Every holiday season brings its own array of candy and sweets that tempt even the most disciplined of us. For those wearing braces, watching others exercise their jaws on sticky, chewy, delectable sweets can be a bit frustrating. But it’s not as disconcerting as what might happen to your braces and your treatment plan if you indulge in them.
An unfortunate part of being an orthodontic patient is that you have to think extra carefully about what you eat. However, the upside is that this caution is temporary, while your perfect smile will be permanent.
Several factors determine how long a patient is required to wear braces. One of those factors is the level of adherence to the treatment plan, which includes avoiding foods that can cause treatment setbacks.
Broken brackets or wires resulting from indulging in chewy or crunchy foods can slow the realignment process. In addition, gum inflammation or cavities that result from eating too many sugary or acidic foods could force your orthodontist to slow the rate of treatment in order to address your dental problems.
Candy Season Don’ts
Arguably, the worst kind of candy for your braces are sticky or chewy sweet, which loves to tug on wires and brackets. A close second is hard food that will snap orthodontia in a second. Use discretion and good judgment when it comes to safe food for braces. If it’s sticky, chewy, crunchy or hard, you probably want to swap it for a braces-friendly alternative.
Bubble Gum is a classic example of blacklisted candy that wrecks orthodontic appliances. This is because repetitive chewing bends wires over time. Bending permanently damages the wire, which is a huge problem beyond just needing a repair. Wires are the mechanisms involved in moving your teeth, and they are created at a perfect size and shape to perform the desired movements your orthodontist wants in an optimal time period. If you misshape your wires, you can alter the movement of your teeth and cause serious delays to your treatment plan.
Caramel is an ultra-sticky food that prides itself on its ability to lodge in every crack and crevice of your mouth and refuse easy removal. Those sweet little squares can wreak havoc on your teeth–especially on your braces. Each bracket provides a haven for caramel to occupy. If the sheer stickiness doesn’t dislodge a bracket or two, caramels can still pose a threat to your teeth as the lingering particles of sugary candy around your braces can cause cavities to form on your tooth’s surface.
Taffy poses threats very similar to caramel, as it sticks to surfaces like super glue. Get a wad of taffy stuck behind a wire or gobbed on to a bracket, and you’re going to have quite a time getting it out.
Fruit and chocolate chews are a little softer and easier to consume than caramel or taffy–but not enough to make them safe for your braces. Also, these types of candies tend to harden in the cold, so they may be especially dangerous on a brisk Halloween night.
Gummy candy isn’t the worst thing you can eat with your braces, especially if it’s on the softer side. However, it is still better to avoid these candies when possible, because they are prone to getting stuck in the teeth, wires and brackets. Similarly, licorice also sticks in your braces easily, and it can even stain your elastics.
Hard Candies and Shelled Treats
Hard candies and lollipops disperse sugar over the teeth as they slowly melt, which isn’t great for teeth at any time but especially not with braces. Plus, if you choose hard candies, you have to have the self control not to bite down on them at any stage in the consumption process. Most people are tempted to chew as the candies dwindle down in size, and this is a surefire bracket-breaking decision.
Every trick-or-treater is bound to see a fun size pouch of fruit or chocolate candy with a coated shell appear at least once in his bag. Unfortunately, candy with hard shells, even those that are covering soft chocolate, are problematic for a couple reasons. For one, the acid content of some of these candies is higher than most, and that means it’s quicker at eroding the teeth. The shell itself is also a problem: as it breaks apart, it can become lodged behind wires, pop off brackets, or fragment and get stuck in hard-to-reach places.
Popcorn isn’t the greatest snack to eat when wearing braces. Whether freshly popped or pre-bagged, nearly every popcorn source has kernel shells that can get lodged in brackets, wires or gums. Accidentally biting down on an unpopped kernel can cause instant damage.
And finally, inspect your candy bars to make sure they are free of nuts and anything gooey like tough nougat or caramel.
Candy Season Do’s
If the last list made you slightly depressed, don’t despair. There are still plenty of popular candies that you can enjoy this Halloween. The key is to make sure your selections are soft and not laborious to chew. Brushing your teeth after indulging in candy also is extremely important. And if your child can’t wait until you’re home to dip into the candy stash, bring a bottle of water so she can sip and swish after snacking.
Chocolate lovers are in luck when it comes to foods that are safe for braces. As long as the chocolate is free of nuts and sticky additives, it is generally harmless, especially on Halloween. You will have to be careful with the giant chocolate Santa bars at Christmas and large chocolate bunnies at Easter, though. The compact nature of these large chocolate treats makes them very hard to bite into, can be risky for braces.
Possibly the best news for trick-or-treaters is that peanut butter cups are a braces-friendly food. Peanut butter cups rank first nationally as Halloween’s most popular candy and scores second place in Maryland.
Several popular brands of chocolate candy bars are fine to eat with braces. Plain chocolate bars get a green light and so do any chocolate confections with soft filling, such as mousse or coconut. Chocolate-covered peppermint patties also make a great braces-friendly option. While the filling is mostly sugar, it’s not sticky, which means it won’t get caught in brackets and wires.
Cookies are generally fine to consume with braces–just be wary of stale or hard cookies. Similarly, almost all brownies, doughnuts, cakes and pies are braces-friendly, though do make sure they are free of nuts.
There is also the option of making your own Halloween-friendly braces treats. Pinterest is a good source for all kinds of visually appealing, tasty ideas and recipes to make the holiday more fun for those wearing braces. Check out some ideas here.
If baking isn’t your thing, now is the time to go to the grocery store and find lots of Halloween-themed soft, baked goods. You’d be surprised at how much candy envy you can alleviate with a spookily-decorated cupcake or some festive food coloring.
If you have any doubt about the safety of a particular food item, it’s better to err on the side of caution, or call your orthodontist’s office and ask about it.