Complete Guide to Eating With Braces

Dr. Alberto Fernández Aiora

Wearing braces can be a great way to improve your smile, but they come with some dietary limitations. You can still enjoy many of your favorite foods. However, there are some foods that you should avoid while wearing braces.

Teenage girls eating pizza with a focus on the girl with the braces
Complete Guide to Eating With Braces 4

What Can You Eat the First Week of Braces?

You should be especially careful with foods during the first week of having braces. Your teeth will be the most sensitive at this point.

Your braces will also be the most susceptible to damage. Follow your orthodontist’s instructions and stick to soft foods that don’t require intense chewing.

Easy to Chew Foods

Food that requires minimal to no chewing is ideal when you first get braces. Here are some soft foods that are safe to eat with braces:

  • Soups
  • Smoothies
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Yogurt, ice cream, and other soft dairy products
  • Oatmeal, pasta, and other soft cereal products
  • Soft vegetables, such as mashed potatoes
  • Soft fruits, such as bananas
  • Soft cheeses

Best Foods to Eat When You Have Braces

The best foods to eat when you have braces are soft, don’t require extensive chewing, and aren’t sticky. Following your orthodontist’s diet recommendations is essential to protect your braces and avoid discomfort.

The first few days after you get braces are the most crucial. Your teeth will feel highly sensitive. Certain foods can harm or even break your braces, especially during this time.

If you want to stick to safe foods for braces, try foods that:

  • Require minimal chewing
  • Don’t stick to your teeth
  • Aren’t too spicy or acidic
  • Aren’t too hot or cold

Your teeth will gradually adjust over time. Chewing will become more manageable, and your teeth may be able to handle more heat, cold, and spice. However, you’ll still want to avoid anything sticky.

How to Eat with Braces

You’ll still need to be careful about eating with braces, even after the initial adjustment period ends. You must protect your braces from damage and ensure food isn’t trapped around the brackets and wires.

Here are some good rules for eating throughout your braces treatment:

  • Avoid tough foods — Hard or sticky foods can damage or get caught in your braces. Continue to avoid problem foods until you get your braces off.
  • Chew carefully — Take small, careful bites when you eat. Chewing slowly can help break food down so it doesn’t get trapped in your braces.
  • Prepare your food before eating it Cut chewy foods into bite-sized pieces to make them easier to chew.
  • Don’t eat anything you have to bite into — Food like apples, pizza crusts, corn on the cob, and meat off the bone require biting into, which can damage your braces.

After the First Few Days

Once your mouth has adjusted to the pressure of the braces, your list of safe foods can expand. After the first few days go by, you may be able to start eating:

  • Chewier cuts of meat
  • Soft bread
  • Citrus fruits

Even as you begin to reintroduce some of these foods, practice caution. You can also try to cut your food into smaller pieces. If you experience any pain or discomfort, stop eating the food immediately.

Why is Eating Hard with Braces?

Eating with braces is hard because your mouth adjusts to the changes from your orthodontic treatment. Your teeth and gums may feel sore or sensitive, making eating difficult.

After the first few days or weeks, your mouth will adjust. You’ll have less sensitivity and be able to eat a broader range of foods.

However, you’ll still need to be careful about what and how you eat with braces.

How Long Will It Take to Eat Normally with Braces?

It typically takes about a week to adjust to eating with braces. Once you feel comfortable, you can start eating more types of food.

You won’t be able to eat like you would without braces, though. You’ll need to chew slowly, cut food into bite-sized pieces, and avoid sticky foods.

What Can’t You Eat with Braces?

You should avoid hard and sticky foods altogether during your time wearing braces. They can become stuck around the wires and damage them. A tough piece of food may even cause a bracket to break off.2

Foods to avoid while you have braces include:

  • Hard, tough, or sticky candy
  • Popcorn
  • Corn on the cob
  • Crunchy foods like chips, pretzels, and similar snacks
  • Nuts
  • Harder pieces of bread, such as bagels and pizza crusts
  • Crunchy fruits and vegetables

You should also avoid chewing on ice or sugary gum. However, many orthodontists say that sugar-free gum is safe to chew with braces and may even help prevent tooth decay.3

Exercise caution with acidic foods and drinks like coffee, fruit juices, vinegar, and even yogurt. A study found that these products, especially coffee, can cause braces to release small amounts of metal.4

Risks of Eating Sticky or Hard Foods with Braces

According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, “hard, crunchy, sticky, and chewy foods can break brackets, wires, bands, and appliances, resulting in additional costs and increased treatment time.”

Sticky food may also be difficult to dislodge with regular brushing. If the food stays in your mouth too long, it will attract bacteria and contribute to tooth decay.5

You can maintain your braces by avoiding foods likely to get stuck in them. You’ll also avoid hassle and frustration when brushing your teeth.

Meal and Snack Ideas for Braces

The list of foods you can’t eat while you have braces might feel restrictive. However, you can enjoy plenty of meals and snacks while keeping your braces and teeth safe.

Meals you can safely eat with braces include:

  • Soft tacos
  • Mac and cheese
  • Steamed vegetables
  • Oatmeal
  • Pancakes

Some braces-friendly snacks include:

  • Protein smoothies
  • Soft pretzels
  • Soft cookies and baked goods
  • Applesauce or fruit cups

Choosing Healthy Foods with Braces

Not all safe foods are equal in nutritional value.1

Ice cream and soft pastries may be convenient, but they are also high in sugar and low in essential nutrients. Soups and smoothies are easy to eat and have nutritional benefits, such as protein and micronutrients.

Consuming foods like these during braces treatment can make things easier on your mouth while still getting the nutrients you need. You’ll also avoid relying too heavily on sugary foods that can contribute to cavities.1

Tips for Keeping Your Braces Safe

Keeping your braces protected and secure isn’t just a matter of careful eating. You’ll also want to:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene — Brush and floss your teeth daily, especially after eating. Follow any other oral care instructions from your orthodontist.
  • Wear a mouthguard — If you play contact sports, wear a mouthguard to protect your braces from damage.
  • Visit the orthodontist regularly — Keep all your scheduled follow-up appointments with your orthodontist. Contact them as soon as possible if any problems or concerns arise.

Brushing and flossing with braces will require more of your attention. You’ll want to keep your eye out for any stray food particles. Take your time to ensure you’re doing a thorough job.

Summary

Eating with braces may be difficult because your mouth will be sore and sensitive. You should stick to softer foods for the first few days after getting braces. Once your mouth adjusts, you can start eating more types of food.

You’ll still want to exercise caution by taking careful bites, eating slowly, and avoiding hard or sticky foods. These foods can damage your braces and get stuck in hard-to-reach places.

In addition to eating carefully, you should brush and floss regularly. Follow your orthodontist’s instructions and contact them if you have any issues.

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