Eating With Orthodontic Appliances

There are certain dietary habits that are known to cause breakage of orthodontic appliances, as well as to increase the risk of dental disease. Dr. Held’s aim is to achieve the treatment goals with as few disturbances as possible due to appliance breakage, and to minimize the side affects of poor diet choices. Remember, teeth move best in a healthy environment and in individuals with excellent overall health. Be sure that you have a well-balanced diet.

Foods and drinks that may cause dental caries (cavities) should be restricted while wearing braces or expanders. Sticky food is to be avoided because of the increased risk of dental decay and appliance breakage. This type of food sticks to braces and expanders, and remains on your teeth for long periods of time. If food or drinks high in sugar content are to be consumed, we advise having them with regular meals or at one given time of the day. Please make sure that careful brushing and rinsing take place immediately afterward. Between-meal snacks should be confined to foods without refined sugar, and should be followed by brushing or vigorous rinsing.

Braces and expanders are attached to your teeth with a special orthodontic glue or cement that normally will withstand the forces of eating. However, brackets can be dislodged, wires can be bent or broken, and expanders can be loosened or pulled off, all after eating certain foods.

To protect your braces and expanders, avoid HARD, STICKY, CHEWY, and CRUNCHY foods. There are plenty of tasty alternatives to most of the foods to avoid (see below). For most situations, common sense will tell you the specific food or items to avoid. If you are a child and unsure, and you are not in a position to ask one of our Team Members directly, please ask a parent, family member, or guardian to make sure that a food or item in question is safe to eat. Hard and crunchy foods can break or damage wires, brackets, and expanders. Sticky and chewy foods can get caught between brackets and wires, can cling to expander plastic and bands, and can pull appliances off. All HARD, STICKY, CHEWY, and CRUNCHY foods can weaken the bond strength of the glue or cement for any appliance glued in your mouth. If the bond strength is weakened, there may be a delay between eating those types of foods, and when the appliance breaks or falls off. That delay can lead to confusion about what caused the problem. For example, if you chew gum one week, it can lead to appliance breakage the following week, when the weakened glue finally “lets go.” So please avoid it altogether. Also, minimize sugary foods; they cause tooth decay and related problems. Nail biting, pencil and pen chewing, and chewing on foreign objects should also be avoided.


Items to Avoid and their Alternatives

  • Ice
  • Chewing on Pens and Pencils
  • Nail-Biting
  • GumAlternative: Bite Wafer
  • PopcornAlternative: Kernel-less Popcorn (Chester’s Puffcorn/ O-Ke-Doke Popcorn)
  • Pretzels, Doritos, Tortilla Chips, Krunchers, CheetosAlternative: Soft Pretzels, Pringles, Lays, Cheese Puffs
  • NutsAlternative: Smooth Peanut Butter
  • Biting or Sucking on Sunflower SeedsAlternative: Smooth spreads such as Nutella®
  • Granola BarsAlternative: Soft Fruit Bars
  • Hard TacosAlternative: Soft Tacos
  • Hard CandyAlternative: Reese's, Soft Chocolate Bars, Pudding, Jell-O
  • Raw VegetablesAlternative: Steam, Shred, Boil
  • Boned MeatAlternative: Cut Meat off of the Bone
  • Apples, Peaches, PearsAlternative: Cut Into Bite-Sized Pieces
Eating these listed Items to Avoid, or anything else not listed here that is HARD, STICKY, CHEWY, OR CRUNCHY, can loosen the brackets/bands and bend/break the wires or expanders. Remember, you may not discover the problem until hours or days later. Loose brackets/bands and bent/broken wires or expanders cause longer treatment times & added fees. So please choose your foods wisely.

It is important to regularly check your braces or expanders to make sure that nothing is bent, broken, or loose. In the event of a loose/broken wire or bracket, or a loose expander, please call our office immediately to arrange an appointment for repair.

Remember, if you have any questions about dietary restrictions or good food choices, please ask us!

Meet Dr. Held

Originally from Northern California, Dr. Cheryl L. Held began her orthodontic residency at the Saint Louis University Department of Orthodontics.
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  • 9979 WingHaven Blvd., Suite 200
  • O'Fallon, MO 63368
  • ph. 636.561.5550