Eating can be quiet a challenge when you have braces on your teeth -- especially when you are faced with tempting holiday food for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah! Brackets often poke into your gums and cheeks, and you just can't seem to chew properly. It’s not just a problem for kids – a growing number of adults now wear orthodontic braces, too!
Lynn Schneider, owner of DentaKit.com and ArchWired.com, two websites that specialize in orthodontic products and information, offers her tips for successful holiday feasting, along with the help of Pamela Waterman, president of Metal Mouth Media and author of The Braces Cookbook and The Braces Cookbook 2. Schneider and Waterman both had braces on their teeth as adults, and had daughters in braces, as well.
“When you have braces, you may find that your teeth don't touch the way they did before, which changes the way you chew,” Schneider says. “As your treatment continues and your teeth shift, you may continually need to adapt to biting and chewing in a slightly different way. Patience is the key.”
But patience may be in short supply when you’re faced with delicious hard-to-resist holiday foods, which can be sticky, chewy, or contain nuts! Waterman adds, “Your holiday meals don’t have to be boring just because you are in braces. Our Braces Cookbooks offer a large variety of gourmet recipes, many which can be adapted for the holidays.”
Schneider and Waterman offer these tips to make it easier for you and your kids to cope this holiday season:
1. Slow down. Chew slowly and carefully, and cut your food into small pieces. Forget about taking big bites of anything, or wolfing down your food. The key word here is: SLOW!
2. Stick to soft food. But when faced with foods that might be a bit chewy, your knife and fork are your best friends. Cut that turkey and ham into small pieces, enjoy soups and soft foods like mashed potatoes, soften the stuffing with gravy, and stick to smooth jellied cranberry sauce.
3. Avoid stringy foods, especially if you have a palate expander. You may love to wind your pasta around your fork, but for now it would be better for you to cut it into small pieces, or it will get wound around your brackets. Also, be careful with foods that get stringy when cooked, like some soft cheeses and spaghetti squash.
4. You may love pecan pie, but for right now it won’t love you! Foods with nuts and seeds often get stuck in your brackets and will drive you crazy until you finally brush and get them out. Sticky foods will likely stick to your brackets and make a mess. Avoid biting into anything hard that may break or pop off a bracket, such as candy canes or hard cookies. For dessert, go for the pumpkin pie, mousse, pudding, soft truffles and cakes, or ice cream. Or chop the pecans extremely finely in a food processor and make a special small tart for yourself.
5. Bite with the side of your mouth. It may be virtually impossible to bite into anything with your front teeth, anyway! Get used to biting with your side teeth, instead.
6. Beware of anything containing large hidden chunks of meat or vegetables, such as burritos or sandwich wraps (including that leftover turkey sandwich!) Bite carefully into those types of foods so that you don't choke, or better yet, eat them with a fork and knife instead.
7. One-bite type appetizers and sushi can be very challenging and could gag you. You should probably cut these in half instead of trying to pop an entire piece of it into your mouth. Avoid appetizers that are hard; stick to the softer ones. Raw fruits and veggies are great, but take small bites or cut them into thin pieces.
8. Develop an arsenal of soft food recipes, and bring something to the holiday table that you know you can eat, and that others will enjoy. You don't need to sentence yourself to boring soups and shakes. There are several cookbooks that can help you prepare healthy, delicious meals, such as The Braces Cookbook, and The Braces Cookbook2.
9. If eating becomes too uncomfortable because of mouth sores or poking brackets, apply plenty of dental wax or dental silicone.
10. Holiday eating often involves parties or dinners away from home. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that orthodontic patients brush and floss shortly after eating, so a good dental kit is essential.
Celebrating the holidays with orthodontic braces may be challenging, but you can get through it successfully with a little forethought, adapted recipes, and the right dental products.