A dentist or orthodontist may recommend braces to align or straighten your teeth, or help with another dental problem like a gap, underbite, or overbite.

Braces can drastically improve your teeth, but it can take days or weeks to adjust to the extra pressure on your teeth. You may also feel some pain or irritation around your teeth and gums during the first few days.

But if you talk with anyone who’s had braces, the hardest adjustment might be giving up some of the foods you love. Certain foods are off-limits while wearing braces, because they can become stuck in the braces and damage them.

Here’s a look at some of the best and worst foods to eat with braces, as well as what to do if you damage your braces.

Getting braces doesn’t hurt, but your mouth may be sensitive in the days following your appointment. Therefore, eating foods that have a tougher texture could cause pain.

Since you’ll also have to learn how to chew differently, your orthodontist will likely recommend only eating soft foods for the first few days.

Ideal foods to eat after getting braces include:

  • mashed potatoes
  • yogurt
  • soups
  • scrambled eggs
  • oatmeal
  • grains
  • seafood
  • soft fruits
  • soft cheeses
  • cooked or soft vegetables
  • moist desserts
  • pasta

Basically, anything that’s easy to chew.

Sensitivity after getting braces will improve after a few days or a week. At that point, you’ll be able to somewhat resume your typical diet.

Along with knowing what foods you can eat after getting braces, you should know what foods to avoid right after getting braces.

Plenty of foods are fine to eat with braces. However, some “safe” foods might not be ideal immediately after getting braces, since they can irritate your mouth, causing too much pressure and sensitivity.

Foods to avoid right after getting braces include:

  • ice cream
  • thick rolls or breads
  • thicker cuts of meats
  • spicy foods
  • citrus foods

You’ll be able to eat these items once your teeth adjust to having braces.

Be mindful that braces are sensitive to damage, so you’ll need to avoid certain foods for as long as you have braces.

These include sticky and hard foods that can damage the wires or bands, or cause a bracket to separate from a tooth.

Foods to completely avoid with braces include:

  • popcorn
  • nuts
  • ice
  • chewing gum
  • hard candy
  • chewy candy
  • pizza crust
  • bagels and other hard rolls
  • crunchy vegetables and fruits
  • hard crackers
  • pretzels
  • chips

Also, limit consumption of sugary foods and drinks while having braces. When sugar mixes with saliva, it creates a sticky film (plaque) that coats the teeth.

Brushing can remove plaque, but that becomes harder to do with braces. And if you’re unable to remove this sticky film, there’s a risk of tooth decay.

So, while the occasional sweet treat is OK, limit yourself to only a few sugary foods and beverages a week.

During the time you have braces, you’ll have periodic appointments with your orthodontist to adjust your braces. Other issues can occur between regular adjustments, like a loose or broken wire or band.

This can happen if you:

  • eat sticky or crunchy foods
  • pick at your braces
  • have an injury to your mouth

If you have any issues with your braces, make an appointment with your orthodontist right away. Ignoring the damage or delaying a repair could potentially slow your treatment time.

Don’t pull or bend a broken wire or bracket. You could cause more damage. Instead, place a piece of wet cotton or orthodontic wax over the sharp edge until you’re able to see a dentist or orthodontist.

Maintaining good dental habits while wearing braces is one way to avoid damage. Make sure you brush your teeth at least three times a day, preferably after each meal, using a soft-bristled toothbrush.

Pay extra attention to the space around your braces and remove all traces of food. Use floss to clean between your teeth, as well as a floss threader, to remove food particles from between braces and wires.

It’s not only important to see your orthodontist, but also your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups. Dental cleanings are essential to remove any plaque buildup, which contributes to cavities and gum disease.

Orthodontist appointments ensure that your braces remain properly fitted.

Your dentist may also recommend using a fluoride mouthwash to help strengthen your teeth and lower the risk of tooth decay.

Learning different chewing techniques can also prevent damage to braces. Instead of chewing food with your front teeth, it might be easier to chew with your back teeth, which are stronger. This can prevent damage to your braces when eating thicker breads or meats.

Getting braces can improve your teeth. But if you eat the wrong types of food and don’t maintain good dental hygiene, there’s the risk of damaging your braces and teeth.

Your dentist or orthodontist will discuss what foods to avoid. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Damaging your braces could prolong your treatment, meaning you’ll have to wear them for a longer period of time.