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Food Tips

You know that what you eat directly impacts your health, and that includes the health of your teeth and gums. But it can work the other way around too. If you have an orthodontic appliance, such as braces, or have had certain dental problems or procedures, the health and comfort of your teeth and gums can directly impact what you eat. Here are some tips for what to eat and how to avoid these common dental issues.

Braces
Problems Chewing
Problems Swallowing
Dry Mouth
Canker Sores
Oral Surgery and Implants

Braces

Braces are delicate, and any foods that are sticky, chewy or hard can easily cause them to break, including:

  • ice
  • nuts
  • popcorn
  • hard candy
  • gum
  • chewy candy like caramel or gummi bears
  • whole hard fruit like apples and pears and hard, raw veggies like carrots
  • corn on the cob
  • hard pretzels
  • peanut brittle
  • pizza crust
  • hard rolls or bagels
  • ribs

Any food that you need to bite into to eat is prime for breaking braces. You can get around this by cutting the food, such as corn off the cob or rib meat off the bone, or slicing apples and chopping carrots into small, bite-size pieces. You may also experience problems eating after your braces are tightened–teeth may feel sore. The first few days are the worst, so try eating softer foods like those listed below until the soreness passes:

  • scrambled eggs
  • oatmeal
  • soup with soft vegetables or pureed or cream soups
  • soft cheeses, including cottage cheese
  • smoothies and milkshakes
  • pudding and custard
  • meatloaf 
  • mashed potatoes
  • sorbet and frozen yogurt 
  • tortillas (soften by microwaving or steaming)
  • yogurt 
  • soft-cooked, shredded chicken and meat
  • protein shakes
  • tofu
  • ripe fruits, such as peaches and nectarines, cut into bite-size pieces
  • couscous, quinoa, bulgur, soft-cooked rice 
  • pasta and noodles 
  • polenta
  • baked apples
  • peanut butter
  • chicken or tuna salad
  • refried beans
  • avocado 
  • applesauce
  • macaroni and cheese
  • pancakes
  • soft bread
  • saltines and matzoh
  • mashed bananas
  • cooked veggies
  • hummus
  • canned or cooked fruit

Problems Chewing

Chewing problems may be caused by tooth loss, gum disease, cavities and ill-fitting dentures, so your first step should be a visit to your dentist to help determine the cause of your problem. Meanwhile, eating soft foods (see tips for braces) can you help maintain your nutrients until you can see your dentist.

Problems Swallowing

Swallowing problems can occasionally happen, but if it persists, talk to your doctor since it could be related to something serious. Causes of swallowing issues vary and treatment depends on what is causing the problem.

If you are having trouble swallowing, to prevent choking and aspiration avoid these foods:

  • alcoholic beverages
  • extremely hot foods and beverages
  • caffeine
  • spicy foods
  • popcorn
  • bran cereal
  • nuts
  • cottage cheese (unless pureed)
  • skins of fruits
  • celery
  • dry, crumbly, or sticky foods (such as bread, cake, peanut butter, banana)

Depending on level of swallowing difficulty, the following foods may be included in the diet. These foods are grouped into four different categories:

  • Thin liquids that dissolve quickly in the mouth such as frozen yogurt, ice cream, gelatin and broth.
  • Nectar-like liquids where liquid coats and drips off a spoon such as nectars, milkshakes, cream soup and vegetable juices. 
  • Honey-like liquids that flow off a spoon in a ribbon like in yogurt, tomato sauce and honey.
  • Spoon-thick liquids that are thickened to pudding consistency such as pudding, custard or hot cereal.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is not a normal part of aging. If you have dry mouth, talk to your dentist or doctor. Dry mouth can be a sign of certain diseases or can be caused by certain medications or the result of medical treatments. If you have dry mouth:

  • don’t use tobacco or drink alcohol 
  • drink water regularly—with and between meals
  • avoid drinks that contain caffeine such as colas, coffee and tea since it can dry out your mouth
  • chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy to stimulate saliva flow 
  • avoid spicy or salty foods if they cause pain in your mouth

Canker Sores

There is no cure for canker sores but you may be able to reduce how often you get them by avoiding foods that irritate your mouth. Spicy foods, acidic foods like pickles and sauerkraut, and citrus fruits can cause irritation. If you have canker sores, help ease discomfort by eating bland foods until your sores heal, such as: 

  • low-fat milk and other dairy foods
  • cooked, canned and frozen vegetables
  • mashed potatoes (fortify by mixing in powdered milk to boost nutrition)
  • cooked or canned fruit, including applesauce
  • hot cereals like oatmeal and cream of wheat (make with milk instead of water to boost nutrition)
  • soft cooked and shredded chicken, beef and pork
  • creamy-style peanut butter
  • pudding and custard
  • scrambled or fried eggs 
  • tofu
  • soup 

Oral Surgery and Implants

Your nutrition and dietary needs following oral surgery or getting implants depends on factors including your nutritional status prior to your procedure, the extent of your procedure, how much impact there is on oral function and how long your recovery is expected to last. A liquid or soft foods diet may be required for a few days or longer, until your mouth heals. Opt for nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods and lean meats, eggs and beans whenver possible since they provide vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed for healing, including zinc, protein, and vitamins A and C.

Try these foods:

  • scrambled eggs 
  • oatmeal or cream of wheat (make with milk instead of water to boost nutrition) 
  • soup with soft vegetables or pureed or cream soups
  • soft cheeses, including cottage cheese
  • smoothies and milkshakes 
  • pudding and custard
  • meatloaf 
  • mashed potatoes (fortify by mixing in powdered milk to boost nutrition
  • sorbet and frozen yogurt
  • tortillas (soften by microwaving or steaming)
  • yogurt 
  • soft-cooked, shredded chicken and meat
  • protein shakes
  • tofu
  • ripe fruits, cut into pieces like peaches and nectarines 
  • couscous, quinoa, bulgur, soft-cooked rice
  • pasta and noodles
  • polenta 
  • baked apples
  • peanut butter 
  • chicken or tuna salad
  • refried or mashed canned beans 
  • avocado 
  • applesauce
  • macaroni and cheese
  • pancakes 
  • soft bread
  • saltines and matzoh
  • mashed bananas
  • cooked veggies, like carrots, squash, green beans, spinach and other greens
  • spinach soufflé
  • hummus
  • canned or cooked fruit