When your child gets braces they need to make some changes to their eating habits. There are some foods that can’t be eaten when you have braces but with a little effort on you and your child’s part it shouldn’t be a big deal.
While some foods should be avoided completely, there are many more that are fine to eat with a little extra preparation.
Whole, crunchy fruit and veg like apples, carrots and pears should be avoided but are ok if they are cut into small pieces. Sticky lollies like caramel are a big no-no, while nuts and popcorn can also cause problems. Tough meat and beef jerky should also be avoided.
Read on for the full list of foods you can and can’t eat with braces...
Why Are Dietary Changes Needed with Braces?
A few changes can make a big difference to the effectiveness of braces. Choosing the right food will makewearing braces more comfortable. You’ll also cut down on extra trips to the orthodontist for repairs by avoiding damage to the braces.
1. To Protect Braces from Damage
The main reason for changing what a child does and doesn’t eat during their orthodontic treatment is due to the risk of damaging braces. Foods that are too hard or sticky can snap the arch wire or dislodge a bracket from its tooth. Once this happens, the braces are ineffective until the orthodontist can repair the breakage. Avoiding damage will help get your braces off faster.
2. To Avoid Discomfort After Adjustments to Braces
For a day or two after the orthodontist adjusts braces, your child’s teeth will probably feel sore. While their teeth get used to the new setting, your child should mainly eat softer foods. Foods that don’t require them to bite down or chew can be a welcome relief for aching teeth and gums. Soups, yoghurt, smoothies are all good options for sore teeth and gums. Once the teeth have moved into position, your child can go back to eating their regular (braces-friendly) diet.
3. To Reduce the Risk of Stained Teeth
Drinking and eating foods high in sugar and not brushing soon after can cause teeth staining. It’s best to avoid any food or drinks that will coat teeth in sugar causing the exposed part of each tooth to stain while the part of the tooth protected by the bracket remains unstained.
4. To Change Chewing Technique
One of the biggest risks to braces is biting into hard foods with front teeth. Rather than using front teeth to bite into food, cut them into smaller pieces and use the stronger back teeth to chew.
Food That Can Be Eaten with Braces
You can still eat most food with braces. It’s important that your child cleans their teeth properly after eating because food can easily get stuck in their braces. Foods that can be eaten with braces include:
- Bread – pre-cut loaves of bread, soft tacos and tortillas are safe options
- Dairy – soft cheese, yoghurt and dips are fine to eat with braces
- Grains– rice, noodles and all kinds of cooked pasta are soft and suitable for braces
- Cakes & Muffins – pancakes, soft slices and biscuits
- Soft Meats & Chicken – leave the crackling off the plate but you can still enjoy roast, deli and barbecued meats that aren’t too chewy
- Cooked Vegetables – most soft, cooked vegetables eaten from a fork are fine so there’s no excuse for your child not to eat their brussel sprouts
- Seafood– avoid any bones and shell but otherwise fish, crab, salmon, oysters and mussels are suitable foods for braces
- Soft fruits – bananas, kiwi fruit, pineapple, strawberries, stone fruits (but cut it off the stone so you don’t accidentally bite into it)
- Sweet treats – ice cream, jelly, smoothies and milkshakes are all fine to indulge. Of course be aware of the harm eating too much sugar can do to their teeth and overall health so keep these as occasional treats
Food That Should be Avoided with Braces
The following foods should be avoided with braces:
- Whole apples & pears – rather than biting into hard fruits, cut it up into small, thin pieces
- Carrots & Other Raw Vegetables – biting into a whole carrot can break the wire or bracket. Cut the carrot into thin sticks or rounds to enjoy them raw or cook to soften before eating
- Hard or crusty bread – not all bread needs to be given up, it’s just the hard rolls, hard bread and pizza crusts that are the problem. Choose a soft variety of bread or remove hard crusts
- Popcorn – popcorn kernels can easily become stuck in braces or under the gum in a spot that is difficult to access without removing part of the braces
- Nuts – most nuts are hard and can dislodge brackets and break wires. Ground and flaked nuts are fine to eat
- Corn on the Cob – biting into corn on the cob is a recipe for disaster. Use a sharp knife to cut the corn off before eating
- Tough Meat – try to only eat soft meats that don’t require a lot of chewing
- Caramel– sticky foods can become stuck to brackets and arch wires, causing breakages. Even if a breakage doesn’t occur the first time, the damage is often cumulative and subsequent pieces may cause dislodged hardware
- Licorice – not only does black licorice look terrible stuck in braces but chewy licorice causes breakages
- Lollies – most lollies are either hard or chewy so be careful which ones they eat while wearing braces. It’s also important to brush soon after consuming lollies as the sugar can cause decay and teeth staining
- Beef Jerky – some people love this salty snack but it takes a lot of chewing to get through and can damage braces
- Chewing Gum – a stick of gum isn’t much fun with braces. Once it gets stuck in the grooves of the brackets and around the wire, it’s difficult to get out
- Soft Drink – high sugar drinks can cause decay. It is best to avoid sugary drinks with braces. The sugar can stay on the teeth causing them to stain which can be more noticeable after the braces come off
- Ice – it’s fine to keep drinks cold with ice as long as your child isn’t tempted to crunch on a piece of ice otherwise the next sound you hear could be the braces
- Turmeric – if your child loves Indian and Middle East meals, try to steer them towards dishes that don’t contain turmeric. The yellow spice powder can stain braces and Invisalign retainers so it’s best avoid Indian food with braces
You may need to remind your child what they can and can’t eat, particularly during the first few months. Show your child how quick and easy it is to cut up their snack into bite-sized pieces so they don’t eat foods without preparing them properly.
It’s important to encourage your child getting orthodontic treatment to brush and floss their teeth at least twice a day. It doesn’t matter how healthy their diet may be, teeth always need brushing. Even healthy foods like fruit aren’t enamel-friendly. Keeping teeth free of food debris and plaque helps with tooth movement and avoiding decay and staining. Lingual or inside braces on the back of the teeth need extra care as you can't easily see if food is stuck behind your teeth.
If you have any queries about what your child can and can’t eat with their braces on, make sure you ask your Orthodontist for advice.