth?  How can the clasps be removed?  What about removing the extra glue?   

Jaw prior to surgery

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I submitted the question to our contributing Tooth Doctor.  Here is his reply. 

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Ortho bands…there are three parts. Brackets and bands, arch bar, ligatures. One removes the ligatures, either tiny rubber bands with a pick, or fine wire twists, with a fine hemostat or something like that, lefty loosy righty tighty. 

When the ligatures are all gone then the arch bar should slide off pretty easily. Watch for a strong spring back. Many of the new wires are amazingly resilient. They will always return to their fabricated shape (Usually Straight) for ever and are really cool.  

Needle-nose pliers

Image via Wikipedia

  Bands and brackets will pop off with a pair of heavy hemostats or needle nose pliers. The ones with the curve at the tip would work really well. I would put a couple of wraps of your white tape on the tooth side (of the hemostat or pliers) for padding, with one beak on the top of the tooth and the other under the edge of the bracket. There will be a pop but it will be the cement or more commonly today resin. Rarely, the bond is stronger than the enamel and you will pull a very small bit from the tooth surface, but there is enough still left to do the job. There will probably be some residue of the cement on the tooth that may be rough…even real orthodontists leave a surprising amount of this stuff on our kids.  That can be picked off sometimes or it can be filed smooth if you can get to it. Otherwise other than being annoying it will not hurt anything.  

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Whereas the above may be sufficient for a health professional, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Surfing around YouTube,I found several demonstrations of orthodontists removing braces.  The first link below shows Dr. Ted Rothstein demonstrating how he removes braces.  The other videos feature less explanation, but show how easily the process is done.  A small set of pliers and/or wire cutter is sufficient to remove the hardware.  Scraping the glue off is done with a dental scaling tool.  The book, Where There Is No Dentist, explains how a non-professional can clean and scrape the teeth without harming the enamel. 

 Though I’ve never removed dental appliances, the above explanation along with the video below is sufficient to allow any physician to remove standard braces.  In a pinch even a careful adult without medical training should be able to accomplish the process.  In the field of medicine, it isn’t that everything is so difficult.  Rather, it’s having the nerve to just do it – to make an incision, to suture a laceration, to remove a dental appliance.     


YouTube Videos demonstrating braces removal  by Dr. Ted Rothstein, DDS, PhD braces)  

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About Cynthia J. Koelker, MD

CYNTHIA J KOELKER , MD is a board-certified family physician with over twenty years of clinical experience. A member of American Mensa, Dr. Koelker holds degrees in biology, humanities, medicine, and music from M.I.T., Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the University of Akron. She served in the National Health Service Corps to finance her medical education.
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One Response to How to Remove Dental Braces

  1. DJ, DMD says:

    Nice article Thanks. Another dentist and myself each wrote letters posted on survivalblog that add some depth to the subject.

    [Thanks, DJ. The additional information you provide is very useful. These articles may be found at – Doc Cindy]

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