If you or a family member has just been to the orthodontist for braces, you may have a lot of general concerns. One question many people have is what types of food to avoid while undergoing orthodontic treatment. Eating the wrong things can cause discomfort, and certain foods, especially those that are especially sticky and chewy, can actually remove important parts of your treatment, like spacers. Other types of food can become stuck in the braces and then become difficult or impossible to remove. This can cause discomfort and also can lead to cavities.
One thing to keep in mind is that, when you first have your orthodontic hardware installed, or after you have it tightened, your mouth will likely be incredibly sore, which often makes eating most food painful. You will likely want to stick to soft food for a few days, but rest assured that this initial soreness goes away soon. Similarly, while not every visit results in painful tightening of your wires, you may experience some soreness after a particularly strong tightening. But like the initial treatment, this will subside as your teeth adapt to your hardware’s new setting.
What Shouldn’t I Eat?
Now, we will look at a few types of food that your orthodontist will recommend that you avoid. In general, if you have braces, you will want to stay away from the following:
- Candy that is sticky or hard
- Chips, pretzels, hard cookies, and other crunchy foods
- Large fruits that require you to bite with front teeth
Why Shouldn’t I Eat It?
Naturally, you may want to know why these are generally good to avoid. Many orthodontists will agree that popcorn may well be the single worst thing to eat when you have orthodontic hardware. This is because of the hard shells that remain when the popcorn is popped. In many cases, these hulls can get stuck, requiring you to remove them. However, in some cases, they cannot be removed, and they can even cause a swelling of gum tissue. When this swelling is severe, you may actually have to have all hardware removed in order to clean out the area. This is expensive and can delay further treatment.
Extremely sticky or chewy candy is likely to cause damage to your hardware, and if you have rubber spacers or anything similar, chewing these candies can actually dislodge key elements of your treatment. They are also likely to become stuck on the hardware itself. Not only is this extremely uncomfortable, but it is very challenging to remove. The chewiest candies may need to be pried off of each brace, as a toothbrush is generally not enough to remove the buildup.
Crunchy and hard snacks like hard candies, pretzels, and many types of chips can cause your individual brace brackets to break. Ice is also a major culprit, and some orthodontists will tell you that many people who have broken a bracket or three will reluctantly admit to you that they have been chewing on ice. Nuts fall into the same category, as the repeated crunching down contributes to breakage.
In addition to potentially contributing to breakage, many hard or crunchy items, like pretzels, can easily become caught in orthodontic hardware. While you often can brush out these bits, it tends to be challenging and time-consuming, and there is a possibility that you will miss one or more bits and leave them in your mouth, which can contribute to tooth decay and bad breath.
Some patients might be surprised to find that their orthodontist advises against eating apples and similar fruits whole. This is because biting with your front teeth can easily cause bracket damage (not to mention that bits of fruit get stuck in the brackets themselves). However, you don’t have to avoid fruits and crunchy vegetables entirely. Simply cutting them into bite-sized pieces, or at least into pieces you don’t need to bite into with your front teeth, should be enough.
The last item, gum, is generally inadvisable because it can easily become stuck on brackets and can cause issues. Sugar-free gum can remove the tiny wires used at the start of treatment as well. Some orthodontists are ok with having patients chew gum later on in treatment, but this will likely depend on your individual situation.
It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive. It just covers some general categories of food items to avoid. If you have a particular item in mind but are not sure whether it will harm your teeth or your hardware, ask your orthodontic specialist for clarity. many offices also offer fact sheets on what to eat and what to avoid. This can save you time and serve as a convenient reference.
What’s Ok for Me to Eat?
Sometimes, patients might be discouraged, especially if some of their favorite food items are on the “unacceptable” list. If you fall into this category, remember that treatment with orthodontic hardware is only temporary and that avoiding these items will help you avoid pain, discomfort, and delays in treatment.
That said, there are many foods that you can enjoy, pain-free and complication-free, during your treatment. You can have plenty of softer vegetables, or those that are cooked or chopped, like mashed potatoes. You can still enjoy your favorite larger fruits when they are cut into slices. And while many kinds of candy are off the table, ice cream is still ok to have. Soups, yogurts, cottage cheese, and eggs are all compatible with treatment as well.
If you are gathering information on orthodontic treatment in hopes of getting the smile you have always dreamed of, we can help. If you or a loved one is in need of orthodontic treatment in the Nashville area, Gluck Orthodontics is ready to assist you with high-quality and effective treatment. Contact us today to start your journey toward your best smile.
2125 Blakemore Avenue
Phone: 615 269 5903
What Foods Should I Avoid [With Braces]?
Dr. Joel Gluck has practiced orthodontics since 1983 when he opened his own office in Nashville. He earned his undergraduate degree at Washington University in St. Louis, and his dental degree at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Gluck then completed an orthodontic specialty residency at the University of Michigan, one of the top five orthodontic training residencies in the country. He also wrote an original thesis and received a Master of Science degree.