I have braces – what foods are safe?

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How to eat your way to a healthy straight smile

Adult orthodontics has never been so popular.

Figures released by the British Orthodontic Society reveals that dentists have seen a 75% increase in the number of us seeking teeth-straightening solutions to improve the aesthetics and function of our smile.

One of the key drivers for treatment is a rise in awareness of the opportunities for adult orthodontics – with images of ‘before and after’ smiles inspiring us all.

According to the poll, around one quarter of orthodontists are starting more than 50 new adult cases each year.

Celebrity makeovers now mean Brits of all ages are heading to dental clinics, looking to invest in a new straight and healthy smile, and even though a hefty chunk are in the 26-40 year old age bracket (66%), the 41-55 year olds are increasing in number with under 25s not far behind.

Adult braces – once the preserve of those with a larger disposal income – are now much more affordable to many of us, with fast braces within the reach of many.

But in our rush to straighten our teeth, let's not forget the importance of looking after the appliances during our treatment as well as the health of our teeth and gums.

We need to be especially fastidious (and extra careful) about interdental cleaning – brackets and wires are vulnerable to any heavy handedness so do speak with your orthodontist or their dental nurse about how best to approach your oral hygiene regime. There is a whole toolkit available to brace wearers when it comes to keeping the mouth clean.

Additionally, we need to be selective in what we eat and drink – avoiding anything that stains or hard foodstuff is a given, but what else do we need to consider when it comes to braces, diet and improving our chances of improving the aesthetics of our smile?

Award-winning London orthodontist Dr Neil Counihan runs Metamorphosis Orthodontics that specialises in improving the aesthetics and health of our teeth.

He says: ‘I tell my patients that, with braces, brushing is now more important than ever. Be sure to concentrate on the area between the braces and the gums.  This is where the plaque collects and will cause unsightly staining if not regularly removed. Please remember that it is the invisible plaque that causes the trouble – and not food that you can see in your braces.’

And he believes that, by sticking to a few basic (but necessary) rules, anyone having adult orthodontic treatment can easily achieve the smile they've been looking for.

He says: ‘In between meals, any food that contains sugar (natural or added) should be strictly avoided! Hard foods should be eaten with great care as they will damage or break the appliance. In general, keep objects such as pens, pencils, and fingernails out of the mouth.

‘You will need to stick to very soft food for the first three to four days due to the teeth feeling tender but, after that and throughout the treatment, it's best to avoid anything very hard or sticky. Cut things up into smaller pieces and chew towards the back to avoid biting directly into hard things.

‘The wrong types of food, or eating the right kinds of food improperly, can cause food to get caught in your braces, stick to braces, loosen braces or bend wires. So, the rule is refrain from eating hard, chewy or sticky foods.’

The following is a list of common foods to avoid:

  • Ice
  • Corn on the cob
  • Whole apples (slice them)
  • Biting meat off ribs (cut meat off bone)
  • Cereals with nuts/granola
  • Popcorn (because unpopped kernels and husks stick in gums and breaks brackets)
  • Hard lollies
  • Toffee
  • Nuts (including peanuts)
  • Baguettes and hard rolls
  • Doritos
  • Pretzels
  • Chewing gum (can distort wires)
  • Any whole, hard fruit or raw veggies (make sure you cut it first)
  • Pizza crusts
  • Most cookies
  • And, of course, chewing on pencils!


book an orthodontic consultation with Dr Neil Counihan

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