Are there foods I can’t eat with braces?

Orthodontic science today provides patients with a wide variety of options for tooth straightening, bite alignment and overall oral health.

For example, in addition to traditional metal braces (which themselves have come a very long way from their earliest predecessors), it is now possible to be treated with Empower, Empower clear and lingual (back of teeth) options as well. Children also have the flexibility to choose fun colors and patterns to personalize their you

However, some things haven’t changed since the early days of orthodontia, and one of those is the recommendation to avoid certain types of foods during the treatment period. This is not to say some patients have not continued to eat these foods and still experienced excellent treatment results.

Avoiding certain foods can minimize the possibility of treatment disruption due to damaged hardware or tooth injury. In this article, learn which foods we advise you to limit or avoid during the period of your orthodontic treatment. Certain hardware components may look strong, but can actually be quite easily damaged with the wrong eating and oral habits.

Brackets, bands and archwires can be particularly prone to loosening and breakage when exposed to hard or sticky foods. Sometimes a food can be so hard it literally breaks the hardware or bends it sufficiently to require replacement.

As well, some foods are so sticky they can adhere to the hardware and require intensive cleaning of the hardware to avoid the risk of decay during treatment.


Side-Stepping the Temptation to Eat No-No Foods During Treatment

No one likes to be told, “you can’t eat this.” But you are making an investment into your orthodontic care, either for your own benefit or on behalf of a loved one, and you want the end result to meet all your expectations and goals.

Of course, it is your choice (or your child’s choice) whether or not to follow your orthodontist’s recommendations for foods to avoid during treatment, but your results are likely to improve if you do.

For younger patients (tweens, teens) in particular, they may feel understandably tempted when they see friends chomping on hard candy or chewing on taffy. Young people, in particular, can often err on the side of too-positive during treatment, thinking none of the food-related damages they’ve been warned about could possibly happen to them.

If you think your child may be tempted to “cheat” during treatment due to peer pressure, too-positive thinking or other reasons, consider trying out these ideas to help them stay focused and committed to achieving the best possible end result:

  • Send them off to group events with other favorite snacks that won’t damage orthodontic hardware.
  • Brainstorm a big reward treat for getting all the way through treatment without a food-related hardware damage incident.
  • Impart consequences (such as taking fees for food-related hardware repair) out of their allowance or taking away privileges.
  • Emphasize daily motivation, such as printing out a favorite celebrity’s picture smiling widely and showing off perfect white teeth, and post it where your child can see it daily.
  • Put on your own creative thinking cap for other motivational ideas!


The Lowdown on No-No Foods During Orthodontic Treatment

In a nutshell, no-no foods fall into three major categories: hard, sticky and sugary.

Of course, many of these foods are also the tastiest! Luckily, all things considered, orthodontic care takes up a relatively brief period of your life (or your child’s life) and this should be continually emphasized during the treatment period to minimize resentment and frustration.

It can be especially helpful here for the whole family to support the patient(s) by making a joint commitment to avoid eating these foods during the patient’s treatment.

Here is a representative go-by list of no-no foods by category:

Hard Foods

Hard foods are on every orthodontist;s “most wanted list” of food outlaws. Just one hard bite down on a piece of ice or a jawbreaker can send you running back to the clinic for new hardware and an unscheduled adjustment. Even worse, very hard foods can cause tooth chipping, cracking and breaking at any time and thus should be avoided.

  • Ice
  • Hard candy, especially jawbreakers
  • Raw carrots, apples, etc. (unless cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • Nuts
  • Thick chips or taco shells.
  • Popcorn (especially the un-popped kernels!)
  • Corn on the cob (it is fine to cut it off the cob and eat it that way)- Jerky snacks
  • Hard bread, bagels, croutons or pizza crust
  • Meats with small bones (ribs, chicken wings, turkey legs, etc.)

Sticky Foods

Sticky foods are sooooo tasty…..but they are a real menace to braces hardware, pulling brackets and ligatures loose, bending or breaking arch-wires without breaking a sweat.

  • Taffy or toffee
  • Sticky or gummy candy or candy bars
  • Caramel
  • Very thick, chewy bread
  • Dried fruits or fruit roll-ups

Sugary Foods

Finally, sugary foods are like tooth decay in a cute little candy wrapper or soda can. Even too much sugar from natural fruit sources can cause decay if you don’t brush and floss with care every day.

  • Sugared sodas or fruit juices
  • Sugary candies
  • Cotton candy and gum

Other No-Nos to Avoid During Orthodontic Care

Many adults and teens, in particular, cope with stress by chewing on pencil erasers or pen caps or biting their nails.

Life sure can be stressful, and it is important to have ready outlets for relief. But chewing on caps, erasers or your own nails during treatment can not just damage but actually, break your orthodontic hardware.

For a child that has trouble remembering not to chomp down on a favorite toy or accessory or bite their nails when stressed, coating the tempting item with a bit of bitter apple (yup, the same stuff you probably use with the family dog and the household furnishings) usually works to swiftly eliminate this habit.

For older tweens and teens and adults, finding other creative ideas to relieve stress, such as bouncing a stress ball, adding a tiny desk-side Zen garden, trying out the adult coloring book fad or even shaking a Slinky are all fun ways to redirect that stress energy.

Your orthodontist will definitely thank you for committing to avoid both food and non-food no-nos during your treatment, but it is your own mouth that will thank you the most!

About Beach Braces

Dr. Patricia J. Panucci, DMD, MS, completed her DMD degree at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry and completed her orthodontic residency at the prestigious University of Southern California. In addition to her orthodontic expertise, she also holds a master’s degree in craniofacial surgery.
Dr. Panucci is an East Coast transplant who got to the West Coast as soon as she could and stayed. Her practice treats patients of all ages, giving each the individualized patient-centric care that supports the clinic’s motto, “Everyone should love to smile.”
To learn more, contact the office at (310) 379-0006 or complete this online contact form.

Beach Braces Orthodontics
220 N. Aviation Blvd
Suite A
Manhattan Beach
CA 90266
Phone: (310) 379-0006
Skype: Beachbraces

Are there foods I can’t eat with braces?

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