What to Know About Eating With Braces

Medically Reviewed by Robert Brennan on June 30, 2023
3 min read

Many people choose to get braces to straighten their teeth and improve their overall dental health. While the end result is worthwhile, you may face some inconveniences along the way when living with braces. One of those is eating. Learn which foods are off-limits and difficult to eat for people with braces.

An orthodontist is a dental professional who specializes in the care and alignment of your teeth. Braces and other orthodontics are designed to address:

  • Overbite
  • Underbite
  • Crooked teeth
  • Crowding

These dental issues may be caused by a number of things, including:

  • Injury to your face or mouth
  • Jaw alignment
  • Heredity
  • Thumb sucking as a baby or toddler

Most people think of braces as a device to straighten your teeth. Braces can benefit your overall oral health in other ways, like:

  • Prevent tooth decay and gum disease
  • Reduce the chance of tooth loss
  • Improve chewing or speech that is affected by bite
  • Reduces abnormal wear on your enamel‌
  • Addresses jaw problems

There are many types of orthodontic treatments available. Different devices have different goals, and some braces are more effective than others.

Traditional braces have brackets cemented to your teeth that are connected by a thin piece of wire. Your orthodontist adjusts the wire regularly to apply pressure, straightening your teeth gradually over time. Sometimes the brackets and wires are placed on the back of teeth instead of the front.

Clear, removable aligners are also available and work similarly to traditional braces. Instead of brackets, you have small plastic molds that form to your teeth. You change the aligners out regularly, and your teeth slowly straighten over time.

You can get braces at any age. However, the average age for braces is between eight and fourteen, when abnormal bites become more noticeable. By treating poor alignment while your child is still growing, you can achieve better results.‌

Most people have braces for one to three years. Once your braces are removed, your orthodontist will make a mold of your teeth to give you a retainer. By sleeping with a retainer in, you can maintain the straightening effects of braces.

If you have removable aligners, take them out during meals and snacks. Brush your teeth before putting them back in your mouth. With removable aligners, you don’t have to avoid any foods. Aligners aren’t in your mouth to be damaged during eating. 

If you have traditional braces, you want to avoid some foods:

  • Chewy foods like gum and licorice
  • Crunchy foods like popcorn and pretzels
  • Sticky foods like caramel
  • Hard food like nuts and pretzels‌
  • Sugary foods like lollipops and candy 
  • Hard vegetables and fruits like apples and carrots‌

Eating foods like those may cause you to break your brackets. Your orthodontist will need to repair your braces, which may cost additional money and extend the time that you have your braces. Sugary foods may also cause decay around your braces, leading to cavities and discoloration.

Foods that are gentle on your braces include: 

  • Bread
  • Pancakes
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Soup
  • Pasta
  • Cheese
  • Rice‌
  • Pudding

No matter how healthy you eat, it is important to maintain excellent dental care with braces. Plan to brush and floss after each meal.