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What You Can and Can't Eat With Braces

Making The Best Food Choices While You Wear Braces

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Updated May 30, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Do you know what you can and can't eat with braces? Having braces doesn't mean that you will be living on pureed, bland foods during your treatment. Knowing what foods you can and can't eat with your braces will help you achieve the optimum results after your orthodontic treatment has been completed. Preventing damage to the archwires, bands, and brackets as well as keeping your teeth free from tooth decay during your treatment, should be your number one concern.

I have compiled this list of food that you can and can't eat with braces, to take the guesswork out for you, and keep your food choices enjoyable and tasty.

Fruits

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Fruit is an essential part of a healthy diet.  It is recommended that children eat one to two cups of fruit daily.  Even though fruit is a great choice for your health, how you choose to eat it is a challenge when you have braces.

Hard fruit, like an apple for example, can be very difficult to bite into, because of the brackets that are on the teeth.  Unripe pears and peaches pose the same problem.  Cut hard fruits into bite-sized pieces, so they can be chewed with the back teeth.

Soft fruits are easily bitten into for braces wearers, but when teeth are tender, especially after a wire change, even the softest fruit can be a nightmare.  Choose fruit such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries for days when your teeth are tender.

 

Vegetables

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Vegetables provide us with the vitamins and minerals that are essential for growing bodies.  Children should consume one to two cups of vegetables daily.  Like fruit, vegetables need to be prepared slightly differently for people that wear braces.

Hard, raw vegetables, such as carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli are tough to bite into with braces and may even pop a bracket off the tooth.  When preparing raw vegetables, cut them into bite-sized pieces that can be easily chewed with the back teeth.

Most vegetables may be enjoyed cooked -- which is a braces wearer's dream because cooking automatically softens the food.  If you are having a problem eating your favorite vegetable raw, try seaming it until it's tender, or boil it until it's soft. 

Grains

Grains provide us with fiber, iron, and many other nutrients that we require. Choosing whole grain products provides the optimum nutritional value for your buck.

Grains are generally an easy food group for braces wearers, because most grain products are very soft and easily chewed. However, there are a few grain products braces wearers should be cautious of.

Eating hard crusted breads, such as a bagel, is difficult for someone with braces because it is very hard to bite into. Soften breads by warming them or break them into bite-sized pieces.

Unground whole grains are also a challenge because they become stuck in between the braces, attachments and the even the teeth, which makes them very hard to remove. Avoid small seeds and grains.

Dairy

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Strong bones and teeth rely on a diet that is rich in calcium. Dairy products provide us with calcium, vitamin D, potassium, even protein. Dairy products are an excellent choice for braces wearers, because most dairy products are soft and require very little chewing.

Select from a variety of of dairy products, such as low fat milk, low fat cheese, and low fat yogurt. If you are lactose intolerant, soy-based dairy products are a great dairy alternative that are also generally soft and easily consumed with braces.

When eating soft cheese, you may find that it becomes stuck between the braces and wires. Try to prepare bite-sized pieces of cheese, or purchase a cheese string product that is easily peeled apart.

Meat

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Meat supplies us with protein and iron -- both essential, especially for growing bodies. Meat, however, poses a problem for braces wearers because it's fibrous, making it hard to chew. Stringy meat will often become stuck in the braces, or between the teeth. Tough cuts can be so difficult to chew, they end up loosening the bands that surrounds the molars. Eating meat right from the bone, such as chicken wings and ribs, becomes dangerous for your braces because you risk popping off a bracket.

Select lean, tender cuts of meat and cut them into bite-sized pieces before you eat it. Also, remove meat from the bone before eating. Some ood choices include fish, chicken, and lean beef or pork. Tofu also is a good vegetarian option, since it's soft.

Nuts and Seeds

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Carefully selecting your choices from this vegetarian group will help keep your braces secure, because eating nuts and seeds can be very challenging for braces wearers.

Nuts and seeds are very hard, and they are very small -- two challenging aspects for someone that wears braces. Biting down on a hard nut or seed can easily break a band or bracket off from the tooth. Nuts and seeds are also responsible for bending the archwires, even though they may not actually break anything off. A bent wire can actually move the teeth into a undesired position, setting you back valuable treatment time.

Select nut spreads, such as peanut butter or almond butter, or coarsely grind your favorite nuts and seeds, and use them as a topping for your yogurt.

Candy - The "Non" Food Group

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Candy isn't an official food group, but let's face it most people do enjoy the occasional candy from time to time. For someone that wears braces, eating candy can be very destructive to their braces, and possibly to the tooth's surface as well.

Candy can be broken into two groups: hard and sticky. Morsels of toffee will adhere to the brackets and bands, which can easily break them off. Hard chocolate covered nuts will do similar damage similar to its stick counterpart. Gummy candy will bend archwires and get stuck under your braces attachments.

Eating candy should be avoided during your orthodontic treatment. Teeth are more vulnerable to decay while in braces, therefore eliminating excessive sugar is very important during your treatment.

Bringing It Altogether - Enjoy the Variety

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Eating with braces doesn't have to be boring. Now that you know what you can and can't eat with braces, you are able to choose from a wide variety of braces friendly foods, that are readily available and easily prepared. Try to select a variety of foods -- from all of the food groups listed above. Ensuring that your diet remains healthy during your orthodontic treatment is just as important as your overall treatment's outcome.

If you are having a hard time connecting with your "inner chef", and you find your braces friendly foods are bland, and just plain boring, try searching for a braces friendly cookbook or recipes that will help bring the excitement back to your taste buds.

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Sources:

United States Department of Agriculture. Inside the Pyramid - What foods are in the grain group?. http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/grains.html. Accessed: February 25, 2010.

Vincent Iannelli, M.D. Food Groups - Child Nutrition Basics. Updated: March 24, 2008. http://pediatrics.about.com/od/nutrition/a/0308_food_group.htm. Accessed: February 25, 2010.

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