Braces change the way we eat, at least at first. Particularly children, who are accustomed to blindly tearing into their crunchy snacks and eating chewy stick-to-everything candy without a thought, need to revise their diets to consume snacks and treats that won’t be painful or cause damage to their new wiring.
The first changes involve learning how to eat again to avoid pain, immediately after a tightening or initial installation. This means cutting food up into tiny bites, using the rear molars as much as possible and changing meat intake to avoid the thickest and chewiest fare like steak or ham. It also involves cutting down on sugary snacks that can build up excessive plaque around your brackets and switching to softer foods that won’t be tough on the hardware.
What Not To Eat
Certain snacks are better suited to eating with braces than others. Foods to avoid are many: raw vegetables like carrots or cauliflour and raw fruit like apples or pears; chewy candy like gum, taffy and caramels; brittle confections like peanut brittle or hard candy; tough-to-tear snacks like jerky; chewy breads like bagels or dinner rolls; and dense, crispy snacks like corn chips and pretzels. All of these will wreak havoc on a new set of braces, even harmless-seeming ice cubes.
Fortunately, the list of acceptable snacks is also long. Citrus fruits are soft to chew and high in vitamin C and calcium, just as an assortment of greens and some lightly cooked vegetables in a tossed salad are equally nutritious in other ways. Other soft fruits that won’t cause damage or a dart of pain: bananas, raspberries, blueberries and grapes.
Sugar-free candies that can be sucked and not chewed offer parents an excuse to remove a concentrated sourse of simple sugar from their children’s diets. It’s still wise to avoid any chewy candy, sugarless or not, which can stick to and yank at wiring.
Several types of universally accepted snacks are suitable for eating with braces too. From potato chips and cheese puffs to thinly sliced cold cuts and jelly on toast — these won’t be damaging or painful, though some snacks might get lodged in hard-to-reach gaps that even regular brushings won’t be able to remove.
Dairy and whole grain products offer a whole other range of options. Yogurt, cottage cheese and string cheese go well between meals, as do the ingredients of a good-old-fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich — light on the peanut butter, though, since this too is prone to get stuck where you don’t want it.
These principles should carry over into meal time, of course. Soft grains like rice, cooked vegetables and proteins that can cut into tiny bites — all of these promise at least some semblance of an enjoyable diet while your braces are doing their work of giving you a straighter smile.