Braces are a common orthodontic treatment used to align teeth and correct bite issues. Traditional metal braces consist of brackets glued to each tooth and connected by wires. Braces apply gentle pressure over time to shift teeth into proper position. This process can take 1-3 years depending on the severity of the teeth misalignment.
Many people wonder if they can chew gum while wearing braces. There are concerns that chewing gum could damage or dislodge braces. Additionally, some types of gum contain sugar, which could lead to cavities around braces. This article examines whether sugar free gum can break or damage braces during treatment.
Can Chewing Gum Break Braces?
Chewing gum does not directly break or damage braces. Braces are made from high quality stainless steel or ceramic materials that are durable and able to withstand normal chewing forces. However, chewing gum can potentially harm braces in the following ways:
– Gum can loosen the cement holding the brackets to the teeth. The constant chewing motion applies pressure that can degrade and wear down dental cement. This can cause brackets to detach from teeth, requiring an emergency visit to have them re-bonded.
– Gum can pull out wires. Wires threaded through the brackets provide the force that shifts teeth into alignment. Chewy gum can potentially pull a wire out of place. This would require an orthodontist to put the wire back.
– Gum can damage orthodontic appliances. Braces often include rubber bands, springs, or plastic inserts to move teeth in specific directions. Vigorously chewing gum could overload and snap these more delicate parts.
– Gum can get stuck in braces. The sticky texture of gum allows it to adhere to dental work. Gum stuck in braces is not only unsightly, but can be difficult to remove fully. Stuck gum can also increase the risk of plaque buildup and tooth decay.
So while gum alone won’t directly break brackets or wires, it can indirectly damage braces over time. Chewing gum requires caution for those wearing braces.
Are Braces Patients Advised to Avoid Gum?
Most orthodontists advise braces patients to avoid chewing gum during treatment. Typical recommendations include:
– Avoid gum for at least the first 3 months after getting braces. New braces are the most vulnerable to being dislodged while patients adjust to them.
– Limit overall gum chewing. Gum should be an occasional treat, not a daily habit. Over-chewing increases the likelihood of braces damage.
– Only chew sugarless gum. Sugary gum promotes cavity development around braces. Sticking to an occasional piece of sugar free gum reduces this risk.
– Avoid very hard, sticky, or gummy candies. Tough chewy candies like taffy, licorice, caramels, or gumdrops are likely to pull out wires and brackets.
– Don’t open candy wrappers or gum with teeth. Braces can be broken or cut by biting down hard on wrappers or packaging. Use fingers instead.
– Be gentle chewing. Take care not to bite down forcefully when chewing gum. Light chewing won’t stress the braces components.
The usual recommendation is to avoid gum during the first 3-6 months after getting braces. After that, limit sugar free gum chewing to no more than several times per week rather than daily. Children may require stricter gum limits to ensure braces safety. Exceptions can be made for special occasions on a case-by-case basis.
Are Some Types of Gum Less Harmful to Braces Than Others?
Yes, some varieties of sugarless gum pose less risk to braces than others. Gum selection is an important consideration for braces wearers. Here are some factors that make certain gums less likely to cause issues:
– Non-sticky gum bases – Gum bases made with chicle rather than synthetic polymers tend to be less tacky and adhesive. Chicle-based gums are less likely to stick in braces. Brands like Simply Gum and Project 7 are chicle-based.
– Softer gum textures – Gums with a softer, less chewy texture place less force on braces. Mints and gums with a “melting” quality, like Ice Chips candy, have a lower impact when chewing.
– Smaller gum pieces – Gum pieces that are smaller in size allow for more controlled, gentle chewing rather than overzealous jaw and teeth motion. Mini Chiclets pieces are a good example.
– Natural rather than synthetic gums – Gums containing more natural waxes and resins tend to be shorter-lasting in the mouth than synthetically formulated gums. They require less chewing time and repetitions.
– Low-calorie gums – Gums with fewer calories tend to have less gum base and binders, resulting in a less sticky, more easily dissolving texture. These include diet gums and mini-gums with about 5 calories per piece.
– Xylitol sweetened gum – Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol sweetener that helps prevent cavities. Gums sweetened solely with non-sugar xylitol, like Spry gum, are safer for braces than sucralose sweetened varieties.
In general, chicle-based gums, softer fruited gums, smaller gum pieces, and low calorie xylitol gums are less likely to adhere to braces or require vigorous chewing. These varieties can be occasionally consumed more safely by braces wearers. However, moderation is still advised.
Can Braces Patients Chew Sugar Free Gum?
Sugar free gum is generally considered safer for braces than regular gum, but it still poses some risks. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of chewing sugarless gum with braces:
Pros of Sugar Free Gum:
– Won’t cause cavities – Sugar is the main cause of tooth decay. Sugarless gum avoids this hazard.
– Satisfies oral fixations – The chewing motion can satisfy oral urges and replace snacking.
– Cleans teeth – The mechanical motion of chewing gum can clear away food debris and plaque.
– Improves breath – Sugarless gum can cause increased saliva flow to temporarily freshen breath.
– Contains minerals – Some sugarless gums contain minerals like calcium and phosphate to strengthen enamel.
Cons of Sugar Free Gum:
– Can still damage braces – Even with no sugar, gum still risks pulling out wires and brackets with aggressive chewing.
– May still get stuck in braces – Stick-free gums are less likely to adhere to braces but it can still occur.
– May increase jaw pain – Excessive or constant gum chewing can worsen jaw and teeth pain from braces.
– Contains artificial sweeteners – Sugar alcohols and sweeteners like aspartame may have side effects with heavy use.
– Not a nutritional food – Gum contains no beneficial nutrients and should not replace meals or snacks.
While sugar free gum has some benefits, most orthodontists still advise limited consumption during braces. No more than several pieces per week is recommended. Avoid daily, constant chewing. Carefully selecting less sticky, more natural gum varieties can help reduce issues. Braces wearers should speak to their orthodontist about gum chewing guidelines to follow during treatment.
What Problems Can Chewing Gum Cause for Braces?
Regularly chewing gum with braces, even sugarless varieties, can cause several problems:
– Dislodged brackets and bands – The pressure of chewing can gradually detach cemented braces from teeth. This requires orthodontic repair.
– Bent or broken wires – Wires can be bent out of position or broken from chewing forces over time. This also needs professional repair.
– Loose or lost rubber bands and springs – The small elastic O-rings and coil springs assisting tooth movements can snap or get swallowed with gum chewing.
– Possible broken or loose permanent teeth – In some cases, excessive chewing forces from gum may contribute to damage to permanently bonded teeth.
– Tooth decay – While less likely with sugarless gum, decay is still possible if oral hygiene is not maintained. Stuck gum contributes to plaque buildup.
– Choking hazards – Orthodox bands, broken wires, dislodged brackets, and gum pieces can potentially be inhaled or swallowed.
– Jaw pain – Aggressive, constant chewing can strain the jaw muscles and cause headaches and discomfort.
– Digestive issues – Excess swallowed gum accumulates in the intestines and can cause blockages.
– Diet and nutrition issues – Relying on gum instead of healthy meals or snacks can result in vitamin/mineral deficiencies.
Limiting gum chewing prevents these common issues that can disrupt and extend orthodontic treatment. Most orthodontists recommend no gum chewing for at least 3-6 months after getting braces. After that, occasional sugarless gum chewing no more than several times per week is permitted. Proper oral hygiene and diet should still be maintained.
When is Gum Okay to Eat with Braces?
Orthodontists allow limited sugar free gum chewing in braces patients when:
– It has been at least 3-6 months after initially getting braces. The cement requires time to fully cure and stabilize on the teeth.
– Before a needed emergency orthodontic visit to temporarily re-secure a loose bracket or wire. The gum may hold it temporarily in place.
– Occasionally when out socially to freshen breath. Gum can boost self-confidence.
– For a picture or event where showing teeth is desired. Gum improves smile appearance.
– When a sore tooth could benefit from light chewing stimulation to ease pain.
– To satisfy occasional chewing urges instead of other dangerous or unhealthy snacks.
– When chewing xylitol-sweetened gum to prevent cavities after meals or snacks.
In these circumstances, an orthodontist may permit a piece of gum. Usually an allowance would be made for a specific situation, not regular daily chewing. Braces patients should discuss guidelines with their orthodontist before chewing any gum.
Are There Healthier or Braces-Friendly Gum Choices?
Yes, some gum options are better suited for occasional chewing with braces. These healthier, more braces-friendly gum choices include:
– Chicle gum base – Chicle-based gums don’t stick and come from natural sap. Brands like Simply Gum, Chicza, and Glee Gum use chicle.
– Xylitol sweetened – Xylitol is a natural sweetener that inhibits cavity-causing bacteria. Spry, Epic Dental 100% Xylitol Gum, and Dr. John’s Fruit Gums use xylitol.
– Sorbitol sweetened – Sorbitol is another non-sugar alcohol sweetener that doesn’t promote tooth decay. Brands like Nicorette gum use sorbitol.
– Natural gum flavors – Gums flavored with natural oils like cinnamon, citrus, and mint are preferable to artificial flavors.
– Minimal ingredients – Gums with fewer fillers and ingredients are generally less sticky on braces.
– Softer textures – Short-lasting softer gums are gentler on braces than extremely sticky, chewy varieties.
– Smaller or mini pieces – Mini gum pieces are easier to chew gently and present less choking risk if accidentally swallowed.
– Low calorie options – Gums with about 5 calories per piece tend to contain less gum base and be lower risk for braces.
Reading gum packaging to find natural, minimally-processed ingredients along with xylitol or sorbitol for cavity prevention and a softer chewing consistency can help braces patients make the best gum choice. Consulting an orthodontist for specific gum brand recommendations is also wise.
What Foods Should Be Avoided with Braces?
Orthodontists advise avoiding very hard, sticky, crunchy, and chewy foods with braces. Specific foods to be avoided include:
– All gum varieties – both with and without sugar
– Caramel, taffy, gummies -sticky or gummy candies get stuck
– Hard candies – jawbreakers, lollipops, mints
– Ice cubes or crushed ice – can damage to brackets
– Hard chips or pretzels – breakage risk
– Whole nuts, seeds, popcorn – gets trapped by braces
– Crispy/crunchy raw veggies and fruits – apples, carrots, celery
– Crusty breads – crunchy crusts can bend wires
– Hard or chewy cookies and bagels
– Tough meats like beef jerky that require tearing
– Very sticky peanut butter or other nut butters
– Hard or sticky granola bars or protein bars
Avoiding these foods minimizes damage to braces from biting or chewing forces. Softer, well-cooked foods that are easily chewed and swallowed are recommended. Keeping teeth and braces clean after meals and snacks also helps prevent issues. Patients should ask which particular foods to avoid at each stage of braces treatment for optimal results.
What Can I Eat if I’m Craving Something Chewy?
Those wearing braces who crave something chewy and gum-like have some safer options including:
– Sugar free gummy vitamins – These provide nutrition from natural ingredients along with vitamin chewiness.
– Soft natural licorice – Not red “Twizzlers” but softer whole licorice extracts.
– Soft raisins – Their chewy texture satisfies without sticking to braces like dried fruits.
– wax bottles or other soft natural candy – These dissolve cleanly without stickiness.
– Soft fruit leathers or rolls – Look for all-natural brands without added sugars.
– Soft pectin or gelatin-based candies – Gummy bears and worms are OK if very soft.
– Overcooked pasta – Fully cooked then chilled pasta develops a gummy, chewy texture.
– Chewy granola bars – Look for softer, natural brands lower in sweeteners.
– Chia seeds or basil seeds – When soaked in liquid they develop a fun little tapioca-like texture.
– Sugar free yogurt with chia – Chia seeds in yogurt produce a pudding-like gumminess.
– Soft bread dough – Chewing thoroughly cooked, softened bread dough can ease chewing urges.
Satisfying temporary chewing fixations is possible without damaging braces by selecting healthier gum alternatives high in nutrients and fiber with a softer consistency. Moderation is still key even with these options.
What Chewing Exercises Help During Braces Treatment?
Performing gentle chewing exercises can benefit those wearing braces by:
– Exercising the jaw muscles to prevent stiffness and pain
– Massaging sore teeth and gums from braces forces
– Satisfying the need to chew without damaging braces
– Aiding digestion of foods
– Relieving stress and anxiety
Recommended chewing exercises include:
– Chewing soft silicone teething toys – These gently massage the jaws and braces.
– Chewing softened xylitol gum – Some orthodontists may recommend limited sugarless gum chewing.
– Chewing wax mouthpieces – These malleable gum-like pieces are designed for braces wearers.
– Chewing on a folded soft washcloth – This stimulates a chewing motion without being too abrasive.
– Eating soft fruits and vegetables – Try ripe melon cubes, steamed carrots, or baked sweet potatoes.
– Eating hydrated chia seeds – Their tapioca-like bubbles create a subtle chewiness.
– Practicing muscle relaxing stretches – Open mouth stretching prior to chewing can help relax muscles.
– Applying warm compresses – Heat therapy helps relax sore jaw and neck muscles caused by chewing changes.
– Drinking cool water – Sipping water while chewing anything helps soften food and prevents sticking.
Chewing exercises should be gentle without straining and done only as needed, not constantly. Proper chewing helps make braces treatment more comfortable while protecting dental work. Patients should consult orthodontists for personalized recommendations.
Braces require temporary changes in eating habits and chewing motions to prevent damage that would extend treatment time. Exact guidelines vary on gum chewing based on specific orthodontic needs. While occasional sugarless gum is sometimes permitted, most orthodontists recommend avoiding all gum for at least the first 3-6 months after getting braces. After that, limiting gum chewing to no more than several times per week helps satisfy chewing urges while minimizing harm to braces. Sticking with softer, natural gums in small pieces can further reduce risks. Communication with one’s orthodontist ensures chewing only allowed, braces-safe foods during gum abstinence. Gentle chewing exercises, mouthguards, and gum alternatives can ease the adjustment. With a little patience and precaution, braces wearers can keep their oral fixations in check and continue progressing properly through orthodontic treatment.