Dietary Guidelines for Orthodontic Patients

Dietary Guidelines for Orthodontic Patients

Adopting healthy oral hygiene habits

When undergoing an orthodontic treatment, the orthodontist takes care of the technical part of the treatment; he or she is often perceived as the only player involved in the process. Yet, your involvement is as important to ensure the success of the treatment in the prescribed time frame.

Your involvement starts with adopting an impeccable oral hygiene, which is essential. Orthodontic appliances themselves do not cause caries, decalcifications or gingival diseases. However, they can contribute to them if your oral hygiene is deficient during your orthodontic treatment. With good oral hygiene, braces will not have any bad effect on your teeth. To learn more on oral hygiene during an orthodontic treatment and on tooth decay.

Apart from oral hygiene, you also need to be careful with what you eat and your dental habits. Indeed, certain foods and habits can cause your appliances to break, which may require additional visits to repair them and lead to a longer treatment. Therefore, certain basic rules are recommended to minimize these disadvantages.


Foods to avoid

  • When appliances are bonded to your teeth, it is important to avoid, or even eliminate, certain foods from your diet to prevent them from breaking or loosening your apliances.
  • You will also potentially need to modify or be careful with the way you chew during your orthodontic treatment to avoid breakages or damages to brackets, wires and braces components.

Hard and crunchy foods

  • Hard and crunchy foods because they entail a great risk of breaking or detaching your orthodontic appliances. They must absolutely be banned from your diet during your treatment.
  • Raw vegetables (carrot, celery, radish, etc.) and whole raw fruits, such as apples and fruits that are not quite ripe. However, you can cook them until tender or eat them raw, but grated.
  • Very hard nuts, such as whole almonds, peanuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, etc. Whenever possible, you can eat them crushed or in thin slices.
  • “Jawbreakers“, cough lozenges, lollipops and other hard candies, such as Skittles and peanut M&Ms
  • Popcorn is particularly harmful: the hard and unpopped grains of corn are hard to munch and husks can get stuck under the gum and cause an infection. An infected gum will slow down tooth movement.
  • French fries and Greek fries that are small and crunchy or those that have slightly overcooked edges. You can refrain from eating those that are too small, cut the hard edges or simply cut the fries and the potatoes in small pieces before
    eating them.
  • Pretzels and hard crackers. If you suddenly crave salty foods, you can favor “normal” potato chips that are softer or let the other types of potato chips and crackers soften before chewing them.
  • Croutons in salads, unless they have softened with salad dressing.
  • Certain types of cereals can be particularly hard and crunchy when they are dry. It is then forbidden to eat them without softening them with milk or any other liquid beforehand.


Sticky foods

  • Sticky foods are also to be banned during an orthodontic treatment since they can get stuck between the brackets or on the orthodontic archwire. If you try to remove a sticky food, you risk damaging the appliances and/or the wire.
  • Any damage to appliances may require their replacement; your orthodontist could then ask you to cover the fees to replace them. Therefore, keeping away from sticky foods is a risk-free situation for your appliances, your wallet and your orthodontist’s mood that can completely change if he learns that you tried to eat sticky foods!
  • Any type of chewing gum, without exception! If you wish to freshen up your breath after a meal, you can brush your teeth or use refreshing strips, such as those sold be Listerine, that melt easily on the tongue. However, you must not overuse them since they can irritate your gums.
  • Jellied candies, St. Catherine’s Day taffy, sticky caramel, toffees, fruit roll-ups, big marshmallows and any other candy that can stick to the appliances when they soften.


Habits to learn during the treatment

It is important to maintain a balanced diet during your orthodontic treatment. However, certain eating habits, which are usually harmless when not wearing orthodontic appliances, must be dropped during your treatment.


Avoid biting with your front teeth

Anterior teeth may become sore with orthodontic appliances. Biting into foods with front teeth may cause discomfort, but also put a strain on the appliances up to the point where damages are caused.

While wearing your orthodontic appliances, you should learn the habit of eating foods in small enough bites to avoid having to munch them first with anterior teeth. Posterior teeth should be the only ones to chew foods.

Apart from the “forbidden” foods during your orthodontic treatment, such as a whole apple or any other fruit with a hard flesh, you must avoid “sinking your teeth” into the following foods or tear them with your anterior teeth:

  • slice of French baguette;
  • pizza crust not softened by toppings;
  • bagels;
  • chewy and granola bars (which are in fact not that “tender”!).

However, it is not forbidden to eat the part of the pizza crust that supports the toppings since it is usually softer. You can also eat bagels that are cut into small pieces and chewy bars that are soft, as long as you cut them into smaller pieces using a knife or your fingers beforehand.

Of course, several meals in which you usually bite to eat them, such as subways, club sandwiches, and burgers, are probably among your favorite meals. In addition to having sensitive anterior teeth during your treatment, the opening of your mouth might be limited because of the appliances. Therefore, it is recommended to cut these meals with a knife and eat them in smaller pieces, either with a fork or your hands. Maybe you will be under the impression that you look “snob” doing it, but it is an efficient way to eat these meals that are substantially thick!


Habits to drop during and after your treatment

In addition to foods to ban because of the risk of damaging or detaching orthodontic brackets, certain habits can also damage orthodontic appliances or needlessly lengthen your treatment. Therefore, it is recommended to put the necessary effort into stopping them during your treatment, and preferably after the treatment because they are bad for the dentition.

  • Chewing  pencils, pens or any other hard object by distraction or by concentration.
  • Biting your nails or try to remove the hangnails (tags of skin around your fingernails) with your teeth.
  • Trying to open a plastic packaging, soft or hard, with your teeth. A pair of scissors is a lot more suited for this task!

Tips before and after an appointment with the orthodontist

  • One or two hours before your appointment with your orthodontist to adjust your appliances or change the orthodontic archwires, you can take a dose of an over-the-counter pain-reliever, either a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as Aleve® or ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®, Atasol). Consult your pharmacist beforehand or ask your orthodontist to see if these products are good for you. Taking a dose before your appointment will allow you to minimize the discomfort caused by a new orthodontic wire and control the pain before it appears.
  • Eat properly before your appointment; it may be hard to eat immediately after your appointment if your teeth are sensitive.
  • After the installation of appliances (bracket bonding) and each time the orthodontic wire is changed, it is better to have a softer diet for a period of about 48 hours. This will help you adapt to the appliances and the archwire during the initial discomfort period while ensuring that the brackets stay properly bonded. You can pick any food from the following list to concoct a soft diet that will please you:
    • Eggs in all forms: scrambled eggs, poached eggs, omelets, etc.;
    • Oatmeal;
    • Pancakes, slices of bread and French toast;
    • Soups;
    • Mashed potatoes and cooked vegetables;
    • Rice, couscous, quinoa, cooked pasta (spaghetti, macaroni, etc.);
    • Cooked fish;
    • Complete “soft” meals, such as shepherd’s pie;
    • Cakes, mousses, soft ice cream (without a cone);
    • Yogurt, rice pudding, instant pudding, tapioca, cottage cheese, Jell-O;
    • Stewed fruits, mashed banana, frozen fruits (thawed beforehand), homemade or commercial strained baby food;
    • Milkshakes, smoothies, liquid nutritional supplements (such as Boost, Ensure, etc.).