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Can I Eat Popcorn With Braces?

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A woman with dental braces holding a bucket of popcorn.

Braces are an orthodontic treatment that can deliver a straight smile and help fix your bite. While the results delivered with braces can be wonderful, the journey to a new smile can be long because of specific dietary guidelines.

Your dentist may have advised you to avoid eating and drinking certain foods throughout your treatment. One of these foods typically includes popcorn. 

While popcorn can be a quick, healthy snack, it is best to avoid eating it during orthodontic treatment. Popcorn hulls and kernels can get stuck under braces and be difficult to remove.

Why You Should Avoid Eating Popcorn With Braces

To understand why certain foods, like popcorn, should be avoided during orthodontic treatment, we need to understand how braces work and the mechanism that holds them together. 

Braces use mild pressure to shift teeth into their rightful, aligned places. They offer several benefits like:

  • Aligning your teeth and fixing your bite
  • Making it easier to clean your teeth, which helps prevent cavities and gum disease
  • Correcting TMJ 
  • Providing a straight smile

Braces consist of several parts that work together to apply gentle pressure to teeth and gradually shift them into the correct position.

  • Brackets: These are the small metal squares that are attached to the front of the tooth.  
  • Archwires: These are thin metal wires that connect brackets. 
  • Ligatures: These are small rubber bands that hold the archwire to the bracket. 

Eating foods like popcorn can damage the wires or brackets of your braces. Not only can this delay your orthodontic treatment, but fixing any damage to your braces will increase the cost of your treatment.   

Popcorn is a problem food for braces because popcorn hulls and kernels can get stuck. The hull can get wedged between teeth and below the gums, causing your gums to become swollen and inflamed. The hulls and kernels can be difficult to remove from between brackets and wires, which makes cleaning difficult.

An alternative to popcorn is “hull-less” popcorn. This popcorn still contains a hull, but it’s smaller and softer, which makes it safer for individuals with braces to consume. 

While on the topic of popcorn, eating corn on the cob is also ill-advised. Biting into the cob may dislodge brackets and remove wires, but eating corn off the cob is perfectly safe! 

The allure of popcorn is outweighed by its risks to your dental health and the potential orthodontic emergencies that might arise.

Foods to Avoid While Wearing Braces 

Popcorn is just one of the foods that should be avoided with braces. To make things easy, as a general rule of thumb, try to avoid the following

  • Hard or crunchy foods: These can add unnecessary pressure on your braces and teeth, leading to damage.
  • Sticky foods: They’re prone to getting stuck in your braces, where they can do a number on your oral hygiene and can be a hassle to clean. Sticky foods can loosen brackets and distort wires.
  • Chewy foods: Like their sticky counterparts, chewy treats can wrap around brackets and wires, making oral hygiene very difficult.
  • Acidic beverages: These include sodas, energy drinks, and lemonade. When braces are removed, some individuals may notice white spots on their teeth where the brackets were attached. This can lead to permanent tooth discolouration. 

Changing diet with braces may be difficult, but it’s temporary. These restrictions are not meant to serve as punishment; rather, they’re advised to help keep teeth healthy and strong and to help prevent any dental concerns post-braces.

There are still plenty of foods that you can eat with braces without worrying about damaging your wires, brackets, or teeth. Soft foods are typically okay to consume because they don’t pose serious danger to the hardware of your braces. 

Fun snack foods you can enjoy with braces include:

A bowl of yogurt on a blue wooden table.
  • Soft cookies (avoid cookies with nuts)
  • Thin and light crackers
  • Soft cheeses 
  • Yogurt, pudding cups, and apple sauce
  • Ice cream (if your teeth don’t feel sensitive from a wire change)

By making smart dietary substitutions, you can still enjoy fun snacks without compromising the integrity of your braces or the safety of your teeth and gums.

Maintaining Oral Hygiene With Braces 

Braces or not, maintaining oral hygiene is key for a healthy, beautiful smile. With braces, your dental routine will require a bit more maintenance.

Leftover food particles can get lodged between your brackets and wires, and plaque can build up around the edges of your braces. If plaque is not properly removed, permanent white or brown discolouration may appear on the tooth’s surface.   

After every meal, try to rinse your mouth and brush your teeth. Rinse your mouth with water to loosen any food particles and debris, making them easier to remove. Remove any elastics or bands from your wires before cleaning. 

Using your toothbrush, gently brush along the gumline, the top of your brackets, and under your brackets and wires. Brush the chewing and inner surfaces of your teeth. Be sure to clean each tooth thoroughly to remove any plaque, food, and debris.

Floss once a day. Flossing helps remove food, plaque, and debris that gets wedged between your teeth, gums, and braces and is difficult for a toothbrush’s bristles to remove. Be sure to get between each tooth and between your brackets and wires.

If traditional dental floss is difficult to maneuver with braces, try flossing alternatives like a water flosser or dental floss picks

Don’t Skimp on Your Dental Care 

Braces require slight changes in daily activity, diet, and dental care to help maintain a clean, healthy smile. Adhering to these food guidelines helps keep teeth and braces safe from damage.Follow up and check in with your dentist regularly during your orthodontic treatments. Contact our team at Shin Dentistry to schedule your next visit.

Written by Dr. Charles Shin

After graduating from the University of Western Ontario’s School of Dentistry in 1999, Dr. Charles Shin practiced in Burlington, Ontario before making the move to Stouffville in 2003 to open his own practice: Shin Dentistry.
Since then, Dr. Shin has never stopped his pursuit of learning, continuing his education at the Las Vegas Institute of Advanced Dental Studies while also staying current with the latest technology in dentistry.

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