What to eat and what to avoid while wearing braces

Braces are an investment. Correcting your smile takes time, patience, diligence and money but the results can be life-changing. That’s why it is so important to care for your braces and your teeth. In addition to frequent brushing and flossing, it is also crucial that you are selective with the food that you eat. Certain foods can ruin your teeth and damage your braces, so it is helpful to know what to avoid…and what is safe to eat!

Eating a healthy diet is a good idea even if you don’t have braces but it is especially essential when you are wearing traditional braces. If you opt for Invisalign® or removable braces, your food choices aren’t as limited, but you will still want to be cautious. If you have traditional, metal braces, your food may taste differently at first, and if they have been recently tightened, you may not feel like eating at all. When you do get used to your braces and you do decide to eat, you will want to carefully consider your choices, especially if you are a junk-food eater! Even healthy foods like carrots and apples can be a threat to your braces if you don’t cut them into bite-size pieces; your whole manner of eating may change as soon as you get braces and it is best to be prepared.

What can’t I eat with braces?

It’s vital to keep your braces clean and to avoid cavities, so limiting sugary foods is a good rule of thumb. Sugary foods build up on your teeth and cause decay and gum disease—bad for your teeth at any time, but especially bad while wearing braces! As a kid, Halloween is a particularly difficult time of year to wear braces because most everything in your trick or treat bag is something you should probably avoid! Even the disappointing treats, like raisins, can get stuck in your brackets and cause havoc! Other sweet treats, like gum, taffy, hard candies, Starbursts, Jolly Ranchers, licorice, toffees, caramels, tootsie rolls, Sugar Daddies, Mary Janes, and Bit o’ Honey are sure brace-killers and should be avoided. By changing these candies, your brackets and wires are at risk, and you may have to make an expensive, emergency visit to your orthodontist.

Other sugary foods you should avoid so that you don’t get cavities are cake, cookies, ice cream, and pie—all the sweet desserts you probably love. While they may not be difficult to physically eat these items and they may not hurt your braces, they can hurt your teeth. Some spots in your mouth may be harder to clean with braces, making them a breeding ground for cavities. In addition to sweets, there are other hard, crunchy foods you should avoid, as well. A blog posted by Healthy Smiles of GA stated- “Popcorn, nuts, jerky, corn on the cob, chips, and ice can all be detrimental to an orthodontic patient. Some hard bread like bagels, French bread, and pizza crust can also cause problems, so if you’re going to eat them, you may want to soften them with extra pizza sauce or by dipping the bread in milk first.”

Consider also that there are foods that can stain your teeth and when the brackets are removed, you are left with white calcification spots on your teeth! This might require costly whitening or other stain removal methods. On the list of items to avoid due to staining would be too many berries, sports drinks with artificial coloring, dark sodas, wine, coffee, tea, too much tomato sauce, and fruit juice. Of course, if you are a kid wearing braces, you should avoid some of these items anyway!

In addition to certain food and drink, there are activities to avoid while wearing braces. Chewing ice has been mentioned as something to skip entirely; it is so important it has to be mentioned twice. According to All-In-One Dental, “Nothing will ruin your braces faster than crunching on ice, so abstain from ice-chewing at all costs.” Other bad habits like chewing on fingernails, pen or pencil tips, and any other non-food objects can lead to bent or lose wires and braces. To expedite your orthodontia and save yourself some expensive repair work, circumvent these foods and bad habits.

What can I eat with braces?

With all the emphasis on what not to eat, it is good to know that there are still lots of foods you can eat. Fruit is always a good option, as long as the crunchy ones are cut into small pieces and as long as you limit the amount of acidic fruit you enjoy. Soft fruit like berries, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, avocado, bananas, and tangerines can be good choices. Steamed vegetables and soft meats are acceptable, like chicken, turkey, and lunch meat, as well as soft cheeses, yogurt, fruit smoothies, oatmeal, are also delicious and soft. Additional breakfast choices are eggs, pancakes, crepes, cottage cheese, quiche, omelets and French Toast, all soft, relatively healthy foods. For lunch and dinner, soups are always a good go-to, as are pasta, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, and fish. Other foods include applesauce, rice, tuna, egg salad, meatloaf, slow-cooked meats can all be healthy parts of your diet. Cynthia, of ab.embraceortho.com, once said, “Desserts, within moderation, can be acceptable, too, followed by excellent teeth cleaning! Soft desserts like jello, pudding, yogurt, milkshakes, cheesecake and warm cobblers can be just what you need to satisfy that sweet tooth without doing damage to your braces.”

Working with your orthodontist and asking for a detailed list of foods to eat and foods to avoid is also a smart way to manage your braces. Many recipe websites boast healthy alternatives for meals with instructions and pictures and can be a great way to try new foods you may otherwise have never considered. There are also cookbooks designed just for people with braces, especially if you are an adult looking for more soft “adult foods” to enjoy while wearing your braces. Whether you are an adult or a child with braces, it is important to treat them with care so that they do their job properly while still enjoying some delicious foods! Read more on our blog.