An Orthodontic Guide to the Holidays

An Orthodontic Guide to the Holidays

With fall in full swing and the holidays fast approaching, it’s natural for adult orthodontic treatment in Portland patients to have a few questions about how best to navigate the special treats and seasonal foods that accompany this time of year.

Braces are far more visually appealing and less painful today, and patients don’t need to make as any visits to the orthodontist than was common in the past. Adults have started undergoing orthodontic treatment later in life at record numbers, and even many teens surveyed about their braces report that they don’t feel self-conscious about wearing their orthodontic appliance. A lot has changed in recent years regarding how patients feel about and receive treatment for their braces.

What hasn’t changed, however, are the foods on the “don’t” list, such as hard candy, licorice, nuts, popcorn and caramel. Many items on this list are just as appealing to adults as they are to kids. But with 20 percent of orthodontic patients over the age of 18, the holidays present a challenge for an entirely new group of revelers.

An Orthodontic Guide to the Holidays

While adult patients are far less likely to go bobbing for apples or trick-or-treating for candy, holiday parties offer their own unique set of challenges that go beyond just saying no to that complimentary bowl of nuts during happy hour.

The same applies to those caramel-nut taffy apples or many other tasty treats that tend to show up in the office breakroom this time of year such as pecan pie or brownies with walnuts.

Fortunately, a little awareness and just the right amount of creativity in the kitchen can go a long ways towards finding solutions for substitutions everyone can enjoy such as gelatin, fruit cups, ice cream, parfait, pumpkin pie and thinly slice fruit dipped in creamy chocolate or yogurt sauce.

To combat the parade of sugary foods many of us often eat in excess this time of year, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that patients brush and floss immediately after eating sweets. It’s even advisable to brush soon after eating anything – especially larger meals such as lunch or dinner – so getting into the habit of carrying a toothbrush when eating away from home can be incredibly useful.

The AAO also recommends that orthodontic patients spend extra time brushing after meals to make sure that all the hard to reach nooks around their appliance have been properly cleaned. Specialized brush tips are available to help get in between the braces and under the wires, as are threaders to assist with flossing. Water picks can also be useful at helping to dislodge food debris from under brackets and around wires.

Eating Tips for the Holidays

To make it easier to protect your braces during the holidays while still enjoying the many delectable treats, keep these helpful eating tips in mind.

  • Slow down. Chew slowly and carefully, and also cut your food into smaller, bite-sized pieces.
  • Stick to the soft stuff. Foods like mash potatoes, turkey and stuffing present far less of a risk to your braces when compared to hard rolls, corn on the cob and any foods containing nuts.
  • Avoid stringy foods. Pastas may be meant to be twirled around your fork, but for now always cut them into smaller bites to prevent the food from wrapping around your braces.
  • Bite with the side of your mouth. A good practice to employ year-round, but never bite directly into anything with your front teeth.
  • Stay committed. If you avoid eating foods on the “don’t” list all year, it will be far easier to continue staying on that path when presented with the temptation that comes during the holiday season.

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