Dear Dr. Pompei,
I just recently got my braces put on over the winter break and I’m still trying to get used to all the differences with my bite. But the thing that’s been bothering me the most is eating. While I got used to eating applesauce and other soft foods for my meals at home, now that I’m back in school, I’m afraid to eat anything there because I’m really not sure what I should be eating. I’ve been skipping lunch ever since I’ve been back. Is this normal? What should I do?
– Starving in the Upper East Side
Dear Starving in the Upper East Side,
The truth is that you’re experience is not uncommon at first. Plenty of students go through the same thing and are worried about what they should be eating in the cafeteria and even elsewhere as well. Plenty of cafeterias serve food that’s unsuitable (and also unhealthy!) for a patient who’s wearing braces. It mainly depends on the school, though most offer a la carte items with a selection of braces-friendly foods.
Having said that, on the topic of what you can eat, there are also foods you want to avoid. When you’re wearing braces, you need to place more focus on the specific foods that you should be avoiding. There are two major groups of foods that you’ll need to avoid for the duration of your orthodontic treatment. These groups of foods are hard foods and sticky foods.
Eating hard foods is a risk because these types of food can potentially break the brackets and wire of your braces. Some examples of the hard foods you’ll have to avoid are hard nuts, taco shells, chips, bagels, pizza crust, and pretzels. Sticky foods are also problematic because they can get stuck in your braces and pull off the wire or brackets. Examples of the sticky foods that you’ll have to avoid include gum, caramel, licorice, Starburst, and toffee. As long as you stay away from these types of food, your braces shouldn’t give you any trouble.
However, what’s always the best option when you’re at school is to pack your own lunch. You won’t have to worry about what the cafeteria is serving on a daily basis and on the days they’re serving something that’s unsuitable for a person with braces, you won’t have to scrounge around trying to make a meal out of a carton of milk and a couple of lettuce slices. If you participate in a school lunch and snack plan, please speak to the person who chooses the menus and ask for their help. If necessary, Dr. Bronsky, Dr. Matos, or I can speak with the school to help out.
While there are many terrific choices, this TriBeCa and Upper East Side orthodontist has quite a fondness for sandwiches with soft bread, pasta, orange slices, yogurt, and cheese. Truthfully though, there’s a near limitless number of options you have and as long as you avoid hard and sticky foods, you should be perfectly fine.