As any of our El Dorado Hills Invisalign® and braces patients can attest, we’re a festive bunch here at Jeffrey Kwong Orthodontics. From our Halloween skull design contest to our annual Giving Tree, my team and I love to celebrate and give back to the community. Aside from service opportunities, having a blast and spending time with our families, another key reason the holidays are so important to us is the food. I know if you have braces, especially if you just started treatment, you might be worried that you’ll miss out on your favorite holiday dishes this year. Well, I’m here to reassure you that’s not the case. While, yes, there are some holiday foods to avoid with braces, there are so many more that you can still eat. To help, I’m sharing a guide to what to eat with braces during the holidays, as well some general tips for keeping your smile healthy all season long.
Braces and Food: A Refresher
Before I fill you in on the delicious, braces-friendly holiday foods, let’s have a quick review of the basics of eating with braces. During your first week with braces and, sometimes after adjustments, your teeth can be a little sensitive. You won’t feel any real braces pain and discomfort will be fairly mild. However, it will still be helpful to stick with soft foods, as well as cold foods and drinks, for several days. Some of the best foods to eat with braces at this time include things like mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, yogurt, applesauce, smoothies, protein shakes, pudding, ice cream, oatmeal and soup.
Once you feel ready to tackle your usual diet again, it’s actually less about what to eat with braces and more about how to eat with braces. Never tear or bite directly into foods with your front teeth. Instead, cut or break food into small, bite-sized pieces and chew with your back teeth. Be sure to take corn off the cob and meat off the bone.
While you can still enjoy most foods, there are some foods you can’t eat with braces because they can damage your appliance or get stuck and cause inflammation. The foods to avoid with braces include anything really hard (i.e., nuts, unpopped popcorn kernels, pizza crust, Doritos, etc.), sticky (i.e., taffy, caramel, Starburst) or chewy (jerky, hard rolls, some bagels), and foods you bite into (i.e., whole, raw apples, meat still on the bone, corn still on the cob).
What Not to Eat With Braces During the Holidays
There are some common holiday foods that fall into the hard, chewy and sticky categories. Foods to avoid with braces during the holiday season include:
- Nuts (plain, roasted or candied)
- Food with nuts in it (e.g., brownies or almonds on green bean casserole)
- Pecan pie (the nuts and sticky sugar filling are a one-two punch)
- Candy canes and other hard candies, including peppermint bark
- Toffee, caramel and similar sticky candy
- Peanut brittle
- Meat on the bone (e.g., turkey legs)
- Large pieces of raw vegetables
- Caramel apples and candy apples
- Hard gingerbread cookies
As you can see, there aren’t a ton of foods to avoid with braces during the holidays. The few that you will have to forgo will be worth it when you see how fantastic your new smile looks after your treatment is complete.
Holiday Foods You CAN Eat With Braces
Now, on to the good news. Given that the holidays are pretty much the season of comfort food and comfort food tends to be soft and easy to eat, braces really won’t interfere at all. Some of the common holiday foods you can eat with braces include:
- Turkey (tender and off the bone)
- Other tender meats that have been taken off the bone
- Soft-cooked fish
- Meat alternatives (e.g., Tofurkey, Gardein Holiday Roast, cut into small pieces)
- Mashed potatoes
- Baked potatoes
- Sweet potatoes and yams
- Steamed, roasted or cooked veggies (e.g., brussels sprouts, carrots, collard greens, etc.)
- Corn off the cob
- Stuffing without nuts
- Green bean casserole (leave off the almonds or other nuts)
- Cranberry sauce
- Barley and other well-cooked grains
- Macaroni and cheese
- Pasta and noodles
- Soft rolls and breads
- Soft cheeses
- Most dips (e.g., spinach and artichoke dip, hummus, etc.)
- Pumpkin pie, apple pie and other fruit pies
- Cream pies
- Brownies without nuts
- Soft cookies (here’s a great recipe for soft gingerbread cookies if you’re bummed out about having to stay away from the crunchy ones)
- Plain chocolate (e.g., Hershey’s Kisses)
- Apple cider
- Hot chocolate
Bonus Tips for Keeping Your Smile Healthy During the Holidays
While keeping your smile healthy is important for everyone, when you have braces, there are extra nooks and crannies that can trap plaque and the remnants of all of those tasty holiday foods. Since teeth move most efficiently in a healthy oral environment, getting rid of plaque and food debris to avoid decay is key. To help you breeze through the holidays with a healthy grin, here are some bonus tips for caring for your braces and smile:
- Continue to brush your teeth in the morning, after meals and snacks, and before bed.
- Don’t forget about flossing with braces. Floss your teeth once a day using a floss threader or orthodontic flosser to make the job easier. If you’re one of our El Dorado Hills InBrace® hidden braces patients, the design of the SmartWires™ will let you floss with ease using regular dental floss.
- Use a proxy brush to clean the tight spaces around your brackets that you can’t reach with your regular toothbrush. It’s also a great tool for dislodging food that’s stuck in your braces.
- If you’re out and have something to eat or drink, especially something sweet, and forget to bring your travel toothbrush, rinse your mouth out really well with water. Brush your teeth as soon as you get home.
- Enjoy sugary treats and beverages in moderation. The bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar and starches and release acids that damage tooth enamel, which can eventually lead to cavities. As I said, with braces, you have even more areas for plaque and bacteria to hide. So, have that pie and hot chocolate on special occasions and balance them with healthier options throughout the rest of the day.
Now that you know what to eat with braces during the holidays and the foods to avoid, you can enjoy your holiday meals without worrying. If you haven’t started treatment yet and you’re interested in learning more about your options for El Dorado Hills braces or Invisalign, schedule a complimentary consultation at Jeffrey Kwong Orthodontics. Also, if you can, it’s a great idea to support nearby small businesses by doing some of your holiday shopping locally (we even have a guide of where to shop in El Dorado Hills and the surrounding areas). #TeamJKO hopes you all have a safe and happy holiday season!