When the patients at our practice get their braces put on, my team and I fill them in on the foods to avoid. Things like whole, raw apples, unpopped popcorn kernels, and caramels are on this list, because they can damage your brackets and wires. But what about gum? Sure, it’s led to a few impromptu haircuts over the years, but is gum really that bad for braces?
Traditionally, pretty much every orthodontist told braces patients to stay away from gum, even the sugar-free variety. However, recently, I’ve seen some blog posts and articles reporting that sugar-free gum for braces wearers is okay. Since Invisalign doesn’t have food restrictions, sometimes, people also think chewing gum with clear aligners is fine too. So, what’s the right answer?
In this post, I’ll cover:
Can You Chew Gum With Braces?
Unfortunately, no, you should not chew gum with braces. Chewing gum containing sugar is an invitation for cavities. Plus, sugary gum is extremely sticky, and once it’s stuck in your braces, it’s really difficult to get out. If you think dislodging a tiny piece of broccoli is tough, try getting gum out from the tight spaces around your brackets (think back to gum in your hair; not as crazy but braces have considerable nooks and crannies).
Gum can also flex your archwires out of the braces and/or loosen or pull off the color ties that hold your wires in. Even the smallest bend in your wires has the potential to interfere with the tooth movements I planned for you at the start of your treatment.
While sugarless gum is much less sticky and won’t cause cavities, I still don’t recommend that our El Dorado Hill braces patients chew it. It has the tendency to pull off those color ties. When I see the ties coming off consistently with a patient, it’s usually because they’re continuing to chew gum. Not only that, but a big wad of sugarless gum can lead to bent wires and broken brackets in the same way its sugary counterparts can.
If you’re bummed that sugar-free gum and braces don’t mix, just know, the amazing smile you’ll have when your braces come off will be well worth the sacrifice!
Can You Chew Gum With Invisalign?
No. You can’t chew gum with your Invisalign aligners in your mouth. Any type of gum, with or without sugar, will invariably break down and get stuck all over your aligners, leaving a mess to clean up. Not exactly how you want to spend an evening!
Of course, you can chew gum with Invisalign, Invisalign Teen, or other types of clear aligners if you take the aligners out of your mouth first and stick with sugarless gum to prevent tooth decay.
That said, wearing your Invisalign aligners for 20 to 22 hours per day is the key to success. You’ll be removing your aligners to eat, drink, brush, floss, and wear a mouthguard for sports, and this time adds up quickly. So, if you chew gum, you’ll have to do it pretty sparingly to stay within that 20-22 hour window. After all, your teeth can’t move into place if your aligners aren’t in your mouth for the prescribed amount of time.
We encourage you instead to replace gum chewing with daily 10 minute bite squeeze and hold exercises with our bite sticks/chewies to help massage your teeth into the aligners. Remember that the goal is an excellent fit of the plastic without space between your teeth and the aligner, so that the programmed force can be delivered to the tooth optimally.
Why Do Some Sources Say Chewing Gum With Braces or Aligners is Okay?
Some articles claim gum and braces can go together as long as the gum is sugar-free. And, yes, it’s true, chewing sugarless gum does have oral health benefits. Enjoying a piece after meals stimulates saliva production. Your spit then washes away food debris and plaque and deposits the minerals that are lost due to acid attacks back into the enamel.
Sugarless gum with xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol, may have even more perks. According to the California Dental Association, xylitol slows the growth of cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, reduces plaque formation, and lowers the level of acids that attack the tooth enamel, making it promising for preventing tooth decay.
Some people also think that chewing sugar-free gum after getting braces put on or when starting Invisalign treatment helps to manage discomfort.
In spite of these benefits, you should wait until after your treatment is complete before indulging in sugarless gum. There are other ways to maintain healthy teeth and gums and handle tenderness from your appliance that won’t cause damage or interfere with your treatment progress.
What are Some Alternatives to Chewing Gum for Braces and Invisalign Patients?
- If you want to clean your teeth after eating, but don’t have your toothbrush nearby, instead of reaching for gum, rinse your mouth out really well with water and brush when you get home. Similar to chewing gum, rinsing with water will send food particles packing and get your saliva flowing.
- Brush your teeth after meals and snacks, whether you have braces or Invisalign. Be sure to floss once daily as well. This is a much more effective way to achieve healthy teeth and gums than chewing gum.
- If you’re interested in sugarless gum with xylitol because you’re prone to cavities, talk to your general dentist or orthodontist. We can give you oral hygiene pointers and, in some cases, may even give you a special fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash to ward off decay. Sugar-free xylitol mints may be a great alternative too!
- For patients with clear aligners, as I said, the habit of chewing gum would be better replaced by doing daily bite, squeeze, and hold exercises with your aligners in.
- You don’t need gum for braces or Invisalign to relieve tenderness. Instead, try sticking with soft foods and cold drinks like yogurt, smoothies, ice water, mashed potatoes, oatmeal, and protein shakes until any discomfort subsides. You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever (whatever you’d normally take for a headache) if needed.
- For braces or Invisalign wearers who chew gum to freshen their breath, maintaining excellent oral hygiene with regular brushing and flossing should eliminate any bad odor. You can also suck on a sugar-free mint from time to time with braces. Don’t bite into the mint; just allow it to melt in your mouth. If bad breath is persistent, schedule a visit with your dentist, because it can be a sign of an oral health problem.
- You shouldn’t chew gum with braces. Even sugarless gum can pull off the ties that hold your wires in. It can also cause damage to your brackets and wires.
- You should not chew gum with your Invisalign aligners in your mouth either. The gum will deteriorate, get stuck on your aligners, and cause a mess.
- Chewing sugar-free gum does have oral health benefits, however, many of these benefits can be achieved in other ways during your orthodontic treatment.
- If you’re disappointed that gum and braces aren’t a good match, keep your awesome final results in mind. The stunning smile, improved oral health, and huge boost in confidence you’ll get from your treatment far outweigh the inconvenience of temporarily giving up gum.
If you have any more questions about chewing gum with braces or Invisalign, reach out! Not a patient yet? Let’s change that. Schedule a complimentary consultation at Jeffrey Kwong Orthodontics in El Dorado Hills, CA today!