Braces Care 101: The Top Foods to Avoid with Braces

Is someone in your family joining the 4 million people in the U.S. who have braces? If so, you probably have plenty of questions, including which foods to avoid with braces.

You’ll get a lot of information on braces at your first orthodontist visit, including information on what not to eat. But understanding why those foods are off-limits is also important.

It can help keep things in perspective and make it easier to avoid them. You don’t want to damage the braces or slow down the process of correcting the teeth.

Keep the following list of foods to avoid with braces handy to help you pick the best meals and snacks for your braces-wearing family member.

Why There Are Foods to Avoid With Braces

Food restrictions while wearing braces help protect the braces themselves and the teeth. Many of the foods you can’t eat with braces can cause damage to the brackets, wires, and bands that help properly align the teeth.

At best, that damage requires a trip to the orthodontist for repairs, which wastes time and potentially money. If you don’t repair the loose or broken braces immediately, it could slow down the treatment or make it less effective. When the brackets aren’t attached properly to the teeth, they can’t move the way they’re designed to work.

Other foods are uncomfortable to eat with braces, especially when the braces are new or after an adjustment. Kids may have pain associated with braces at those times, and the wrong foods can worsen the pain.

Some things you can’t eat with braces are on the list because of the potential of getting stuck in the braces. Removing food when it gets jammed into the braces can be difficult. If you don’t get it all out, it stays against the teeth, where it can cause decay.

Sugary Foods

Limiting sugary foods is a healthy move for everyone. It improves your overall health and your teeth. Bacteria feed on sugars and can lead to tooth decay.

Cut down on the amount of sugar-filled foods you eat while wearing braces. Don’t forget about sugary drinks, such as soda and juice, which can be just as damaging.

You can have some sugary foods, as long as they’re not hard and sticky. Just limit the consumption to keep your teeth as healthy as possible. Always brush your teeth well after eating sugary foods to remove the sugars right away.

Crunchy and Hard Foods

Anything with a hard, crunchy texture is potentially damaging to braces. This includes popcorn, hard chips, nuts, raw vegetables, candies, and hard cookies. Those foods can also hurt to chew with braces on the teeth.

That’s especially true right after you get braces or after you get them adjusted. Soft foods feel better at those times.

Crunchy and hard foods can loosen the brackets and bands on braces. They can also bend the wires.

Another problem with these types of foods is pieces getting stuck in the braces. That can be painful, and the pieces can be difficult to remove. If the pieces remain in the braces long term, they can increase the risk of tooth decay.

Look for alternatives to these items. Soft, puffed popcorn without hulls can satisfy a salty snack craving. Cooking vegetables to soften them makes them safer to eat.

Chewy Foods

Braces make it more difficult to gnaw on chewy foods, such as beef jerky, hard bread, chewy rolls, and bagels. Even thick pizza crust can be a little too chewy for braces. Trying to eat those chewy foods can also loosen the parts on the braces, which can force an unexpected trip to the orthodontist or make the braces less effective.

Food You Bite Into With Front Teeth

Does your braces-wearing family member love chicken wings and corn on the cob? Before serving up those favorites, consider how they affect braces.

Any food that requires you to bite into it with your front teeth can potentially cause damage to braces. It can cause the brackets on those teeth to come loose, or it could bend the wires. It’s also more challenging to bite into those foods with braces on the front teeth.

Instead of leaving those items off the menu, cut them up to eat them with a fork. You can cut meat such as chicken wings and ribs off the bone and cut corn off of the cob. Cut up whole apples, pears, and similar foods into pieces instead of biting directly into them.

Sticky Foods

Sticky foods aren’t great for teeth in general, but they’re especially bad for braces because of the potential for damage. Sticky pieces can also get stuck in the braces. If left there, they can increase the chances of decay.

Skip anything that’s overly sticky. Common food items in that category include taffy, caramels, gummy candy, licorice, and fruit roll-up snacks.

Chewing gum is another sticky item to avoid. It can get stuck in the braces, and it’s difficult to remove if that happens. Sugary gum adds the increased potential for decay.

Foods That Stain

Some foods and drinks have intense color and lead to stains on braces, especially the bands. Berries, beets, grape juice, and similar food items can cause stains. Acidic drinks can also cause stains on your braces.

The stains don’t hurt the effectiveness of the braces. But they can leave the mouth looking stained and less attractive.

Non-Food Items

Your child knows not to eat non-food items, but even chewing on them can cause damage to braces. If your child chews on fingernails, pens, pencils, or any other non-food item, work on breaking the habit to protect teeth and braces. Even chewing on ice cubes is a dangerous habit with braces.

Protect Your Braces

In no time, the foods to avoid with braces will become second nature to your family and you won’t have to refer to the list all the time. Think about the potential for damage to the braces and your teeth; you can usually decide if something is safe to eat with braces.

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