Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid with Braces
Eating with braces can be tricky. Braces help us to have better teeth and more beautiful smiles in the long run. But in the short run, they can make it a little harder to practice a good oral health routine. Brushing and flossing are more difficult, and you need to be aware of what foods to avoid with braces.
So, if a trip to the orthodontist is in your future, you might consider a few changes towards a “braces friendly” diet.
Ask the Orthodontist: What Are Some Foods to Avoid with Braces?
There are two categories of foods you should know about if you have, or are getting, braces:
- Foods that you should cut down on and avoid when possible
- Food that you should straight out eliminate from your diet while wearing braces.
You Should Probably Eliminate This From Your Diet
There are some foods that are outright no-no’s when you have braces:
- Hard Candy – Not only is the sugar bad for your teeth and braces, but you’ll be tempted to chew the treat, which might ruin your brackets or wires.
- Sticky Foods – Sticky foods will tend to get caught in your braces and make cleaning a nightmare. Gum and caramel are the worst culprits, but you should also avoid peanut butter, maple syrup, and similar items.
- Inedibles – Many people unconsciously chew on pens or bite their fingernails, both of which can damage braces.
All that said, many treats are bad for your teeth even without braces, especially when the holidays roll around. Having braces might be an opportunity to make some much-needed changes to your diet!
Foods To Avoid With Braces
There are some foods that are not off-limits per se, but that you should either avoid or be careful eating. For example:
- Other Hard Foods (Besides Candy) – This includes everything from harder types bread like pizza crust, to nuts, to vegetables like raw carrots. Since they require so much force to bite through, they can damage your wires and brackets. Cook raw vegetables so they are soft. If you must eat a hard bread, consider softening it with broth or sauce.
- Tough Meats – Snacks like beef jerky can loosen the wires and brackets of your braces. The same can happen with poorly cooked beef or pork, so be careful when consuming these meats.
- Ice – Ice in your drink is OK, even sucking on ice chips. But DO NOT bite or chew ice; This is probably the most common culprit when it comes to damaged braces.
Finally, there are some foods that are fine to eat with braces, but you should probably take a minute to cut them into much smaller pieces. Those include:
- Raw vegetables and fruits
- “Bulky” breads: French/Italian bread, hard rolls etc.
Remember, it only takes one bad bite to damage your braces and compromise your orthodontic treatment. Would the cost of repairing those braces be worth one snack?
Foods That Are OK with Your Braces
Many foods are OK to eat with braces. In general, you will want foods that are softer in texture, especially for that period right after having your braces tightened.
Soft foods for braces include:
- Soft Fruits – Grapefruits, nectarines, kiwi, tangerines
- Vegetables – Steam helps them soften
- Dairy Products – Yogurt and cheese are good alternatives to tough meat
- Soft Meats – Tender chicken, turkey, meatloaf, lunch meat, seafood
- Deserts – Pudding, applesauce, smoothies, ice cream
- Soft Grains – Cooked pasta, cooked rice
- Soft Breads – Tortillas, biscuits, muffins, pancakes
- Eggs – Another good alternative to tough meats, especially breakfast foods like bacon
PAY ATTENTION TO NUTRITION!
Remember, your braces are not a diet! According to a paper in the Journal of Innovative Dentistry, patients with braces often tend to miss key nutrients in their diet because they are avoiding certain foods, especially in the period after braces get tightened.
Don’t let that be you! Make sure that you are getting your daily dose of protein, fiber, calcium, and iron from the foods you eat. The list above will help.
TAKE IT A STEP FURTHER: STRENGTHENING TOOTH ENAMEL
The brackets for your braces are cemented onto the surface of your teeth, which is called the enamel. The stronger your enamel, the better your braces will stick to your teeth and stay strong. Keeping the area around the brackets clean and clear of food will also help preserve your teeth and your braces.
So, consider adding the following to your “braces diet”:
- Calcium-rich foods – Milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy are the obvious go-to here. But broccoli, kale, okra, and tofu are on the menu too. (Almonds have calcium, but they are food to avoid with braces, given how hard they are.)
- Protein-rich foods – Soft meats, tofu, eggs, and beans are all good. A protein shake would also work and can make for a tasty breakfast. Avoid hard nuts and tough meat!
- Cheese – Besides being a good source of calcium, cheese can help reduce the acidity in your mouth, a prime cause of tooth decay and irritation in people with braces. Plus, most cheese is nice and soft!
- Sugar-Free Candy– Sugar-free gum is a bad idea – see sticky foods, above – but an occasional sugar-free candy can help promote saliva production, which supports the growth of positive bacteria in your mouth.