Wisdom teeth are the last set of permanent molars to develop. Also known as third molars, these teeth may need to be removed if they are impacted, which means they are trapped in your jaw or under the gums. If you have your wisdom teeth extracted, your surgeon will provide you with aftercare guidelines, which will outline how and when to transition back to your usual diet, and how to optimize healing and prevent postoperative complications. Usual guidelines include resuming liquids and very soft foods shortly after surgery, then transitioning to most usual foods within a few days. However, for the first few weeks after surgery, certain hard, sticky or crunchy foods may be restricted to protect the healing site.
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You may have some discomfort and minor bleeding after surgery, and it may be uncomfortable to open your mouth or swallow. To ease back into eating, and to protect the extraction site as it heals, your surgeon will encourage you to start drinking liquids shortly after surgery, and to transition to very soft foods -- or foods that require little or no chewing -- that same day. Choose liquids or soft foods including milk, smooth yogurt, fruit smoothies, protein shakes, lukewarm blended soup, pudding, cream of wheat or applesauce. You can also try nutrition drinks such as Ensure or Boost. When you are comfortable with a small amount of chewing, try advancing to soft bread, cooked pasta, eggs, mashed potatoes or other soft foods with a little more texture. However, avoid chewing on the same side as your extraction.
Transition to Your Usual Diet
Starting the day after surgery, or when advised by your surgeon, start reintroducing more of your usual foods. For the first several days, it's a good idea to eat foods that do not require much chewing, as chewing foods on the surgery side may cause damage to the healing site. Ensure food temperature is cool or warm, and keep the texture soft. Choices such as canned, mashed or pureed fruit, bananas, soft cooked or pureed vegetables, tender meat, baked fish, cottage cheese, tofu, refried beans, baked yam or potato may work well. Continue to drink plenty of fluids, and as able, focus on eating a variety of nutritious foods, as a healthful diet has the potential to accelerate wound healing after oral surgery.
For at least 24 hours after your wisdom teeth are extracted, avoid hot foods or liquids, since heat from these items can increase blood flow to your extraction site and promote bleeding. Also avoid alcohol as this can delay healing, and don't use a straw, as the suction from using a straw could cause the clot that forms over the extraction site to become dislodged. For 1 to 2 weeks after your surgery, avoid eating chewy or tough foods, and avoid foods that may easily get stuck in the wound or leave particles in the mouth, such as oatmeal, popcorn, chips or berries. Spicy and acidic foods may irritate your wound, and crunchy or sticky foods can cause damage to the clot that forms over the wound -- which can lead to pain and may delay healing.
Recovery time after wisdom tooth extraction may last 1 to 2 weeks. You can influence your recovery time by following your postoperative guidelines closely. If you have any questions about how to care for yourself, or when you can incorporate back some of your favorite sticky, crunchy or hard foods, talk to your surgeon. Also contact your surgeon if you have bleeding that doesn't stop with pressure, if you have pus draining from the wound, or if you have worsening pain, fever or swelling. Finally, inform your surgeon if you are unable to resume a normal, soft diet within a few days of your surgery.
Reviewed by Kay Peck, MPH RD