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How to Eat Food With New or Tightened Braces

Four Parts:Altering Your DietChanging How You EatManaging Your PainCaring for Your Teeth

If you have just gotten braces or had them tightened, it can be tough on your teeth and very painful for the first few days. That pain tends to go away after a few days, but it's really important to make conscious food choices during that time.[1] Hard or sticky foods can damage your braces, and may cause pain in the days following an installation or adjustment of your braces. Start below to find out how you can eat food with new or tightened braces.[2] Learning what to eat, and how to eat that food, can help you adjust to your new or tightened braces with ease.

Part 1
Altering Your Diet

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    Choose soft foods. Soft, non-chewy foods are the best food for braces. Not only are they less likely to damage your braces, they are also less likely to cause pain on sensitive teeth. Some foods like hard vegetables can still be eaten, but they should be steamed until they are soft and easy to bite.[3] Some braces-friendly foods that won't upset sensitive teeth include:
    • soft cheeses[4]
    • yogurt[5]
    • soup[6]
    • non-tough, soft-cooked meats without any bones (chicken, turkey, meatballs, deli slices, etc.)[7]
    • soft seafood dishes without any bones (fish, crab cakes)[8]
    • pasta/noodles[9]
    • boiled or mashed potatoes
    • soft, cooked rice[10]
    • eggs[11]
    • soft-cooked beans[12]
    • soft breads without a hard crust[13]
    • soft-shell tortillas[14]
    • pancakes[15]
    • soft baked goods, such as biscuits and muffins[16]
    • pudding[17]
    • applesauce[18]
    • bananas[19]
    • smoothies, ice cream, or milkshakes[20]
    • jello[21]
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    Avoid hard foods. Hard foods can crack your braces, and may cause mild to severe pain in the days following an installation or adjustment of your braces.[22] Avoid anything that is hard or crunchy, especially following an orthodontic appointment. Common hard foods to avoid include, but are not limited to:
    • nuts of any kind[23]
    • granola[24]
    • popcorn[25]
    • ice[26]
    • hard bread crusts[27]
    • bagels[28]
    • pizza crust[29]
    • chips (potato and tortilla)[30]
    • hard shell tacos[31]
    • raw carrots (unless cut into very small pieces)[32]
    • apples (unless cut into small slices)[33]
    • corn (unless it's just kernels - avoid eating corn on the cob)[34]
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    Cut out sticky foods. Sticky foods are bad for your braces, and may cause pain if you try to chew them with new braces. Candy and gum are the worst sticky foods, and should be avoided with braces.[35] Some sticky foods to avoid include:

Part 2
Changing How You Eat

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    Cut food into small pieces. One of the biggest risks that could damage the brackets on your braces comes from how you eat food. Biting into foods the way you're used to from a lifetime of eating could cause brackets to come off your teeth or break apart. One way to avoid this is by cutting your food into smaller pieces. This can help you manage how much work your teeth are doing at any given time.[42]
    • Use a knife to cut corn kernels off the cob. Corn is soft enough that it should be safe to eat, but biting into the cob could hurt your teeth or damage your braces or induce pain in your jaw.[43]
    • Cut apples into slices before eating. Much like corn, biting into the core could cause pain or damage your braces.[44]
    • Even if you're eating braces-friendly foods, you may still want to cut your food into smaller pieces. This can help manage pain and protect your teeth from damage.[45]
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    Chew with your back teeth. Most people don't think too much about which teeth they use to bite and chew their food. But when you've recently had braces put on or adjusted, your teeth may be extra sensitive. Chewing with your back teeth, which tend to be thicker and better built for grinding food, can help alleviate the pain your front teeth might be feeling.[46]
    • As you chew, try to avoid tearing or pulling apart food with your front teeth. This is another reason smaller bites may be helpful.[47]
    • It may be helpful to physically put the food in the back of your mouth (but away from your throat, so you don't choke).[48]
    • If you're not used to using a fork in the back of your mouth and worry about biting the fork, try picking up the food pieces with your fingers and gently placing them in place to chew with your back teeth.[49]
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    Eat slowly. Though you may be very hungry, especially if your teeth were too sore to eat on the first day of having braces, it's important to eat slowly. Eating too quickly could cause you to forget how to eat (small bites, chewed with your back teeth); you may also risk biting into seeds, pits, or bones.[50] If you chew too quickly, pain and inflammation also might occur in your teeth. This is because the bones and ligaments that support the teeth in your mouth are already weakened from working with the forces that straighten your teeth.
    • Drink plenty of water while you eat. This can help make swallowing easier if you're having a hard time chewing. Drinking water will also help rinse away any food residue that may get caught in your braces.[51]

Part 3
Managing Your Pain

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    Rinse with saline. Your teeth, gums, lips, tongue, and cheeks may be sore for several days after having braces installed or adjusted. This is normal, and can be managed in a number of ways. The easiest way to reduce inflammation in your mouth is by rinsing with a saline mouth rinse.[52]
    • Mix one teaspoon of salt into an eight ounce glass of clean, warm water. Don't make it too hot, as you do not want to risk burning your mouth.[53]
    • Stir until the salt is completely dissolved.[54]
    • Rinse and swish with the saline mix as often as necessary throughout the day, especially during the first week after an installation or adjustment. Spit out the rinse when you're finished.[55]
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    Use wax on sharp wires. Many people with braces experience pain as the lips, cheeks, and tongue become used to brushing against the metal braces. Other braces wearers may experience a stray poking wire from time to time. Both of these are fairly normal experiences, and the best way to deal with the pain is by applying orthodontic wax to the brackets or wires that are causing pain and discomfort. Wax can be useful as your mouth adjusts to having the new appliances on your teeth, or as a temporary solution until you can get to your orthodontist for repairs. However, if you have a broken bracket or a poking wire, it's best to see your orthodontist as soon as possible to remedy the problem.[56]
    • Only use orthodontic wax on your braces. Ask your orthodontist for a supply of wax to take home with you, or check your local pharmacy for orthodontic wax.[57]
    • If you keep applying wax and it keeps falling off, ask your orthodontist to heat up a small amount of gutta-percha and apply it to your wire. It will cool down after about 40 seconds and will stay on for a longer period of time than normal wax will.
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    Take medication. If you are experiencing significant pain after having your braces installed or adjusted, you may want to consider taking medication to help manage the pain. Common over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) are helpful when it comes to relieving pain.[58]
    • If you are administering medication to a child or teenager, you should avoid administering aspirin because of the risk of Reye's syndrome in children and adolescents. Reye's syndrome is a potentially-fatal condition associated with aspirin in young people.[59]

Part 4
Caring for Your Teeth

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    Floss regularly. It may be difficult to floss with braces, but it's more important than ever when you're wearing braces. Food can get caught between your teeth or around your brackets, causing discomfort and potentially increasing the risk of infection. Certain dental products, like Floss Threaders or Superfloss, make it easy to thread floss between teeth and around the bars of your braces.[60]
    • Floss under the wire, then feed the floss through above the wire between each set of teeth.[61]
    • Form a C-shape against each tooth as you floss to ensure you remove all debris.[62]
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    Brush your teeth after each meal. Brushing is important when you have braces, and may be particularly useful when your braces are new or recently-tightened. Food debris can be painful on tender teeth and gums, and brushing after each meal and before bed can help remove that debris.[63]
    • Use a soft-bristle toothbrush to reduce the pain of brushing while your teeth and gums are sore.[64]
    • Consider using an interdental toothbrush to clean between your brackets and wires.[65]
    • Brush towards your tongue to ensure that food debris is properly removed. That means using downward strokes on your upper teeth and upward strokes on your lower teeth.[66]
    • Don't rush. Plan to spend about two to three minutes each time you brush to ensure that you cover every surface of each individual tooth.[67]
    • You might even need to repeat the brushing process and rinse more often than you used to. Now, your plaque is now spread onto a wider surface (your teeth and your braces).
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    Wear rubber bands as instructed. Rubber bands are often recommended to help correct a misalignment between teeth. The braces themselves will help straighten teeth, but if you have a misalignment (such as an overbite or underbite), your orthodontist may recommend that you wear special orthodontic rubber bands. The bands are worn by looping each end around a special hook on two matching brackets (usually one toward the front and one toward the back, top to bottom on each side).[68]
    • Rubber bands should be worn 24 hours a day, seven days a week until your orthodontist tells you otherwise.[69]
    • You should only take out your rubber bands to eat or brush your teeth. Otherwise they should be worn at all times, including while you sleep.[70]
    • Though you may be tempted to skip wearing rubber bands for a few days after each adjustment, it is best for your teeth if you adhere to your orthodontist's specific recommendations.[71]
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    Follow your appointment schedule. Your orthodontist will most likely schedule monthly checkups and tightenings. It's important to follow the schedule your orthodontist recommends to ensure that your braces are working and that your teeth are in good shape. Avoiding tightenings will only prolong the length of time you have to wear braces. You should also see your regular dentist at least once every six months to ensure that your teeth are healthy and strong, as well as that you are keeping up well with your oral hygiene.[72]


  • Nibble soft foods with your front teeth, or use your very back teeth.
  • Wear lip balm when you go for checkups and braces tightening. It will prevent you from getting dry, chapped lips afterwards.
  • Don't eat the foods that your orthodontist told you to avoid. They know what they're doing and what's good for braces. This way you will avoid breaks and won't need to have your braces on for longer.
  • If it hurts, don't irritate it even more. Touching your teeth, gums, and braces will probably make the pain worse.
  • Don't keep on eating something if it starts hurting.
  • Avoid soft drinks, as most have lots of acid and sugar. This can erode teeth and dental equipment and can also leave white spots. Excessive drinking of soft drinks can lead to cavities.
  • Try not to let your bottom teeth touch your top teeth at first, because it may hurt.
  • If you feel like you're in a lot of pain but are still hungry, drink a COLD smoothie or milkshake. The cold will relieve the pain while the smoothie will help with your hunger.
  • Chew on the side of your mouth that doesn't have a lot of stress on it.
  • Don't mess with your braces. The wires can break easily and it may prolong your treatment.


  • Don't fiddle with your braces. Though they may appear strong, the wires are very flimsy and are easily bent or broken. Repairing broken braces is expensive and may prolong your treatment.
  • Your braces are precise appliances, and can easily be damaged by hard foods such as hard taco/tostada shells, apples, and bagels, as well as sticky foods. These can loosen or even dislodge braces completely. Avoid chewing non-food items that can bend the arch-wire and cause discomfort.

Things You'll Need

  • Braces
  • A good orthodontist-recommended toothbrush
  • Non-whitening toothpaste (if you use whitening, you'll have discoloration)
  • Cleaner (water pick)
  • Floss and floss-threaders
  • Mouthwash
  • Fluoride rinse or gel
  • Pain relievers (Advil and Ibuprofen are best)
  • Soft foods
  • Wax (sold at any pharmacy)
  • Flossers with picks on end

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Braces | Nutrition and Lifestyle Eating