Having braces can make eating challenging. Braces consist of brackets glued to each tooth and wires that connect them. Rubber bands may also be used to help move the teeth. While braces help straighten teeth, they can irritate the lips, cheeks and gums.
To reduce this irritation, orthodontists often apply wax around the brackets. This wax acts as a cushion between the metal brackets and the soft tissues of the mouth. It provides relief from the rubbing and friction of the brackets against the cheeks and lips.
Here are quick answers to questions about eating with wax on braces:
- Yes, you can eat while wax is on your braces. The wax is there to protect your mouth from irritation.
- However, you’ll still need to be careful when eating as the wax can come off and you may accidentally bite down on your brackets.
- Stick to soft foods that are unlikely to dislodge the wax or get stuck in your braces.
- Avoid very hot, very cold, crunchy, chewy, sticky or hard foods that could loosen or remove the wax.
- If the wax comes off while eating, stop and reapply new wax before continuing your meal.
What is Orthodontic Wax and Why is it Used?
Orthodontic wax, also sometimes called dental wax, is a soft, malleable material used to protect the lips, cheeks and gums from irritation caused by braces. It cushions the rough edges of braces to make them more comfortable.
Brackets, wires and other components of braces can rub and poke the soft tissues of the mouth. This friction can lead to:
- Painful sores
- Canker sores
- Raw spots and irritation
Applying orthodontic wax covers the brackets and creates a smooth barrier between the metal and the cheeks, lips or gums. This reduces the abrasion and allows the soft tissues to heal.
Wax is commonly placed over braces:
- When braces are first put on
- On areas that are prone to rubbing and sores
- When braces are adjusted and tightened
- Anytime brackets are causing discomfort
Using wax can provide relief from braces pain and discomfort during the treatment process. It helps patients manage regular activities like talking and eating.
Soft Diet for Eating With Braces Wax
You can eat while wax is on your braces, but you’ll need to choose softer foods that won’t dislodge the wax or get stuck in your braces. Here are some examples of good foods to eat with wax on your braces:
- Mashed potatoes
- Cottage cheese
- Ice cream
A soft foods diet reduces the risk of the wax coming loose while you’re eating. Sticky, crunchy or hard foods can pull at and dislodge the wax before it’s ready to be changed.
Biting into foods like apples, carrots, nuts, popcorn or pizza crust can also potentially break brackets or bend wires if you accidentally bite down without realizing the wax has fallen off. This could lead to additional dental work and orthodontic repairs.
Foods to Avoid With Braces Wax
You’ll want to avoid certain foods while wax is on your braces:
- Hard foods – nuts, seeds, hard candy
- Crunchy foods – chips, popcorn, raw vegetables
- Chewy foods – bagels, licorice, steak
- Sticky foods – caramel, gum, bread dough
- Sharp foods – nachos, pizza crust, Doritos
- Hard frozen foods – popsicles
- Extremely hot foods – hot soup, hot drinks
- Extremely cold foods – cold icy drinks, ice pops
All of these types of foods can loosen, pull or break the wax off your braces. You’ll want to avoid them until it’s time to remove and replace the wax.
Watch for Signs the Wax Has Come Off
As you eat with wax on your braces, pay attention to any signs the wax may have become dislodged:
- If your cheek, lip or gum feels irritated
- If you feel a poking wire or bumpy bracket
- If you taste wax
- If you see wax debris in your food
- If you feel your teeth are suddenly very slick and smooth
Carefully feel along your braces with your tongue to check for missing wax. If the wax has come off, stop eating immediately. Remove any food debris and reapply new wax before finishing your meal.
What to Do if the Wax Comes Off While Eating
If you notice that the wax has come loose or fallen off entirely while you’re eating, follow these steps:
- Stop eating right away.
- Remove any food debris gently with your tongue, water or a Q-tip.
- If a wire is poking, use the eraser end of a pencil to gently push it back in.
- Rinse your mouth with water to clean your braces.
- Reapply new orthodontic wax.
- Avoid chewing, biting or eating on that side until the wax firms up.
- Continue your meal cautiously once the wax is in place.
Don’t keep eating if the wax comes off, as this could allow damage to your braces. Apply new wax before finishing your food. You may need to stop eating that meal and try again later once the wax is firmly in place.
Precautions for Eating with Braces Wax
Here are some precautions to take when eating while orthodontic wax is on your braces:
- Cut food into small pieces to minimize pressure on the wax.
- Chew slowly and carefully, especially once the wax starts feeling loose.
- Avoid very hot or very cold foods and drinks.
- Check for wax debris occasionally to confirm the wax is still in place.
- If one side becomes irritation-free, focus chewing on that side.
- Have extra wax handy in case you need to reapply during the meal.
Stay alert while eating with wax on your braces. Stop and reapply if needed to prevent damage. With care, you can eat most soft foods without disrupting the wax.
When to Replace Braces Wax
You’ll need to replace your braces wax every time it starts coming loose, which is typically every 3-10 days. Signs it’s time for new wax include:
- Wax falling off while eating
- Poking or rubbing from braces
- Sores developing on cheeks, lips or gums
- Wax feeling thin or worn down
- Debris building up under wax
Replace wax whenever it loses its cushioning effect and stops protecting your mouth from irritation. Don’t wait until it fully falls off. This will help prevent damage to braces from accidental biting on exposed brackets.
How to Apply New Orthodontic Wax
When it’s time for new wax, follow this process:
- Remove all old wax and rinse away debris.
- Dry brackets thoroughly so new wax will stick.
- Squeeze a small amount of wax and form it into a ball.
- Flatten ball into thin strip slightly larger than bracket.
- Apply strip over bracket and mold it to fully cover.
- Use tongue to smooth edges and ensure wax adheres.
Try not to leave any gaps where food or cheeks can get underneath. Press and mold firmly so it sticks. Ask your orthodontist how much wax to apply over each bracket.
How Long Does Orthodontic Wax Last?
On average, a single application of orthodontic wax lasts 3-10 days. However, this can vary based on several factors:
- Your diet – Harder foods loosen wax faster.
- Bracket type and location – Front brackets fall off faster.
- How thoroughly wax is applied – Gaps can reduce lifespan.
- Oral habits – Nail biting or chewing on wax will wear it down.
You may need to reapply wax every couple of days if it keeps coming off. Pay attention as you eat and replace wax as soon as you notice irritation. With care, wax can last up to 10 days before needing replacement.
Tips for Braces Wax to Last Longer
You can help your braces wax last longer by:
- Keeping a soft diet – Avoid hard, chewy, crunchy foods.
- Chewing carefully – Don’t bite down forcefully.
- Applying wax thoroughly – Cover brackets fully with no gaps.
- Using orthodontic wax strips – These adhere better than balls.
- Keeping wax dry – Moisture can make it slide off easier.
- Avoiding opening wide – This can stretch the wax.
Taking precautions when eating and drinking will prevent premature loosening. Also be gentle when brushing teeth, yawning and talking to keep wax intact longer.
Can You Apply Wax Over Loose Braces?
It’s not recommended to apply orthodontic wax over loose braces that aren’t well attached to the teeth. The wax will likely quickly fall off since the bracket underneath is moving.
Instead, get loose braces promptly resecured by your orthodontist. Once brackets are firmly rebonded to the teeth, wax can be applied and will stay in place better.
Wax also should not be used to try and hold extremely poking wires in place. The wires need to be properly secured by an orthodontist.
Only use wax over braces that are firmly anchored. Otherwise it will simply come off and not provide any protection.
Do’s and Don’ts When Eating with Braces Wax
Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when eating with braces wax:
- DO chew slowly and gently.
- DO check for loose wax occasionally.
- DO stay hydrated by drinking water.
- DO cut food into small bite-sized pieces.
- DO focus chewing on the non-irritated side.
- DON’T eat foods that could pull off the wax.
- DON’T bite into crunchy or hard foods.
- DON’T open your mouth excessively wide.
- DON’T drink extremely hot or cold beverages.
- DON’T chew gum or sticky candies.
Following these simple guidelines will help your wax stay in place longer so you can eat comfortably.
Foods to Eat When Braces Wax Falls Off
If your braces wax fully falls off before you can replace it, stick to eating only these very soft foods until new wax is applied:
- Mashed potatoes
- Scrambled eggs
- Ice cream
- Cottage cheese
Avoid any solid foods that could damage your exposed brackets and wires. Stick to pureed and liquid foods until you can apply new wax.
Pain Relief for Irritated Areas Without Wax
If wax falls off and an area becomes irritated before you can replace it, try these tips for pain relief:
- Rinse with warm salt water
- Take over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen
- Apply topical numbing gel or cream
- Suck on ice chips to numb the area
- Avoid spicy foods
- Drink cold beverages
- Gently massage cheek or lip with clean finger
Keep the area as clean as possible and reapply wax as soon as you can. See your orthodontist if sores or pain persist beyond a couple days.
Options if You Keep Biting Braces Wax Off
If you frequently bite and chew off your braces wax soon after getting it applied, talk to your orthodontist about these options:
- Use orthodontic wax strips – These adhere better than wax balls.
- Apply wax thicker over problem areas.
- Have brackets smoothed or padded if they are very abrasive.
- Adjust diet to only soft foods.
- Get wax reapplied more frequently, even every day.
- Try a mouthguard to wear when eating.
- Address oral habits like nail biting or chewing.
Frequently losing wax likely means you need to adjust your diet or habits. Your orthodontist can help troubleshoot the causes and find solutions.
Eating with braces wax does require some adjustments and precautions. However, with a soft diet and careful eating habits, you can keep the wax in place and avoid irritation. Pay attention as you eat and reapply wax as needed. With some mindfulness when eating, wax can protect your mouth from braces pain.