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The goal of braces is an important one: achieving a beautiful, confident smile that will last a lifetime. While those braces do their job, you have to hold up your end of the deal and avoid certain foods that can damage them and interfere with their work.

1. Hard foods are hard on braces. They bend wires and break brackets, wreaking havoc on your mouth. Plus, if a wire is broken, those braces aren’t doing their job. Hard foods to avoid include nuts, jerky, bagels, pizza crust, hard breads and rolls, raw apples, pears, carrots, corn on the cob, hard cookies and hard candy.

2. Sticky foods can cling to your braces, then pull them apart when you try to remove the food. Caramel and taffy are the biggest culprits. Unfortunately, most candy is sticky, so you may have to find other ways to satisfy your sweet tooth while you wear your braces.

3. Foods that stain your teeth are bad enough when don’t have braces. When you wear braces, however, offending foods will stain only the exposed teeth, leaving whiter areas where the braces cover your teeth. When those braces come off, the stains may be very visible, leading to a need for whitening or other costly stain-removing work. Foods known for staining your teeth include soda, tea, wine, fruit juice, tomato sauces, sports drinks and berries.

4. Gum fits into pretty much every off-limits category for brace wearers. The sugar can stain your teeth, while the chewy and sticky substance can pull your braces apart. Some sugar-free gums may be acceptable in small amounts, but talk to your orthodontist first. He may have a brand he prefers or give you a limit as to how much you can chew.