After dental surgery, it’s important to let yourself recover. Your dentist will probably tell you the importance of rinsing with salt water, avoiding smoking, and maintaining good oral hygiene.
Whether you had a wisdom teeth removal, a dental implant, or another invasive procedure, it will be important to follow these after-care procedures closely. But did you know that what you eat can also impact your healing?
Sticking to soft foods is important — but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to bland options like cottage cheese, cream of wheat, and pureed baby foods. Instead, you can choose soft foods high in various nutrients but still flavorful.
In this guide from Flossy, we list the best foods to eat after a dental operation to speed up your recovery and improve your healing.
After having dental work done, it’s a good idea to stick to cold foods to decrease inflammation — which is likely to be at its highest in the first few days following your procedure.
Although lukewarm foods might be tolerable, you’ll especially want to avoid hot foods, as they can disrupt healing tissue. If you’re still numb from your anesthetic, you can seriously burn yourself.
You also want to make sure that what you eat is soft. There’s nothing worse than accidentally biting into something hard and crunchy and potentially injuring soft tissue in the mouth.
This is all fairly common advice, but the nutritional content of the soft, cool food you’re eating often gets left out. Any dental operation takes a toll on your immune system and requires significant time to heal. What you eat can either interfere with your healing or speed it up.
You can support healing by sticking to foods high in amino acids, healthy fats, and antioxidants. In the next section, we’ll review our favorite post-op foods to speed up your recovery.
Immediately after your operation, eating solid foods might be off the table. Avoid unhealthy soft foods like ice cream and go for healthy options such as bone broth.
Bone broth contains high levels of collagen, a protein in our skin. When you combine collagen with hyaluronic acid — which bone broth is also high in — you have the perfect recipe for supporting faster wound healing.
You can drink bone broth warm or cold. For an added boost of nutrients, you can add fresh herbs such as mint or rosemary.
This category of foods is pretty broad and includes options like:
No matter what you go for, these leafy greens are known to help decrease inflammation, enhance immune function, and speed up wound healing.
Dark leafy greens contain high levels of vitamin K, an important nutrient for healing soft tissue. In addition, they are rich in vitamin C, which is important for optimal immune function.
Dark leafy greens also contain tons of antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. One antioxidant, quercetin, has even been shown to improve virtually all markers of recovery following oral surgery.
It might be hard to chew on vegetables immediately after surgery, so try blending them into soups or even smoothies for easier consumption.
An added bonus? A fruit and veggie smoothie will be far healthier than that milkshake you’re craving.
Because your body will be building new tissue while it heals, you need much more protein than usual. Depending on your weight, you might need as much as 200 grams of protein daily during recovery.
Eggs are one of the best sources of protein following a dental operation. Each egg contains 7 grams of high-absorbable protein and various nutrients that support healing.
For instance, eggs are high in the mineral zinc, enhancing immune function. Eggs are also a rich source of vitamin B12, which can lower inflammation and speed up soft tissue healing following a dental operation.
Another excellent source of protein to promote healing is salmon. It’s chock-full of crucial vitamins and minerals like selenium, iron, and zinc.
Salmon is also full of omega-3 fats, which help reduce inflammation and support the immune system. While getting these fats in supplement form is possible, consuming salmon may be a better way for your body to absorb those fats, and it can provide you with other essential nutrients as well.
If you can’t chew following your procedure, a salmon pâté is a softer version of this popular fish.
While often overlooked, organ foods are some of the most nutritious foods you can eat. They are high in vitamin A, reducing inflammation and promoting wound healing. In addition, they contain zinc and copper, which are necessary nutrients for optimal immune system function.
Organ meats like liver have had a long history in various culinary traditions. Options like liver pâté are soft, cold, and delicious — the perfect combination for a post-op diet.
While getting vitamins and minerals is crucial, it’s also important not to overlook macronutrients like carbs. Complex carbohydrates slowly break down into sugar in the body, providing your body with much-needed energy to support healing.
Although mashed potatoes may be your first instinct, sweet potatoes are an even better complex carb because they contain enzymes like citrate synthase, which can promote soft tissue repair.
In addition, sweet potatoes are full of carotenoids, which give them their classic orange color. These antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and speed up healing.
You can eat sweet potatoes mashed and cold to avoid irritating the healing soft tissue.
You’ll want to skip the Jell-O, which is high in added sugars and artificial coloring, and instead opt for colorful berries. Not just delicious, berries are also full of plant compounds that can support your body’s recovery.
Berries are naturally full of antioxidants, which play an important role in reducing inflammation in the body. Plus, berries contain ample vitamin C, which helps to stimulate collagen production and speed up wound healing.
If you’re fed up with smoothies, a homemade berry sherbet with honey is another berry-filled post-op snack. Just try to avoid store-bought versions, as they contain high amounts of added sugar.
Your dentist will very likely prescribe antibiotics and painkillers following your operation. While these will help speed up your healing, they can also affect your gut health. For this reason, some people experience nausea, vomiting, and constipation following dental work.
A healthy dose of probiotics — “good” bacteria — can help bring things into balance. They not only help your body digest food, but they also play a huge role in immune health.
One good source of probiotics is fermented dairy (which is in contrast to regular dairy products like skim milk and soft cheeses). Greek yogurt is a classic fermented dairy choice, but you can also go for lesser-known options like kefir, koumiss, and acidophilus milk.
The list of healthy soft foods goes on and on. You can mix everything from polenta and risotto to hummus and soft vegetables to round out your diet while recovering.
However, what you don’t eat during recovery is just as important as what you do eat.
As mentioned above, you’ll want to avoid hot beverages and foods, especially after your operation. But you’ll also want to avoid anything too cold, such as ice water. They won’t cause damage, but your teeth and gums will likely be too sensitive to tolerate them once the anesthesia wears off.
Because your chewing capacities will be limited, you’ll also want to avoid anything hard, crunchy, sticky, or chewy. This includes foods like nuts, raw carrots, caramels, and more.
Last, you’ll want to avoid foods that increase inflammation and interfere with healing. This includes industrial seed oils, artificial sweeteners, and anything high in added sugar.
As a rule of thumb, avoid packaged foods with long ingredient lists. And for the best results, stick to whole foods.
How soon you can eat depends on what kind of dental operation you’re getting: an extraction, implant, or root canal. Here’s a general timeline that tells you how soon you can eat again.
48 Hours After Procedure
Immediately after a tooth extraction, the main focus is to allow a blood clot to form at the extraction site. For this reason, foods that can interfere with the process are generally off the table.
Depending on your condition, your oral surgeon may give you the green light to eat cold liquid foods several hours following the procedure. Options like cold soup (e.g. gazpacho), cold smoothies (with added protein powder), or homemade applesauce are all acceptable.
As you near the 48-hour mark, you may feel less pain in the extraction site with a nicely-forming blood clot. Around this time, you can incorporate solid foods that don’t require a lot of chewing.
Whatever you eat or drink, you shouldn’t use a straw. Using a straw can dislodge the blood clot in the extraction site, which can delay healing.
A Week After Procedure
Around this time, a blood clot should be well-formed in the extraction site. Your oral surgeon may give you the go-ahead to resume normal activities like rinsing, brushing, and flossing.
However, it’s still possible to dislodge the blood clot at this point, so avoiding hard, crunchy, or sticky foods is important. Even if you’re tempted to eat a salad for dinner, try to hold off for a bit longer. Soft options like salmon,
guacamole, baked beans, and sauteed greens can provide the nutrients you need without disturbing the extraction site.
Two Weeks After Procedure
After two weeks, the blood clot should be nicely formed, which means you can resume your normal diet. Of course, this is only the case if you don’t experience any complications like dry socket, a condition where the body has trouble forming a blood clot.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should resume a junk food diet. Your body is still healing from the extraction, and you should support it in any way you can. Try to incorporate some of the healing foods mentioned above into every meal.
48 Hours After Procedure
Just like after an extraction, your oral surgeon is likely to recommend a liquids-only diet following an implant. Make sure to avoid anything hot during this time.
A Week After Procedure
After a week has passed, the pain from the implant should begin to subside, and the swelling and inflammation may begin to go down. You can start following a soft food diet and eating essentially anything that doesn’t require significant chewing. However, it’s still important to avoid anything too hot.
Two Weeks After Procedure
Around this time, your gums may begin to fuse with the implant, a process known as osseointegration. To avoid interfering with it, avoid eating hard foods on the side of your jaw where the procedure was done.
To support your body during this crucial healing stage, you’ll also want to make sure to up your protein intake.
48 Hours After Procedure
For a root canal, your dentist will inject your mouth with local anesthesia, which means you’ll experience numbness for several hours after the procedure. This is when many people injure themselves by biting their cheek too hard. So unless you’re starving, it’s best to hold off on eating for several hours after a root canal.
If you absolutely must eat, then cold liquids are your best bet. A cold smoothie through a straw can give you a boost of energy while helping to reduce swelling and inflammation.
After the numbness wears off, it’s best to start with soft foods. However, if you can tolerate it, you can begin to incorporate foods that require a little more chewing, such as steamed veggies. Try to avoid chewing on the root canal site, as this can interfere with the healing process.
A Week After Procedure
Your root canal should be mostly healed at this point. However, until you get a crown placed on top of the tooth, you can still do damage to it with hard, crunchy foods. Avoid the root canal site and stick to softer foods for the time being.
You may also notice increased sensitivity. If that’s the case for you, then warm foods — as opposed to hot or cold — are your best bet.
Two Weeks After Procedure
Around this time, your dentist can place a permanent crown on your tooth. A crown looks and functions like a regular tooth, meaning you can resume eating as you usually do — hopefully as nutritiously as possible.
Diet is important. But there are many other things you can do to speed up healing. Here are some additional tips for your post-op recovery process.
Smoking is one of the worst things for wound healing — so much so that some surgeons may even refuse to operate on smokers. Cigarettes contain hundreds of toxins that increase whole-body inflammation. Not surprisingly, smokers heal much slower after a dental operation and are more likely to experience various complications.
Lifestyle behaviors like sleep deprivation, high emotional stress, and a high-sugar diet can all contribute to an inflamed body, which interferes with proper wound healing.
While your dentist will likely recommend this to you, it’s worth repeating. Salt has well-known antibacterial properties that can help your body fight off bacteria and speed up healing. For best results, gargle with salt water at least three times daily, preferably after each meal.
This type of antioxidant is highly recommended for patients undergoing surgery. Quercetin regulates inflammation in the body while increasing the action of fibroblasts, which help the body create connective tissue.
Fluids allow your body to deliver oxygen and other vital nutrients to your wound sites more effectively. Make sure to drink plenty of water and herbal teas while you recover, but stay away from hot coffees and sugary beverages.
What you eat after a dental operation can significantly affect how quickly you heal. Incorporating plenty of whole, nutritious foods — such as dark leafy greens, organ meats, and colorful berries — is a great way to support your recovery.
A knowledgeable oral surgeon will discuss your post-op diet so you can recover more quickly and successfully. And if you need help finding a highly-skilled oral surgeon, Flossy can connect you with a low-cost provider.
The Effect of Vitamin K on the Wound Healing Process in Rat Skin | The Zanco Journal of Medical Science
Quercetin Associated With Dimethylsulfoxide Has a Curative Effect on Experimental Colon Anastomosis Injury | PubMed
Effect of Vitamin B12 on Wound Healing | SAGE
Probiotics and Immune Health | PubMed
Cigarette Smoking Increases Risk for Root Canal Treatment | British Dental Journal
Quercetin and Its Natural Sources in Wound Healing Management | ResearchGate