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October 22, 2008

Bubblegum in my Braces

NOHM_poster_4x5_high Bubblegum in your braces? Well, maybe not.  That would be really nasty, and you'd end up at your orthodontist's office having the bubblegum picked out of your teeth.  Let's not go there.  So, to avoid what is surely going to be the inevitable anyway this Halloween, I have teamed up with the American Association of Orthodontics and Celebrity Emmy-award winning Chef and Cookbook Author Michael Chiarello of the Food Network's "Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello" to bring you some fabulous tips, tricks, and recipes over the next week that will keep you smilin' and your child's orthodontics away from the tooth picker this season.  Sound like a plan? Thought so.

Having worn braces 3 times (once in my teens, once in my early 20s, and again in my late 20s because I didn't like wearing my retainer) I know first-hand how nasty it can be to eat something that doesn't agree with the wires in your mouth.  I also know that it isn't CaramelApplesfun to sit in a recliner at the Orthodontist's office with a bright light glaring up my nostrils and into my mouth while bubblegum or Cinnamon-caramel apples are picked out of my braces.

What felt especially weird was when I'd have the wire removed (now completely covered in sticky stuff) and my teeth felt like they were all going to fall out.  Aaack!  So how about we avoid this fiasco this Halloween?


Let's start with some great tips and tricks from the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) to keep your braces intact and out of the candied-apples and bubble gum...



TreatstoAvoid "If it's sticky, chewy, hard, or crunchy, it's a food that anyone wearing braces or retainers should avoid," says Dr. Raymond George, Sr., DMD, orthodontist and AAO president. 

So, you are being urged, pleaded with, pinched, and prodded, to steer clear of the following Halloween treats, or recipes with these ingredients: (because if you don't, the boogie man will get you and that's a fact):

  • All hard candies
  • All chewy candies
  • Caramel
  • Nuts
  • Licorice
  • Taffy
  • Jelly beans
  • Hard pretzels
  • Bubblegum
  • Popcorn (including unpopped kernels)
  • Taco chips
  • Ice

"By following your orthodontist's guidelines on avoiding certain foods which tend to bend and break braces and maintaining proper oral hygiene, patients will be on track to complete orthodontic care on time and have healthy teeth and a beautiful smile," says Dr. George.  Oh, and so says "me," a person with straight-from-the-metal-mouth experience.

SarahinBMWOf course, Halloween does not have to be completely treat-less, you gotta have some fun, right?  Braces-friendly Halloween treats can help orthodontic patients enjoy the "spook-ta-cular" holiday (I know, I'm getting a bit wacky with my writing, but bare with me here. 

For example, plain chocolate candy is okay (Thank God!), provided the orthodontic patient remembers to brush and floss afterwards (So promise and then squint and floss between those 500 spaces between your teeth and braces - promise?). 

Bobbing for apples as well as caramel apples are NOT recommended for orthodontic patients. (Darn)  However, patients can enjoy thinly sliced apples, dipped in yogurt or creamy chocolate sauce.  Yum.  I'll take the creamy chocolate sauce, thank you very much.

FriendlyTreats Orthodontists suggest looking for foods that are soft, such as soft chocolate that can melt in one's mouth or peanut butter cups. (aka Reeses or KitKats - my fav)  Overall, candies that aren’t sticky, chewy, hard or crunchy are generally acceptable - and so is chocolate.  Chocolate.  Got that?  Chocolate is your friend.

"We want patients to have fun while in orthodontic treatment," says Dr. Geroge. "If orthodontic patients are careful about the Halloween treats they eat, they should be able to finish treatment on time and with good results."  Yeah, you don't want to have to spend an additional 6 months in treatment because you couldn't withstand the temptation to wolf down that caramel apple or Boobers Bubblegum.


If an orthodontic patient chews the wrong type of treat and damage occurs, it is recommended that the patient call his/her orthodontist the next business day so that arrangements can be made to correct the problem. If you don't, you will be sorry and everyone will tease you when you smile.  So call.  You'll be good as new and all shiny again, but let's avoid this problem, okay?

Sarahwithbraces2"Typically, small problems can be solved over the phone. Often, one can be made more comfortable by applying orthodontic wax until the patient can come into the office," says Dr. George.  I don't know about you, but I remember being one of those problem patients that ate sticky, hard candy and ended up with wires jabbing me in the gums.  Not a pretty sight - and rather painful if you want to know the truth.  And, I was never good at messin' with that wax, and neither is my girl, Sarah.  She would rather cry and have me take her to the orthodontist for repairs rather than fuss with that wax.

Some problem-solving tips can also be found on the AAO Web site at www.braces.org/knowmore/breaks/.  And yes, I've burned this website address into my girl's brain.  She is almost thru with her orthodontic treatment and is only about 6 months away from a perfect smile.  I want her to get there without having to pull goobers out of her teeth.


In addition to orthodontic safety, the AAO advise parents and children to follow these trick-or-treating safety guidelines:

  • Young children should always be accompanied by an adult - ALWAYS!
  • Always Carry a flashlight
  • Wear a light-colored or reflective costume
  • Choose face paint over masks for young ghosts and goblins as they will be able to see better.
  • Absolutely inspect all of your child's treats before they dig in!  Don't assume that just because the candy came from someone in your community or complex means that they are safe.  Be assiduous for your child - you won't regret it.


Be aware of early signs or habits that may indicate the need for an examination by an orthodontist. These signs or habits may include:

  • Early or late loss of baby teeth
  • Difficulty in chewing or biting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Thumb sucking
  • Finger sucking
  • Crowding, misplaced or blocked out teeth
  • Jaws that shift or make sounds
  • Biting the cheek
  • Lower front teeth biting into the roof of the mouth
  • Teeth that meet abnormally or not at all
  • Jaws and teeth that are out of proportion to the rest of the face
  • A crossbite (one jaw does not fit properly with the opposing jaw due to differences in size)

So there you have it.  The first of several posts between now and Halloween to make your ghost and goblins safer, happier, and stickier (No!  I didn't say that!  Not stickier!)

I think I'll have some Raisin Toast now...



Happy Holidays

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