What should be avoided in braces?

Braces, also known as dental braces, are devices used in orthodontics that help align and straighten teeth and help position them with regard to a person’s bite. Braces are often used to correct underbites, overbites, cross bites, open bites, spaces between teeth, crowding of teeth, and several other flaws of teeth and jaw alignment. Braces can be used for cosmetic reasons as well as to improve oral health.

Foods to Avoid with Braces

When you have braces, there are some foods you’ll need to avoid. Certain foods can damage braces or get stuck in the wires and brackets. Here are some of the main types of foods to avoid:

  • Hard, crunchy, and sticky foods: Foods like nuts, hard candies, ice cubes, popcorn kernels can damage braces.
  • Chewy and gummy foods: Gummies, caramel, chewing gum, starbursts, skittles can get stuck in braces.
  • Crunchy raw veggies and fruits: Whole apples, carrots, celery are too hard for braces.
  • Crunchy, crusty foods: Hard breads, crusty pizza, tacos with hard shells can bend wires.
  • Sugary foods and drinks: Sugar helps breed bacteria and can lead to cavities.
  • Hard or crunchy chips: Potato chips, tortilla chips, pretzels can break brackets.

Instead, choose softer foods that are unlikely to damage braces like:

  • Soft fruits like bananas, oranges, ripe peaches, berries
  • Cooked or steamed vegetables like carrots, broccoli, spinach
  • Yogurt, cottage cheese, soft cheeses
  • Eggs, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, noodles
  • Soft breads, pancakes and waffles
  • Soups, stews, protein shakes

When in doubt, cut larger foods into smaller pieces to make them easier to chew. Avoid hard, sticky, and crunchy foods as much as possible to protect your braces.

Dental Products to Avoid

There are also some dental products that aren’t recommended when you have braces:

  • Whitening toothpastes – Whitening toothpastes are too abrasive for braces and can cause damage to the enamel around your brackets.
  • Electric toothbrushes – The vibrations and pressure from electric toothbrushes can loosen your brackets.
  • Interdental cleaners – Avoid interdental cleaners like dental picks, because they can poke at and damage braces.
  • Teeth whiteners – Whitening gels that fit in trays also won’t work well with braces and are not recommended.

Stick to regular soft or sensitivity toothpaste and a manual, soft-bristled toothbrush to brush carefully around braces. You may also want to use an oral irrigator or water flosser for cleaning between teeth.

Habits to Avoid

Certain habits are also not brace-friendly and should be avoided when wearing braces:

  • Biting on hard objects – Avoid biting into pens, nails, pencils or other hard objects.
  • Chewing on ice – Ice can cause cracks and damage to your brackets.
  • Opening packages with your teeth – Use scissors instead to avoid damaging braces.
  • Grinding your teeth – Use a mouthguard at night to protect your braces from damage due to clenching and grinding teeth.
  • Picking at your braces – Avoid poking at your wires and ligatures to limit damage to your braces.

Being mindful of your dietary habits, dental products used, and behaviors can help keep your braces protected and avoid unnecessary damage while wearing braces.

Oral Hygiene with Braces

Proper oral hygiene is especially important when you have braces to avoid issues like plaque buildup, tartar, gingivitis and tooth decay.

Be sure to brush after every meal with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, taking extra care to thoroughly clean around the braces, under the wires and between teeth. You may need an orthodontic toothbrush that has a narrower head and bristles on multiple sides.

Flossing daily with floss threaders is also critical to clean between your teeth and braces. Water irrigation tools like a Waterpik can also help blast away food particles.

Use fluoride mouthwash to kill bacteria missed by brushing and flossing. See your dentist every 3-6 months for a thorough cleaning to remove tartar buildup. Avoid sugary, acidic and starchy foods that increase your risk for cavities.

With proper braces-friendly oral hygiene habits, you can help keep your teeth strong and healthy during your orthodontic treatment.

Pain Management

It’s common to have some tooth soreness or discomfort after getting braces or when your orthodontist makes adjustments. Here are some tips to help manage brace pain:

  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce sensitivity.
  • Rinse with warm salt water to soothe irritation and swelling.
  • Apply orthodontic wax over any braces poking your cheeks.
  • Eat soft foods until your mouth adjusts to your braces.
  • Avoid hard, crunchy, sticky foods that aggravate discomfort.
  • Use orthodontic relief wax on sore areas.
  • Avoid irritants like tobacco, alcohol, spicy foods.

Discomfort from new braces usually improves within a week as your mouth gets used to them. Contact your orthodontist if you have severe or ongoing pain that doesn’t get better with over-the-counter remedies. Most brace pain can be managed with some minor adjustments and care.

Loose Braces Emergencies

One common orthodontic emergency is dealing with loose brackets or bands. The cement keeping your brace attached to your tooth can become dislodged or fall off from eating hard or sticky foods and sudden impacts.

If a band or bracket comes loose, avoid eating on that side until you can see an orthodontist. Don’t try to re-cement it yourself. Place any pieces you find in an envelope or baggie. Rinse your mouth to clean out any cement fragments.

To relieve discomfort, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever or use orthodontic wax. Your orthodontist will re-cement the loose brace once you can be seen. Leaving a brace off for a day or two won’t typically affect your overall treatment.

Call your orthodontist right away if a wire is protruding or your mouth is injured when a bracket comes loose. Loose braces can often be quickly repaired to get treatment back on track.

Broken Braces

Along with loose braces, broken braces are another common appliance emergency. Wires, brackets and bands can all suffer damage:

  • Broken archwire – An archwire is the wire that connects brackets on your upper or lower teeth. If it is protruding, cover with wax for comfort until you can be seen.
  • Dislodged bracket – Save any bracket pieces so your orthodontist can re-bond it. Rinse out your mouth well.
  • Loose bands – Bands go around molars to anchor wires. Place saved bands in an envelope and rinse your mouth if one comes off.

Even with damaged braces, avoid the urge to remove or adjust any parts yourself. See your orthodontist promptly for repairs. Leaving braces broken for an extended period can allow your teeth to shift back and delay treatment.

Poking Wires

Loose or broken wires that stick out from your braces and poke your cheeks or gums are another common problem. To find relief until it can be fixed:

  • Use orthodontic relief wax to cover any protruding wires smooth over the poking end.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication if needed for soreness.
  • Rinse with warm salt water to soothe irritation.
  • Avoid eating on the side with the exposed wire.
  • Make sure wires don’t get caught on your lips when sticking out midline of your teeth.

Don’t attempt to snip or cut the poking wire yourself. Cover with relief wax until your orthodontist can clip or file it down. Leaving wires long that irritate your mouth can lead to sores and ulcers on your gums.

Rubber Band Problems

Rubber bands and ligatures are used frequently in braces to attach archwires to brackets or fix other orthodontic pieces together. However, these tiny elastic bands can also snap or come off.

If a rubber band pops off, place it in an envelope to bring to your next adjustment visit. Use tweezers to remove any loose bands not from the current day. Replace any missing or broken bands at your next orthodontist visit.

Avoid doubling up bands on your own as this can lead to unwanted tooth movements.Bands that are left off in one spot for extended periods can delay your teeth moving into proper alignment.

Swallowed Retainers or Appliances

In some rare instances, removable dental appliances like retainers, aligners or space maintainers can accidentally be swallowed. This generally causes no harm, but you’ll need to get a replacement appliance.

If you swallow an orthodontic device:

  • Remain calm – In most cases, the object will pass through the digestive system without incident.
  • Notify your orthodontist – They will evaluate if the object needs to be recovered or replaced.
  • Watch for signs of issues – Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or bowel obstruction symptoms will require medical attention.

To prevent swallowing appliances, take care removing and storing them. Don’t wrap retainers in napkins which can get accidentally discarded. Kids should remove retainers before activities where they could come loose.

Irritation of Lips or Cheeks

Braces can sometimes rub and irritate your lips and cheeks when first getting used to them. The inner mouth tissue can become scratched or ulcerated if the irritation persists.

To relieve a sore mouth from braces:

  • Cover any sharp braces edges with orthodontic wax.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water to soothe pain and swelling.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication as needed for discomfort.
  • Use an orthodontic mouthguard designed for braces at night.
  • Avoid irritants like tobacco, alcohol, spicy foods.
  • Apply teething gel or wax to injured areas.

Your orthodontist can also use dental wax or adjust your braces if they are excessively rubbing. Be vigilant about wound care and oral hygiene to prevent unhealthy ulcer growth.

Caring for Braces in Sports

Participating in sports while wearing braces takes some extra preparation and care. The main goal is to protect your mouth and braces from sudden damage.

Recommended tips for braces and sports:

  • Wear a mouthguard – This protects your brackets from impacts.
  • Avoid contact sports if advised by your orthodontist.
  • Remove loose parts before playing – Have your orthodontist check for any damaged areas first.
  • Follow any dietary restrictions given – Hard, crunchy or sticky foods can still damage braces.
  • Rinse your mouth after play – Keep your mouth guard clean and bacteria-free.
  • Get larger braces if needed – Extending brackets farther from teeth makes them less prone to damage.

A custom-fitted mouthguard made by your dentist offers maximum braces protection. Take proper safety measures so you can continue being active with braces.

Foods to Eat with Braces

While you’ll need to avoid many hard, sticky, and crunchy foods with braces, there are still plenty of nourishing and delicious foods you can eat during treatment. Here are some of the best options:

Food Group Recommended Foods
Fruits Bananas, berries, melons, applesauce, peeled fruits
Vegetables Cooked carrots, beets, spinach, sweet potatoes, green beans, peas
Grains Oatmeal, grits, pasta, rice, quinoa, soft bread
Proteins Eggs, plain yogurt, smooth nut butters, tofu, beans, fish
Dairy Milk, cheese cubes, unsweetened yogurt, pudding, ice cream
Snacks Pretzels, hummus, mashed potatoes, jello, smoothies

Focus on soft, smooth foods that slide easily through braces without getting stuck or taking a bite. Be sure to get in a variety of nutrient-dense foods from all the food groups as part of a healthy braces-friendly diet.

Tips for Brushing with Braces

Here are some tips to brush properly and effectively when you have braces:

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush designed to clean around braces.
  • Angle brush towards your gums at a 45 degree angle.
  • Brush above, below and around each bracket carefully.
  • Use gentle vibrating motions instead of harsh scrubbing.
  • Focus on hard to reach spots with the brush tip.
  • Spend 2-3 minutes a minimum of twice per day.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste to protect your enamel.
  • Brush your tongue to freshen breath too.

Take your time to thoroughly brush each tooth surface and brace component. Mouthwash and flossing are also vital for optimal oral hygiene. See your dentist regularly for professional cleanings as well.


Braces are effective at straightening teeth and fixing bite issues when properly cared for. Avoid hard, sticky foods that can break brackets. Use orthodontic relief wax to reduce irritation. See your orthodontist promptly for any damaged or broken appliance parts. With smart precautions, braces can improve the alignment and appearance of your smile.

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