The holidays are filled with a lot of good-old-fashioned comforts: Friends, family, and of course, food. But those holiday comfort foods we know and love can quickly turn into unpleasant experiences if you are sporting braces. Many patients ask us for braces tips for the holidays so they can enjoy their seasonal favorites.
When it comes to braces care and maintenance, there are many simply, easy things you can do to stay comfortable and keep your braces intact and working. Here, then, we present you with an all-inclusive guide, full of braces tips to make your life with braces just a bit easier.
How to Take Care of Braces
Taking care of your braces is fairly simple, but it requires building up good habits.
Metal or ceramic braces are attached to your teeth so that they can work 24-7. But this makes them difficult to clean, because they cannot be removed. So the most important part of caring for your braces is to brush well and keep you braces clean.
Brushing with braces takes some getting used to. Remember to remove any elastics before brushing, and use a soft toothbrush (these get into the small spaces in your mouth much more easily.) When done, carefully inspect the braces after brushing to check if anything is stuck in them.
Flossing is also a must, as bits of food can easily get stuck behind your wire. It might require a little extra work to get the floss between brackets, but it is well worth it to remove food. A good water pick can help, too.
Finally, a big part of maintaining your braces is knowing which foods to avoid with braces, and how to enjoy the foods you love in a braces-friendly way.
Food to Avoid with Braces
We are always amazed at how many people Google “braces tips eating” for advice on eating with braces. Here are a few suggestions:
Red Light: Food to avoid outright. Some foods should be avoided at all costs, either because they are hard to clean off your braces or because you run the risk of damaging your braces. These include:
- Hard Candies – Not only is the sugar bad for your teeth and braces, but you’ll be tempted to chew the treat, which might ruin your brackets or wires. Yes, this means candy canes too!
- Sticky Foods – Sticky foods will tend to get caught in your braces and make cleaning a nightmare. Gum, caramel, and peanut butter are the worst culprits. This means you’ll have to be extra careful about the Holiday candy you consume!
- Inedibles – Many people unconsciously chew on pens or bite their fingernails, both of which can damage braces. Because the holidays come with so much planning and stress, it’s all too easy to chew on these while lost in thought.
Yellow Light: Foods to be careful about. Some foods are not off-limits per se, but you will need to exercise a little caution when eating them:
- Tough foods – Harder breads, nuts, beef jerky, and raw vegetables can all put stress on braces if you’re not careful. So watch those homemade breads, snacks, and vegetable trays over the holidays!
- Ice – Ice in your drink is OK. But DO NOT bite or chew ice; This is probably the most common culprit when it comes to damaged braces.
Green Light: Foods that are braces-friendly. You’ll find your braces easier to clean and less uncomfortable when you stick with soft, non-sticky foods, such as:
- Soft Fruits (Grapefruits, nectarines, kiwi, tangerines)
- Vegetables that are cooked well (boiled or steamed)
- Yogurt and cheese (good alternatives to tough meat)
- Soft Meats (Tender chicken, turkey, meatloaf, seafood)
- Cooked pasta or cooked rice
- Soft Breads (Tortillas, biscuits, muffins, pancakes)
Eating Candy with Braces
Again, eating candy with braces is usually not a good idea, especially if the candy is hard or sticky. We cannot emphasize this enough.
That said, we know that a lot of patients with braces “cheat” because they just can’t resist. Many tastes are associated with memories, and so people like eating certain candies and desserts because it reminds them of happy times. This is especially true around the holidays, and it becomes part of the tradition.
So, if you can’t resist, here are few tips:
- Cut or break treats into small pieces you can such on. Most damage to braces comes from chewing or biting, so pre-cut treats into pieces small enough to pop in your mouth and suck on.
- Eat just enough for the taste. Even a little bit of a treat is enough to give you the taste. Savor that taste, and the memory. There’s nothing five candy canes can do, for example, that can’t be done by a single bite-sized piece.
- Brush immediately afterwards. Besides biting and chewing, most problems with braces comes from the sugars that eat away at the teeth right around the brackets. You can avoid much of this decay be brushing immediately after you eat the treat.
Bonus Braces Tips and Tricks
Here are a few other braces tips we have gathered and tested over the years:
- Use an Antibacterial Mouthwash. Irritation from braces can cause mild swelling of the gum tissue. You can relieve the swelling and further clean teeth with braces by swishing with an antibacterial mouthwash.
- Think Differently About Deserts. Not all desserts have to be a problem for braces. Pudding, yogurt, gingerbread, and applesauce are all sweet treats that use less sugar and don’t run the risk of wrecking your braces.
- Be Prepared When Travelling. Travelling can put us off of our usual oral health routine. Here are some ways to make braces care while travelling for the holidays easier.
- See Your Orthodontist Early and Don’t Leave Until Comfortable. The holidays are a busy time, so schedule your next orthodontist visit before all the activity and/or travel plans hit. This is your chance to have adjustments made, so don’t leave until you are comfortable! Chances are that it will be a little while until your next appointment.
- Smile. A Lot. You got your braces so that you would have a better smile. So show it off to your friends and family!
Managing Braces Pain
Our final braces tips have to do with managing pain and discomfort.
The main thing patients complain about with braces is the discomfort that comes with having them first put on, or tightened. While modern braces are better than what was available a decade ago, there can still be some soreness, especially if things need adjustment.
If you find that you are having discomfort and that it is distracting, try the following:
- Try to only eat soft foods during the first few days. Applesauce, mashed potatoes, soups, and puddings are patient favorites.
- Cold and/or frozen foods can help numb your mouth, which will ease some pains. An ice-pack on your mouth for a few minutes can help, too.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin can help. Follow the directions on the label carefully and do not exceed the recommended dosage.
- If you have specific spots that are irritated, or you find that the wire is poking or rubbing where it should not, use orthodontic wax to cushion your braces at that spot.
- You can also use products like Orajel to numb painful spots.
- Don’t drink acidic beverages like orange or tomato juice; they can make the pain worse.
If you feel intense pain or pain that differs from what is described above, it might be a sign that something is going wrong. The best thing to do is to contact your orthodontist immediately to see if there is a problem that needs addressing.
The Happy Tooth Knows How to Maintain Braces
Here at the Happy Tooth, we want our patients to have a positive experience with their braces, from first consultation to that final, perfect smile!
Here are a few other articles and guides we’ve written to help people on their braces journey:
- Preparing for Braces
- Braces 101: Your Starter Guide
- How To Floss With Braces – Best Practices
- What To Expect After Getting Braces Off: Life After Braces
- The Braces Are Off! Now How Long Do You Have To Wear A Retainer?
You can also reach out and contact us if you have questions, or would like to set up an appointment at one of our North Carolina locations:
So we know a thing or two when it comes to finding the best in clear teeth aligners for your smile 🙂