Retainers are often required after a person removes their braces, as they help keep teeth in the same position and prevent the teeth from shifting. While retainers are typically seen as the next step after braces, both dental treatments share several of the same instructions for care — including avoiding certain foods. 

It’s common for foods to get stuck in a removable retainer and the wiring of a permanent retainer, which can result in tooth staining, plaque buildup, tooth decay and even a broken retainer. How long retainers last may depend on the food choice you make. That’s why knowing what foods should be avoided while wearing a retainer is important. 

1) Chewing gum 

While it might be great for freshening your breath and strengthening your teeth, chewing gum can be detrimental to retainers. As gum is so sticky, it can easily get stuck onto the retainer and become extremely difficult to scrape off.

Not only can chewing gum get stuck to your retainer, but it can also do damage by bending the wires. Sticky foods can quickly get stuck on a wire and result in it bending, which could lead to the retainer working improperly.

2) Popcorn

One of the first things people with braces or a retainer are advised not to eat is popcorn. It’s not the soft part of the popcorn that damages retainers; it’s the hull, or the hard outer shell of the popcorn that surrounds it before it’s been popped.

Due to its small size, the hull can easily get stuck in retainers, resulting in the retainers breaking. And aside from those more pressing issues, eating food that will undoubtedly get stuck in the crevices continuously with every bite can be extremely annoying.

3) Caramel 

Sticky foods, like caramel, are hard to clean off almost any surface they are on, including retainers. Not only can caramel easily get stuck onto a retainer, but it can also break and alter the condition of a retainer while it’s stuck onto it. 

Caramel is challenging to clean off the retainer and can lead to tooth decay and cavities because it’s made almost entirely of sugar. 

4) Ice 

It’s unlikely that retainer wearers will have a bowl of ice for breakfast or dinner, but they should still be wary when drinking a beverage filled with ice or chewing on ice chips. Because ice is so hard, it can damage retainers and result in a broken wire. To avoid this, people with a retainer should drink ice-filled beverages through a straw or avoid chewing ice chips.

5) Whole apples

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but maybe not the dentist or orthodontist, as taking a bite out of a whole apple can be highly damaging to retainers. The pressure of biting into the hard fruit can break or bend wires, which means the retainer is no longer on correctly.

If you’re craving an apple, but don’t want to risk damaging your retainer, cut the apple into smaller, more manageable sizes rather than biting into a whole apple, reducing the risk of breaking a retainer.

Bottom line

Wearing a retainer is crucial for maintaining your fantastic results after braces or aligners. If you have a permanent retainer, avoiding sticky or hard foods that could damage the wire is wise. Keeping clear of these foods will ensure your retainer remains viable for years, with no need to visit the orthodontist for a replacement retainer or expensive repairs. 

Taking care of your oral health and considering factors like how much clear aligners cost and how to care for retainers can contribute to a confident and beautiful smile in the long run. Whether it’s for orthodontic treatment or general oral care, prioritize your dental well-being and consult with your dentist for the best advice tailored to your needs. Your smile is an asset, so invest in it wisely for a lifetime of happiness and self-assurance.