Eating with New or Tightened Braces
For the duration of the time that you’re in braces, you will have to make some changes to your diet. We generally recommend that you keep away from hard, crunchy foods or any foods that cause you to exert pressure on your jaw (like corn on the cob). You should also avoid sticky foods that will get caught it your hardware beyond the reach of cleaning implements.
Consider this slightly limited diet to be a temporary sacrifice you’ll need to make in order to achieve a straight and healthy smile that you’ll have for the rest your life.
And just because you are supposed to be careful of eating things like crunchy foods when you’re in braces, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cut them out of your diet entirely. In many cases, you can eat them with a little bit of preparation or flexibility. For example, you shouldn’t bite into an apple, but if you let a knife rather that your teeth do the work, you can cut them up into small pieces. You can steam carrots until they are soft. You can strip corn kernels off the cob. You can even eat potato chips by letting one soften in your mouth from saliva, a technique that will also slow down your snacking and allow you to savor the flavor.
The times when you are likely to make the most concessions in your diet are the days after you first get your braces put on or after an appointment when you’ve had them tightened. These times are when your teeth will be the sorest, and the soreness will likely last a few days.
To get through these periods, we suggest you:
- Eat super-soft foods – Many foods can be nourishing that don’t require that you use your teeth at all. Puréed soups, smoothies, yogurt, and protein drinks are good options. If the soreness isn’t that severe for you, you can have can pasta, bananas, and rice. Meat cooked in a slow-cooker all day long becomes ultra-tender. If you cook scrambled eggs over very, very low heat, they become deliciously creamy.
- Cut food into small bites – Don’t make your teeth do work they don’t have to when they’re sore. In other words, don’t bite with your front teeth. Outsource the task of breaking food into chewable sizes to your knife and fork.
- Use your molars – Molars are the cube-like teeth in the back of your mouth designed for chewing and grinding food. They likely won’t be as sore as your other teeth after a tightening. So direct the food you’re eating to them.
- Eat slowly – If you’re eating too quickly, you won’t be taking the time to cut up food into morsels and to direct them to your molars. Instead, eat slowly and pay attention to what sort of activity your mouth can handle during this sensitive time.
- Drink water while you eat – Keep a tall glass of water within reach while you’re eating to help you wash down food.
- Take pain killers – For general soreness, it’s fine to take over-the-counter pain killers for a few days until the soreness starts to abate. Aspirin, Advil, and Tylenol (or generic versions) are all good.
Remember, the trade-offs you make when eating with new or tightened braces are only temporary, and the reward will arrive with a wonderful smile waiting at the end of orthodontic treatment.