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Holiday foods can be tricky for braces-wearers

While last generation's mark of adolescence—braces—has mercifully evolved into an accessory for people of all ages, the long list of treatment-prolonging foods remains unchanged.

Today's braces are more visually appealing and less painful, and wearers don't have to make as many visits to the orthodontist. More than half of teen-agers recently surveyed about their braces report that they are not self-conscious about them. More than a quarter of them say their braces make them look cool.

But foods on the "don't" list, such as nuts, popcorn, hard candy, licorice and caramel, are just as appealing to adults as they are to kids. With one of every five orthodontic patients older than age 18, the holidays present a challenge for an entirely new group of revelers.

Although adults may not include bobbing for apples as an activity at holiday parties, orthodontic patients won't be able to enjoy that bowl of mixed nuts commonly served as an accompaniment during cocktail hour.

The same goes for those caramel-nut taffy apples so artfully displayed at the table's center, brownies with walnuts and pecan pie on the dessert menu.

However, a little awareness and creativity in the kitchen can result in substitutions everyone can enjoy such as pumpkin, parfait, ice cream, fruit cups, gelatin and thinly sliced apples dipped in yogurt or creamy chocolate sauce.

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that orthodontic patients brush and floss after eating sweets. Some dentists recommend brushing within five minutes after eating anything, especially after a meal, and having a travel toothbrush on hand when dining away from home.

The AAO says extra time is needed by orthodontia wearers of any age with toothbrushing to make sure that all areas around the braces have been cleaned properly. Specialized brush tips are available to help get in between the braces and under the wires. Floss-threaders are helpful in passing floss under archwires to facilitate flossing of the teeth. Oral irrigators are often helpful to dislodge food debris from around the teeth. Over-the-counter mouth rinses can be used in conjunction with oral irrigators to help reduce the level of bacteria around the teeth.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

11/26/07

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