Salem Location | (503) 585-5400
1855 West Nob Hill St, Ste. 300
Salem, OR 97302

Keizer Location | (503) 585-5400
164 Chemawa Rd N
Keizer, OR 97303

girl with braces holding a slice of watermelon

What foods should be avoided while wearing braces?

This is one of the most common questions people have about orthodontic treatment. Mainly, the group of foods that should be avoided while wearing braces are any foods someone would consider “hard,” like ice, hard pretzels, Jolly Ranchers and other hard candies, as well as foods like nuts and hard granola bars (soft granola bars are fine).

The other category is sticky foods. These include caramel, licorice, and candy like Starburst.

If patients are not careful with what they eat, and they regularly eat foods that knock braces off their teeth, they will generally make treatment run much longer than it otherwise would have.

Why are these foods so problematic for braces?

It’s helpful to understand why you need to avoid certain foods, so you can make good decisions about what to eat. The glue orthodontists use to attach brackets to teeth is strong, but it can’t be so strong that bracket removal is impossible. After treatment is complete, we’ll need to get those brackets off your teeth!

The glue we use to hold braces on teeth is very strong in certain directions but is not so strong in other directions.

For example, the glue is very strong when it comes to pushing and pulling the brackets using wires and rubber bands. The glue is not strong enough to withstands something under a bracket that creates an upward, peeling force on the bracket.

A good analogy is a small object held onto a kitchen countertop by masking tape. It’s hard to pull that object straight up. However, if you lift the object from the edge, it easily comes loose because the tape peels easily when pulled in this direction. Orthodontic glue works along similar lines.

Can I chew gum with braces on?

The second most common question, after What foods are off limits, is Can I chew gum while wearing braces? Surprisingly, at McDonald Orthodontics, the answer is Chew away! You can have all the gum you want! (Of course, we recommend sugarless gum.) Gum is not a problem with modern braces.

You see, gum is soft enough and tears easily enough that it doesn’t exceed the strength of the glue. Also, modern braces are much smaller than they were years ago. There’s less surface area to be affected by the gum. Also, gum increases saliva, which washes away food particles and dilutes acids in the mouth. (Acids form from normal processes.) So there are actually positive aspects to chewing gum while wearing braces.

Foods that you shouldn’t chew or eat when wearing braces:

  • ice
  • caramel
  • hard candy
  • licorice
  • hard pretzels
  • hard granola bars

FAQs About Foods and Braces

What about suckers? If I promise not to chew them?!?

Dr. John’s personal opinion is that it’s impossible to enjoy a sucker without chewing it at the very end. Usually what happens is, the patient starts with great intentions for not chewing the sucker, but as it gets smaller and smaller, the patient gets distracted. Before you know it, CRUNCH – a broken bracket!

And how about ice?

This same phenomenon exists for the other great nemesis of orthodontic treatment, the ice cube.

Dr. John is of the opinion that it’s impossible for anyone who likes to chew ice to only suck on it. In the end, it will be chewed!

Dr. John says, if he had a nickel for every broken bracket due to sucker suckers and ice chewers, he could take a trip to Hawaii.

Can eat popcorn?

Another surprise to patients is that Dr. John feels that popcorn is an okay snack to eat while wearing braces. That is, as long as you don’t chew on the un-popped kernels. Not only are they very hard on braces, but they can also cause damage to your teeth.

Other things to NOT chew on while wearing braces:

  • fingernails
  • sweatshirt ties
  • mouthguards

These are all proud members of the “I KNOCK BRACES OFF” Hall of Fame. All three of these items are responsible for multiple braces being dislodged.

If you aren’t sure whether an item is on the Do Not Eat list, give us a call today at (503) 585-5400.