Wisdom teeth are the last molars to emerge. They typically appear in people between the ages of 15 and 25 years old.
Wisdom teeth often only partially emerge from the gums or emerge at crooked angles. When this happens, they are considered impacted teeth.
A wisdom tooth becoming impacted can lead to decay, infection, and inflammation of the surrounding soft tissue. The medical term for this inflammation is pericoronitis.
Here, we list the best foods to eat following a wisdom tooth removal. We also look at foods to avoid and other recovery tips.
Foods to eat
Soups and broths are good foods to eat after having wisdom teeth removed.
A person recovering from a wisdom tooth removal should consume liquids and soft foods. Some of these include:
- pureed seedless fruit
- ice cream
- mashed banana — frozen mashed banana is an ice cream alternative
- mashed beans, such as kidney beans, black beans, or butter beans
- mashed sweet or regular potatoes
- pureed or mashed vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, or broccoli
- scrambled eggs
- soft cheeses
Avoid eating lots of store-bought products, such as milkshakes with high amounts of added sugar.
Milkshakes are easy to make at home by adding pureed seedless fruit to milk. The fruit will contribute necessary vitamins and minerals to the diet. These are especially important in the early stages of recovery.
If a blender is accessible, homemade smoothies can contain a variety of fruit and vegetables. These should provide fiber and nutrients needed for recovery. However, avoid fruits with small seeds.
Soups can be full of flavor and contribute fiber, vitamins, and minerals to the diet. Broths are typically lighter and will have less nutritional value.
While ice cream is cold and soothing, it is very high in sugar and calories. Yogurt is a more healthful alternative, and a person may wish to add fruit puree.
Mashing vegetables removes the need for chewing. The texture and substance may be welcome after a diet of liquid foods.
- Avoid eating sugary foods, and favor those that are healthful.
- Stock ingredients at home ahead of time.
- Only use seedless fruit.
- Green smoothies and soups will increase vegetable and fiber intake.
Foods to avoid
Popcorn, chips, and any food that may get stuck in the wound should be avoided.
The following foods can be harmful when healing from a wisdom tooth removal:
- seeds, which can get stuck in the wound and may cause infection
- peppercorns and other spices with coarse remnants
- spicy foods
- chips and popcorn
- other foods that require a lot of chewing
Acidic foods can also irritate removal sites and slow healing.
One study suggests that the pH level of the wound, which indicates its acidity or alkalinity, may affect healing.
However, the study looked at chronic wounds lasting several months. The wound caused by a wisdom tooth removal is not usually chronic and heals more quickly.
Avoiding acidic foods will more likely help with comfort during eating, rather than the ability to heal.
Also, avoid drinking with a straw, because the suction can cause a painful condition called dry socket.
Recovery and self-care
Wisdom tooth removal can either be a quick procedure, lasting up to 20 minutes, or it may require admission to a hospital and general anesthetic. Quick removals occur under local anesthetic.
Recovery time varies from person to person, as does the ability to eat afterward.
Immediately after removal and for the next few days, people should eat liquid and soft foods. An individual's healing and comfort will determine when they can eat more solid foods.
A healthful diet is an important part of wound healing. However, pain, inflammation, and jaw stiffness can make eating difficult after wisdom tooth removal.
People may receive specific instructions and antibiotics, in addition to anti-inflammatories and pain medication. Take every medication as directed.
The dentist or surgeon may also recommend an antiseptic mouthwash to be used regularly, beginning 24 hours after the surgery.
A review of studies found that patients who followed an antibiotic regimen had 70 percent lower risk of infection, 38 percent lower risk of dry socket, and less pain overall.
It is important to finish a full course of antibiotics to prevent infection and bacteria resistance.
The dentist or surgeon may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs after tooth removal. People should take these as advised.
People often take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief following a wisdom tooth removal.
A review of studies found that ibuprofen might be more effective than acetaminophen after this procedure.
Take time off work
The amount of time someone should take off work depends on the severity of the surgery, and may depend on whether general anesthetic was used.
The British National Health Service (NHS) suggest taking 1 or 2 days off work to rest and recover.
Complications after removal
Potential complications following the removal of a wisdom tooth include infection or dry socket.
As with any surgery, complications can follow the removal of a wisdom tooth.
A person can prevent an infection by using antibiotics correctly, following any advice given by the dentist or surgeon, and avoiding the foods listed above.
Signs of infection can include:
- yellow or white discharge
- high temperature
- continuous pain or swelling
See the dentist or surgeon who removed the tooth if these symptoms persist.
When new bone is slower to grow in the empty socket, this is termed delayed healing. One study suggests that this is difficult to predict unless someone has a weakened immune system.
Delayed healing will not necessarily require another trip to the dentist or surgeon, and may only mean that recovery will take longer.
Dry socket occurs when a blood clot does not develop in the empty tooth socket. It may also happen if a clot dislodges, and this is a common complication in people who use straws to drink.
Also, a person has a higher risk of developing dry socket if they:
- do not follow their dentist's instructions after surgery
- are over 25 years old
- have had a complicated removal
If dry socket occurs, contact the dentist or surgeon who removed the tooth for a follow-up appointment.
Permanent numbing of the jaw
The wisdom teeth are close to nerves that can be injured during a removal. An injury may lead to paresthesia, which is the numbing of the lower jaw, lip, and tongue.
The risk of permanent numbing is very low. A person may experience temporary numbing for several weeks or months, which can make eating and drinking more difficult.
If numbness lasts for longer than a few months, contact the dentist or surgeon.
Stock the home with liquids and soft foods before a wisdom tooth removal. Eating a healthful diet will improve recovery.
If no complications arise, the tooth socket will heal completely.
If complications do arise, contact the doctor or dentist who performed the removal for a follow-up appointment.