Embarking on a journey with braces is a pivotal step towards achieving a beautiful, aligned smile. However, this journey comes with its own set of rules and guidelines, especially when it comes to your diet.
In this blog post, we will delve into the specifics of dietary restrictions with braces, providing clear guidelines on what foods to avoid. Luckily, it is still easy to eat a healthy and balanced diet while undergoing orthodontic treatment.
Your New Braces
In order to understand why certain foods can be problematic, it helps to have a basic understanding of braces. Braces consist of fixed braces (also known as 'brackets') affixed to the teeth. Sometimes the back teeth are encircled by fixed metal bands. A wire runs through each of the bracket slots or tubes, and possibly also through band attachments. The wires are held in place by special ties, or bracket gates. Your wires will do most of the work by applying gentle pressure to shift your teeth into the desired positions.
Teeth are obviously used for eating, so you'd think braces would be designed to withstand normal forces. However, your jaw muscles are incredibly powerful, and the forces that can be generated by chewing are substantial. Whilst your new braces are fixed firmly to your teeth, they do need to be removed at the end of your orthodontic treatment. This means that there are limits to how strongly they can be affixed!
It is important to start your treatment with the understanding that excessive pressure caused by eating the wrong foods can potentially dislodge or damage parts of your braces. Luckily, by carefully following all instructions during your orthodontic treatment, you avoid putting additional pressure on your braces.
What Can't You Eat with Braces - The Early Days
When your braces are new, steering clear of hard and chewy foods is something you'll tend to do automatically. This is because your teeth are likely to feel a bit tender shortly after braces placement. Plan ahead, and be prepared to eat soft foods in the first week or so after getting braces. Examples of suitable soft foods include:
Vegetables (e.g., boiled, roasted, mashed potatoes, soups)
Soft fruits (e.g., ripe bananas, stewed fruit)
Soft meats (e.g., stews, curries)
Dairy and milk-based drinks (e.g., soft cheeses, custard, yoghurt, smoothies)
What Can't You Eat with Braces - Lifestyle Adjustments
Once you're feeling more comfortable, you may feel tempted to resume your normal diet. There are, however, general categories of foods that are known to be problematic for those with braces.
It's not just about protecting the hardware; it's also about enhancing your oral hygiene, as well as ensuring the success and efficiency of your orthodontic treatment. Broken brackets and wires can cause delays to your treatment progress.
Foods to avoid can be broadly classified into:
Hard Foods, or Very Firm, Chewy Foods: I.e., items that could break, bend or detach brackets or wires. Examples include:
Nuts, popcorn, and seeds.
Pizza crust (the remainder of your slice may be eaten carefully; ideally cut into smaller bite size pieces).
Bagels (unless torn or broken into small pieces).
Cold chocolate (e.g., from the fridge).
Sticky Foods: Items that are sticky enough to pull on wires, bands and brackets, potentially detaching them. E.g.,
Bubble Gum: Sticky, often sugary bubble gum should be avoided entirely. Ask your orthodontist for advice on brands of sugar-free gum that may be appropriate.
Acidic or Sugary Foods and Drinks: Snacks and beverages that increase the risk of enamel erosion, tooth decay or gum disease. E.g.,
Cakes and cookies.
Soft drinks (especially acidic varieties, like cola).
Note: If you do decide to indulge in an occasional treat, be sure to rinse soon after eating or drinking, and brush and floss thoroughly afterward to remove any residual particles. Regular dental check-ups will also help to catch any potential issues early on. As well as attending your orthodontic appointments, it is important to keep seeing your regular dentist for check-ups and cleaning while undergoing orthodontic treatment.
Raw Vegetables and Fruits
Fruits and vegetables form an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. You should continue to eat these foods, however, care should be taken in order to avoid damaging your braces. For example, biting directly with your front teeth into crunchy apples or raw carrots can result in breakages. It’s recommended to cut these foods into smaller, bite sized pieces, and chew these on your back teeth.
Other Chewing Habits to Avoid
In general, it is advisable to avoid putting unnecessary additional pressure on your teeth during orthodontic treatment. For this reason, in addition to keeping in mind what you can't eat with braces, you should also avoid chewing non-food items like pens, pencils or fingernails. Even if these items are not directly hitting your braces brackets, the forces generated by these sorts of chewing habits can potentially break the bond between your teeth and your braces.
Your teeth will usually feel tender when your braces first go on. This discomfort tends to provide short-term negative feedback which helps to discourage excessive chewing. Try to use this opportunity to break any unhelpful chewing habits, and avoid returning to these habits once you are feeling more comfortable.
What to Do if You Eat Something You Shouldn’t
Complying with braces dietary restrictions can be challenging, and slip-ups happen. If you find yourself indulging in a food item from the “do not eat” list, it’s important to know the steps to take afterward to mitigate any potential damage:
Look for Stuck Food Particles: Ensure that no pieces of food are stuck in or around your teeth and braces. Removing any residual pieces means that you won't bite down on them later. Rinsing out and cleaning your braces and teeth is also recommended from an oral health perspective.
Check For Damage: Examine your braces carefully to see if any wires are bent or if any brackets have come loose. Missed problems can increase treatment time and allow teeth to drift 'off-track'.
Report the Problem: If you notice any damage or feel any discomfort, contact your orthodontist right away.
Schedule an Appointment if Necessary: Your orthodontist may want to see you to assess any potential damage and make any necessary repairs.
Learn from the Experience: Identify the dietary slip-up to prevent it from happening again. Review the list of foods to avoid with braces and recommit to sticking to these guidelines.
Maintain a Positive Outlook
If you're feeling restricted, instead of focusing on what you can't eat with braces, we recommend re-reading the list of soft foods from 'What Can't You Eat with Braces - The Early Days' (above) for inspiration.
Smoothies in particular can be a great way to enjoy a wide range of flavours and nutrients, whilst complying with your orthodontist's instructions.
By being mindful of dietary considerations, and maintaining an excellent oral hygiene routine, you can ensure that your braces journey will be smooth and successful.
FAQs: Navigating Dietary Restrictions with Braces
What happens if I eat something hard or sticky?
If you consume hard or sticky foods while wearing braces, there’s a risk of damaging the brackets or wires. This could potentially prolong your treatment time and may require additional visits to the orthodontist for repairs. If you notice any damage or feel discomfort after eating such foods, contact your orthodontist immediately.
Can I eat pizza with braces?
While pizza is not completely off-limits, caution is advised. Avoid the crust as it can be hard and potentially damaging to your braces. Opt for softer toppings and consider cutting the pizza into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Is it okay to chew gum with braces?
Chewing gum is generally not recommended for braces wearers as it can stick to the braces, making it difficult to clean and potentially causing damage. If you do choose to chew gum, opt for sugar-free varieties and chew carefully.
Can I eat chocolate with braces?
Soft chocolates that melt in your mouth are usually safe to eat with braces. However, it's important to avoid chocolates that contain nuts, caramel, or other hard or chewy fillings, as these can damage your braces.
What foods should you avoid while wearing braces?
It's important to avoid foods that are hard, sticky, overly sugary, or are acidic. Hard foods can cause damage to the brackets and wires, sticky foods can get caught in the braces, and sugary or acidic foods and beverages can contribute to tooth decay and/or enamel erosion.
Can I eat ice cream with braces?
Yes, ice cream is generally safe for braces wearers. However, be mindful of any add-ins such as nuts or caramel that could be problematic.
What do I do if I eat something I shouldn’t?
If you eat something you shouldn’t, carefully inspect your braces for any signs of damage, clean your mouth thoroughly, and contact your orthodontist if you notice any issues or feel discomfort.
Can you eat with wax on your braces?
It is advisable to remove your orthodontic wax and apply a fresh piece once you've finished eating. Whilst orthodontic wax is non-toxic, most people would prefer not to inadvertently swallow it, if possible! Furthermore, food debris is likely to get stuck in your wax if it is left in place during meals.
Can you eat chips if you have braces?
Hard or very crunchy chips are best avoided as they can cause damage to your braces. If you're craving chips, opt for softer or more delicate thin cut crisps, and eat them carefully, taking your time to chew gently.
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