If you are unfortunate enough to undergo wisdom tooth surgery or indeed any other dental procedure, it’s important to get the right nutrition afterwards.
A diet of soft, nutritious food immediately after the surgery is the best way to help reduce the risk of complications, reduce swelling and promote the wound healing process.
You will need to follow a soft diet for several weeks, but this doesn’t have to be tasteless and boring. I've been there and done it myself, having had three wisdom teeth removed several months ago. Here are my tips for what to eat and drink including what NOT to do.
The First 48 hours Post-Op
Most surgeons recommend a liquid diet for the first 24 hours to allow the blood clots to form in the gaps (where your teeth used to be).
Although it may seem like a good idea, DO NOT be tempted to reach for a straw. The sucking action can dislodge the newly formed blood clot which is necessary for healing. This can delay recovery and worse still, increase the risk of a painful condition known as dry socket, where the underlying bone and nerves are exposed to air.
If you are a smoker, be aware that the action of sucking on a cigarette is just like that of a straw so avoid for as long as possible.
You will probably experience some swelling and mild discomfort after the surgery, so cold compresses (i.e. an ice pack) along with cold liquids are very soothing on the mouth.
Avoid very hot or cold drinks and foods as this can increase blood flow to the wound. It is also best to avoid fizzy drinks, caffeine and those high in citric acid such as orange juice as they can irritate the extraction site.
Suitable Liquid Foods:
Smoothies, milkshakes and fruit squash/cordials
Smooth blended soups
Softened ice cream
You may find that after the general anaesthetic, you don’t have much of an appetite. Make sure that you stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. If your appetite is poor, it may be helpful to take a multivitamin during the early phases of healing to ensure you are meeting the recommended daily level of nutrients. If you have a pre-existing medical condition such as diabetes you must take this into consideration and discuss your eating plan with a Registered Dietitian.
Smoothies and milkshakes are a great way of getting vitamins, minerals and protein to help with healing. Homemade smoothies blended with fruit and vegetables are easy to make and provide fibre and nutrients. A simple recipe of milk (dairy or plant-based), banana and blueberries (avoid fruit with seeds) with Greek yoghurt blended to a smooth texture can be soothing. The Greek yoghurt is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals such as calcium and zinc which play a key role in protein and collagen synthesis and in tissue growth and healing (1).
Smooth blended soups (make sure they are not piping hot) such as butternut squash or pumpkin are a great choice as they are rich in vitamins and minerals. They can be a useful way of meeting your 5-a-day when you are unable to eat whole fruits or vegetables. They can also keep you hydrated.
The First Week after Surgery:
After 48 hours aim for soft foods which are high in energy and protein as your body has increased nutritional needs following any surgical procedure (2).
Eggs are an ideal food to eat after surgery particularly scrambled eggs as they are easier to chew and swallow. They are highly nutritious providing a good source of protein, iron, and vitamin B12. Some are enriched with omega-3.
A fish pie with mashed potato topping is both nourishing and tasty. As you may still be tender in the mouth, smaller meals maybe helpful rather than big meals. Choose wholesome snacks such as mashed avocado, porridge, hummus and cottage cheese as these provide a good range of healthy fats, vitamins and protein. You can also include mashed banana, pureed fruit, custard, yoghurt and ice cream. In fact, anything that you can mash with a fork fits the bill.
In the initial days post-op, you might not feel like cooking (I certainly didn't!). Having a supply of soft ready meals such as shepherd's pie, dhal and fish in cheese sauce can be handy whilst you're recovering from the anaesthetic.
First Month Post-op:
As you start to feel better, it can be tempting to run back to your usual foods. But, believe me, this is not a good idea until your mouth is fully healed.
Some foods can irritate or get stuck in your newly formed gaps! Avoid anything crunchy such as granola, crisps, raw vegetables or toast. Spicy foods such as chilli, salsa and spicy seasonings may still cause discomfort. It would be wise to avoid sticky and chewy foods such as gummy sweets and steak for a while too.
It’s a good idea to peel fruit and remove seeds and pith and beware that even oats can get stuck in the gap. I'd recommend asking your surgeon for a small syringe which you can fill with saline water (salt water) to rinse out the gaps after eating.
The time that it takes to heal after dental extractions varies from person to person. You can be sure that your recovery will benefit from incorporating some healthy and nutritious soft foods into your diet. If in doubt, check with your surgeon about what you should and shouldn't be eating post surgery.
Written by Harriet Smith, Registered Dietitian and Sharon Kallos, Registered Associate Nutritionist
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