Soft Food Diet Options: What to Eat After Dental Treatment

Young woman enjoying pumpkin soup

You might be tempted by a hearty meal after a long day in the dentist's chair, but sometimes your dental treatment will affect the foods you're able to eat. A soft food diet is required after certain dental procedures, like extractions and implants, to prevent damage to your teeth, mouth or new prosthetic. Fortunately, you don't have to sacrifice taste and variety while you're healing. For the short term, a few smart food choices can help you feel nourished and heal safely.

Why Soft Foods Are Necessary

Whether you've had a root canal or a wisdom tooth extraction, soft food is key after oral surgery. Oral surgery includes any kind of extraction, periodontal surgery, implants or surgery on the root of your tooth, explains the Center for Disease Control. These kinds of treatments frequently require you stick to soft foods and avoid biting or chewing with the tooth or area for a period of time. For example, according to the American Association of Endodontists, you shouldn't bite down or chew after a root canal until the tooth has been restored and a crown has been placed.

Directly after treatment, your mouth and jaw will likely be sore. Nutritious foods that don't require much chewing are a good option. The American Dental Association recommends these staples:

  • Soups
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Soft scrambled eggs
  • Smoothies
  • Mashed potatoes

The temperature of drinks and foods, whether they're hot or cold, is also important. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, sipping hot drinks while healing from wisdom tooth removal may irritate the gum tissue and complicate the recovery process. Keep your beverages and soups warm instead of piping hot and stick to cold foods, like yogurt, until your dentist or oral surgeon allows you to expand your meal options.

Soft Foods to Encourage Healing

Right after surgery, soft foods with plenty of protein as well as healthy fats and minerals may help healing. Protein helps your body heal by building and repairing muscle, skin and tissue and warding off infection, says the University of Michigan.

Mashed fruits and vegetables are an easy way to add vitamins to your soft food diet. Dine on an avocado to get the small amount of recommended healthy fat you need per day, recommends the World Health Organization. The USDA Branded Food Products Database calculates that sipping a cup of warm (remember, not hot!) beef bone broth packs 6 grams of protein.

Soft Food Choices Throughout the Day

A soft food diet doesn't have to mean a boring diet! For breakfast, try soft scrambled eggs with a scoop of cottage cheese on the side. Fruits like kiwi and strawberries are soft and high in vitamin C, which the National Institutes of Health notes is a key vitamin for wound healing.

If you're craving something savory for lunch, squash is rich in protein, potassium, vitamin C and fiber, says Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Top your butternut squash with rosemary and a drizzle of olive oil, creamy mashed potatoes or lentil soup for a nourishing meal you don't have to chew.

For dinner, tilapia and other certain white fish are soft and require minimal chewing. Limit spicy or acidic sauces, which can irritate your mouth, and opt for light seasoning. Avoid foods that can get caught in your teeth, like broccoli or peas. Finally, any kind of cornmeal porridge like polenta or grits with a glass of milk is a low-fat, high-protein meal that you won't have to chew.

While it might be tempting to drink milkshakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, limit your sugary choices since sugary foods encourage plaque build-up and tooth decay.

Slowly Returning to Crunchy Foods

Stay away from crunchy cereal, tough meats or any foods that require tearing and biting until your dentist or oral surgeon allows you to eat normally. If you're uncertain whether a certain food will damage your mouth or dental work, call your dentist or ask at a follow-up appointment. It varies person to person and procedure to procedure on how long you may be advised to stick to a soft food diet. A soft food diet over the long run isn't good for your oral health, since the papillae (bumps) on your tongue require abrasion from rough-textured foods to help guard against conditions like black hairy tongue. Be sure to follow your aftercare instructions to keep your mouth healthy during the healing process and beyond.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tips for a Healthy Diet

  • Foods high in sugar are a particularly common cause of tooth decay. Making these foods a treat rather than a staple will help protect your teeth.

  • To maintain a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups.

  • When choosing a snack, go for nutritious foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or a piece of fruit.