It just so happens that March is National Nutrition Month and it got us thinking about how to keep on eating healthy when you have braces. Or even jump at the chance to boost your nutrition! That craving for a big, crunchy bite of juicy apple is not super braces-friendly, so what good-for-you foods can you reach for? Wearing braces shouldn’t hinder healthy eating. We at Okuda Orthodontics want to share our tips for healthy, braces-friendly food. And, of course, mention what not to eat with braces, too.
Braces and Food: The Mechanics Of It
It’s safe to say that eating with braces means you have to be a bit more selective with food. Why? Because some foods can damage or even break parts of your braces. Plus, certain foods can get stuck in your braces’ wires or brackets and it can take some effort to get them out. Foods that are sticky, hard, or crunchy are more likely to damage braces or get wedged between braces and teeth. Thankfully, once you get used to having braces, you’ll find out which healthy foods you like are braces-friendly and which you need to eat with caution or avoid altogether.
Veggies and Fruits: Healthy Eating with Braces
When you think of healthy foods, you might think back to where it all started: our childhood lunches. The basics of apples slices, carrot and cucumber sticks, crackers and cheese were a great introduction to healthy eating. With braces, though, these preparations of raw and crunchy foods (apart from the cheese, of course!) are, sadly, foods that can damage your braces or get easily stuck.
Instead, we suggest getting your daily portions of fruits and veggies by sticking to National Nutrition Month’s motto, “Personalize Your Plate.” You don’t need to let go of the crunchy fruits and vegetables that you enjoyed before braces. Healthy eating can continue — you might even find ways to eat healthier! But you do need to prepare hard fruits and veggies in a braces-friendly way. Take the aforementioned apples, carrots and cucumbers, for instance. Cut them into smaller pieces or slice them thin. In the case of apples and carrots, roast or steam them so they’re softer. Cooking fruits and veggies even intensifies their flavors and you might find yourself eating more of them. It’s all about changing the way you eat some fruits and veggies, not cutting them out. Dr. Brady Okuda and the team at Okuda Orthodontics suggest you try:
- Peeling off the skin
- Shredding or spiralizing vegetables like carrots or zucchini
- Sauteeing your veggies
- Cooking your veggies into soups, stews or curries
- Baking your veggies and fruits into low-sugar muffins and other healthier baked goods
- Blending fruits and veggies into smoothies
Other Foods You Can Eat With Braces
It goes without saying that most of us eat more than just fruits and vegetables. Unless you’re vegan, many of us enjoy non-plant-based foods, too, both for taste and for additional protein, iron and other vitamins and minerals. So what other kinds of foods can you eat with braces to make sure your diet is both varied and nutritious? Soft foods are easy on braces, and if they get stuck, they can come out with a swish of water, floss or your toothbrush.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Breads (though any with a hard or chewy crust should be cut into smaller pieces)
- Waffles and pancakes
- Dairy such as cheese, milk and yogurt
- Grains such as rice, pasta and oatmeal
- Protein in the form of chickpeas, legumes, eggs, poultry, seafood, pork or beef
Now, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, meat and protein alternatives play a big role in your food decisions. We at Okuda Orthodontics want to help all our braces patients eat healthier, no matter their dietary restrictions or choices. This begs the question, “Can you eat peanut butter with braces? Or any nut or seed butter for that matter?” As you might know, nuts and seeds are a go-to in vegan diets especially. The simple answer to “Can you eat peanut butter with braces?” is, “Yes!”
You can go ahead and enjoy a peanut butter and banana sandwich or that thai noodle salad when you have braces. Just choose smooth over chunky! Pro tip? Rinsing your mouth with water will help dissolve any peanut butter that sticks to your mouth or braces. It’s also ideal if you can brush your teeth right after eating peanut butter to get any tiny traces out of your braces.
As you can see, having braces doesn’t limit eating healthier. In fact, you might even end up increasing your nutritional intake since, as we’ll discuss next, many foods to avoid with braces are also unhealthy.
Foods to Avoid With Braces
We mentioned earlier that hard, crunchy or sticky foods can damage or break your braces. So can overly chewy foods. As it happens, many of these foods are also unhealthy — avoiding these kills two birds with one stone, so to speak! As your Henderson braces specialist, we’ve found that most people want their orthodontic treatment to go as smoothly and quickly as possible. But if there’s an issue with your braces, it can delay your treatment. So lessen the chances of damaging your appliance — here’s a sampling of what not to eat with braces:
- nuts, seeds
- pretzels, chips and popcorn
- candy (both gummies and hard ones)
- taffy, caramel, marshmallows
- hard crackers
- dense breads such as pizza crusts, bagels (unless you cut them in small pieces first)
Let’s Talk About Sugar and Oral Health
You might’ve noticed that a few of the foods to avoid with braces listed above are high in sugar (re: candy, caramel, etc). We have three reasons for suggesting you avoid or limit sugary foods when wearing braces:
- to keep your braces safe
- to build healthy eating habits
- to maintain good oral health
Most of us know that sugar can lead to plaque build-up on your braces and teeth, causing tooth decay. So you might agree that not eating too much sugar is beneficial all around!
Trying New Foods
Wearing braces can be a good opportunity to branch out and think more creatively about your food. As we’ve covered, you don’t have to give up healthy eating for the sake of your braces! It’s actually a great chance to take healthy, non-braces-friendly foods and prepare or enjoy them in a different way. Or try new foods to eat with braces. Roasted veggies instead of raw. A soft pita instead of crackers. Especially when you first get braces and you’re getting used to them, you might discover new ways to enjoy your tried-and-true favorites but with braces on.
Healthy Foods + Good Oral Hygiene = Happy Braces
We can’t talk about braces and food without covering oral hygiene. Sure, we’ve talked about eating less sugar and eating healthier, but what goes hand-in-hand with that is good oral hygiene. With good oral hygiene habits, you can even eat peanut butter with braces and not worry!
Let’s start with the basics of brushing with braces. Did you know that there’s a special way to brush and floss when you have them? Brush the gumline at a 45-degree angle first, then angle down from the top of your braces bracket as you continue to brush. With braces, you also have to pay attention to your oral hygiene throughout the day, in tandem with when you eat. Here are a few other tips and tricks from Dr. Brady for practicing good oral hygiene with braces:
- brush in the morning, after eating, and before bed
- use a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head so you can get in the nooks and crannies of braces and around teeth (electric and sonic toothbrushes also work well)
- use an interdental brush to gently dislodge food particles right away if you don’t have your toothbrush handy
- rinse your mouth with water to wash away food particles and keep sugar from sticking to your teeth if you can’t brush right away
- floss your teeth once a day — a floss threader or orthodontic flosser can make it easier
- Water Pik flossers also work great with braces because you don’t have to navigate around the wire
- see your dentist every six months to keep tabs on your oral health
Eating healthy with braces shouldn’t be hard. Hopefully, we’ve given you some useful tips for how to keep a balanced, healthy diet while wearing them. Maybe even inspired you to take your meal planning and food habits to the next level! Have more questions about braces-friendly foods? Your Henderson orthodontist is ready to help you get the most out of your time with braces. Contact us today to schedule a check up or a free initial consultation.