What Are the Foods You Can Eat During Orthodontic Treatment?

girl with braces holding a slice of watermelon

What can I eat with braces? This is one of the most common questions people have about orthodontic treatment. Mainly, patients should avoid the following foods while wearing their braces; any foods someone would consider “hard” or “sticky.”

We’ll definitely review in more detail what are some of your dietary limitations when you are undergoing orthodontic treatment. Please keep in mind that many of these tips apply to fixed orthodontic appliances. Patients who use clear aligners won’t have the same limitations as those wearing braces.

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

It’s essential you pay close attention to the information here and the recommendations your orthodontist gives. Your treatment’s efficiency is on the line.

Why Are These Foods So Problematic for Braces?

It’s helpful to understand why you need to avoid certain foods to 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 powerful when it comes to pushing and pulling the brackets using wires and rubber bands. The glue is not strong enough to withstand 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 you chew gum with 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, the 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

Surviving Your First Week With Braces

Now that you know a bit a little more about what NOT to eat while undergoing your orthodontic treatment with braces, it is important we give you some tips and tricks that you can use to survive your first week with braces.

Let’s take a look below at what you can expect and some things you should consider during your very first week.

Choose What You Eat Wisely

If you are hungry, you can eat as soon as you leave your orthodontist’s chair. However, we highly suggest only eating soft foods for the first few days while your mouth and teeth adjust.

Stick to foods such as pasta, seedless bread, soft veggies, soup, and yogurt. Most likely, after about three or four days, the soreness will slowly decrease, at which point you can graduate to more solid foods, but remember to always stay away from the gum with sugar in it.

Wax Is Your New Best Friend

Brackets are designed to be gentle on your mouth, but more than likely, they will rub against the soft skin located on the inside of your mouth and cause irritation. Over time, your skin will toughen, and you will stop getting sore spots.

Until then, orthodontic wax will be your best friend. You can place a drop of wax on top of the bracket or wire, causing soreness inside your mouth or near your cheeks.

Using Saltwater to Rinse Your Mouth

If you experience a lot of irritation, rinsing your mouth with a solution of warm salt water five or six times a day for 30 seconds each time will help.

Add half a teaspoon of table salt to one cup of warm water. The saltwater will help relieve pain and allow sore areas to heal faster.

Always Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Practicing an excellent oral hygiene routine is essential before, during, and after your orthodontic treatment.

Use a braces-friendly toothbrush to brush your teeth after every meal, and if possible, after every snack. Also, be sure to do your best to get rid of any food particles that might get stuck in your brackets; if you can’t get to those food particles with your regular toothbrush, try an interdental brush instead.

Don’t forget to follow your normal routine of brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing regularly. Getting into these habits early on in your journey with braces will help ensure that you don’t end up with any problems down the road.

Every patient gets used to the discomfort of braces differently, but we are sure that following these steps will make your journey to straight teeth and your perfect smile a bit easier. Consistency is key, so don’t give up! Remember, the doctors and team at McDonald Orthodontics are with you every step of the way.

If you aren’t sure whether an item is on the Do Not Eat list or to schedule an appointment, give us a contact today at (503) 585-5400. We look forward to seeing you in our office.

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, that the patient starts with great intentions of 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 I 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.