When you first get braces it can be a real chore to find out what to avoid and what you can still enjoy. We’ve broken down the main types of food to avoid with braces as well as examples and reasons why. Stick to this handy guide and you’ll keep your teeth healthy and your orthodontist happy!
The big types of food to avoid are things that are Hard, Crunchy, Chewy, Sticky, Gummy, Staining, Sugary, or food that needs Big Bites. Sounds like… pretty much everything, right? It sounds worse than it seems. There are also plenty of exceptions within these types so don’t worry too much. Let’s break it down for you.
Hard or Crunchy
With crunchy or hard food, the force needed to break the food up is the problem. Anything that’s hard requires a lot of force to break or crunch up. You could be biting part of the food with the brackets of your braces rather than your teeth.
That force can push your brackets off of the teeth – called a broken bracket. The force can also break or bend the braces. This will require a visit to your orthodontist to get it fixed and will delay the time it takes to get the brackets off.
Braces Tip: Though you should avoid most hard foods, some can be broken down small enough that just a little bite at the back of your mouth is OK. Some foods can also be soaked in gravy or other liquid to help break them down to be softer.
Hard & Crunchy Foods To Avoid With Braces
- Hard Sweets
- Celery / Carrots – Any hard veg
- Hard cereals
Much like hard foods, anything large you need to bite into can break off brackets. Even fairly soft food like a sandwich or corn on the cob can need a big bite. Though the food is soft, when you bite it compresses the food into a hard chunk and creates a possibility of a broken bracket or wire.
You mainly use your sharp front teeth to bite into things but when you get braces, you have to almost completely stop using them. This problem is one of the hardest parts of having braces – not being able to take big bites to break things up.
Braces Tip: Cut food down into smaller chunks and eat it with your back teeth to avoid the braces.
Big Bites Foods To Avoid With Braces
- Corn On The Cob
- Ice Cubes
Anything big and chunky that needs a lot of chewing can cause the same problems as hard or big bite food. If you are biting into a thick steak or burger, that chewing pushes the food against the brackets. With enough force or repeating chewing it can break one right off!
Chewy Foods To Avoid With Braces
- Pizza – Crust especially
- Pitta Bread
Read on for some tips to eat Pizza and some chewy foods while you still have braces!
Sticky & Gummy
While chewing or eating sticky foods and sweets, the food can easily wrap around your brackets or wires. This can create two problems. First, the gummy food is hard to remove – leaving a sugary mess stuck against your teeth which is bad for general tooth health at the time you need to take the most care. The acidic sugars dissolve in your mouth and can cause cavities and yellowing.
Secondly, with really sticky food as you open and close your mouth or try to the food off with your tongue, you can pull the bracket off!
Sticky Foods To Avoid With Braces
- Chewing Gum
- Peanut Butter
- Chewy Sweets
Staining & Sugary Food
This category is a little different from the rest as it’s mainly about general tooth health. In general brace-free life, it’s always best to avoid food that can stain your teeth or sugary foods that cause teeth to break down. You definitely can eat some of these but try to limit your intake and brush properly 30 minutes after.
With braces that become even more important as it’s much harder to brush properly. Food and drink that is sugary or stains your teeth also get trapped in all the extra crevices braces bring and leave it stuck against your teeth more than without braces.
If you have braces elastics that are clear, white, or lighter colors – some foods can dye those elastics. Clear braces can also be stained to a degree. Beetroot, turmeric, food coloring and similar can all dye elastics quite fast.
Staining & Sugary Foods To Avoid With Braces
- Coffee / Tea
- Wine – Especially Red but both are also sugary
- Soft Drinks + Fruit Juices
- Some Curries + Chillies
Braces Tip: If staying away from Coffee or others proves too much, sip to the back of your mouth with a straw to avoid your teeth as much as possible. I bought a few reusable and compostable bamboo straws and stashed them at work, at friends and families’ houses, as well as keeping one with me whenever I go out.
What Can Happen If You Eat These Foods With Braces?
While no one is perfect and most people will end up eating a few things on this list – there are really good reasons not to. The biggest problem with all of these is that they will delay your treatment.
Brackets are the metal (sometimes ceramic in clear braces) squares that are glued to the teeth. If you break a bracket completely off or just knock it loose, the brace is not doing its job on that tooth and it affects the rest of that row.
A bracket coming off requires a visit to your orthodontist as soon as possible and on average adds another three weeks or time with your braces on. Learn what to do if you break a braces bracket.
The wire along the brackets is tensioned and a break means your teeth on that arch won’t be being pulled into the right position. Again this means a visit to the orthodontist as soon as possible to fix it.
A broken wire can also be really painful as it can dig into your cheek or tongue, and get moved around when you try to eat. A bent wire from too much chewing can mean the wire isn’t doing its job and is pulling teeth in the wrong direction.
Teeth Staining & Yellowing
If you sugary foods a lot or don’t clean debris out of your braces you can cause staining. When teeth yellow with braces it can be more noticeable after the braces are off because the staining mostly only happens on the part of the teeth without the braces.
This can be common with younger kids and teenagers who don’t have a really good cleaning routine. You have to brush and clean your teeth first thing in the morning before breakfast, the last thing at night, and 30 minutes after you eat during the day. If you can’t brush and floss properly at least rinse your teeth with mouthwash or use a water flosser to clear out food debris.
While some overall staining can be removed with good dental hygiene and teeth cleaning later, it’s really important to avoid any staining at all while you have braces on.
What Food Can I Eat With Braces?
While the list of food to avoid with braces is pretty big, there is still plenty for you to enjoy while you undergo treatment. Most soft foods are great and there are probably some things you eat regularly you can carry right on with.
Food To Eat With Braces
- Pasta & Noddles
- Soft bread like tortillas
- Cheese & Dairy
- Mashed & Baked Potatoes – Sweet Potatoes are excellent brace food
- Ice Cream!
How To Eat Hard & Chewy Food With Braces
There are a few things on the above lists you can still eat, as long as you use a couple of tricks. First off, you should always use the back teeth for chewing and tearing. They’re bigger and wider meaning you’re less likely to hit a brace, plus normally the back two or three won’t have braces on.
You also need to cut stuff up into the smallest chunks you can before eating it. So with big bitey things like pizza, steak, burgers, and so on, just do a lot of cutting up with a knife and fork before you chew.
Do Yourself This One Big Favor
It’s definitely a lot of effort to have braces, avoid certain foods, and clean your teeth properly the whole time. The discomfort and dentist visits also add to the general stress. However, it pays off massively in the end.
A straight and healthy set of teeth mean fewer dentist visits for the rest of your life, easier chewing (when you have good alignment, fewer cavities as your teeth are easier to clean – plus an amazing smile that everyone will notice.
Braces will change your life for the better – take if from the millions of people who’ve had them and come out smiling at the other end. Do yourself a huge favor in the future. Working hard for yourself right now will pay off. Take a look around our site for some braces journeys that’ll inspire you to get braces or keep going in your journey.