The removal of wisdom teeth, also called third molars, is one of the most common surgical procedures in the US. We spend an estimated $3 billion a year having 10 million wisdom teeth taken out, according to the American Public Health Association. This can come with some degree of discomfort, so if you’re wondering what to eat after wisdom teeth removal, you’ve come to the right place.
Most people have four wisdom teeth – so-called because they are the last to come through, usually between ages 17 and 21. By this time you should already have 28 adult teeth in place, so there often isn’t enough room for the wisdom teeth to grow properly.
If you’ve had surgery to remove them, you may experience some swelling or discomfort afterwards, and you definitely won’t want to crunch down on anything hard or difficult to chew.
We spoke to an expert to find out more about what to eat after wisdom teeth removal for a fast and (relatively) pain-free recovery. While you're here, have a look at the best and the worst foods for teeth. And once you’re back to your old self, be sure to check out our guide to the best electric toothbrushes to stay on top of your oral health.
Do you need to get your wisdom teeth removed?
There is a common misconception that everyone has to get their wisdom teeth taken out at some point.
“You only need to get your wisdom teeth removed if they are decayed, infected or they’ve caused swelling and infection of the gum three times in a 12 month period,” says dentist Dr Hanna Kinsella (opens in new tab).
Most wisdom teeth come up to the surface but can’t come through all the way, pushing neighboring teeth and the jaw bone from inside the gums. As you’d expect this ongoing impact can cause pain and infection – and they need to be extracted.
The good news is, if you’re thinking: can wisdom teeth grow back, the answer is no.
What to eat after wisdom teeth removal
“After having your wisdom teeth removed, you can expect a swollen mouth and cheeks, which will be most noticeable in the first few days,” says Dr Hanna. “It will lessen each day post removal, and if you want to reduce the swelling, try popping ice in a cloth and holding it to the jaw for periods of time. You might also encounter some bruising on the cheeks and a stiff jaw - again this all calms down after a couple of days.”
Hanna says that you’ll want to eat foods that don’t require much chewing as it’ll be slightly numb in the mouth and won’t feel great to chew down on harder foods. They recommend:
- Smooth soups
- Mashed fruits
- Anything without bits
- Ice cream
“Smoothies are a great choice, as you can make these as cold as you like with ice blended in and the nutrients in the fruit can promote healing,” adds Hanna. “A few days in, you can move onto foods with slightly harder textures like scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes and soft vegetables.”
What to avoid after wisdom teeth removal
After having your wisdom teeth removed, try to avoid anything that has the potential to aggravate you and potentially hinder healing.
Dr Hanna says: “For the first 24 hours, you should avoid rinsing your mouth, spitting, hot drinks or anything else that may dislodge the blood clots that form in the empty tooth socket. These help the healing process and are necessary.
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“In terms of foods to avoid, spicy foods will really aggravate the mouth as will acidic foods like oranges and lemons. They can cause irritation and make any pain worse. Avoid alcohol too - wine and spirits are only going to delay healing. Rice and small grains can get trapped in the teeth so avoid those if possible, as well as pasta.
“Crunchy foods like crisps are best to avoid so try and stick to soft, manageable foods that don’t require chewing until you feel better.”
Extra tips for wisdom teeth removal
If you’re really struggling after your oral surgery, painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen can take the edge off.
“Take the recommended dose on the packet – and just rest,” advises Dr Hanna. “Avoid strenuous activity and exercise for a few days. There’s no benefit for your recovery and it’ll just tire you out after the procedure.
“It can feel better to sit upright after the procedure so propping a pillow up for your head might be a good idea. Call your dentist if you have a fever, or if your pain or swelling doesn’t improve.”