This is not my normal travel and food kind of post, but as a foodie navigating nearly two weeks of eating soft foods after my gum graft, I thought I’d share my experience and offer a few tips on what to eat after oral surgery.
If you’re here for soft food suggestions, scroll to the bottom. 😉 Otherwise, I have some information here about my experience and some tips to help make the experience more comfortable.
What’s A Gum Graft
First of all, you might be asking, “what’s a gum graft?” It’s a type of oral surgery performed by a periodontist to thicken or support receding gums. It’s a common procedure as gum recession can happen to anyone for any number of reasons, from genetics to brushing too hard (I’m guilty of this … and have used stiff hotel toothbrushes too when I’ve forgotten to pack mine. Never again!)
There are several different types of grafts, and if you’re curious, there’s even a few animated gum graft videos on YouTube showing what the procedure entails. However, it’s not for the squeamish or faint-of-heart, so I’ll spare you the details.
I will tell you that it wasn’t nearly as painful or scary as I had anticipated. The surgery itself is painless (thank God for pain meds!) And it is relatively quiet, especially when compared to the high-pitched sound of drills and tools used for a basic fillings and dental work. But it does take a bit more self care and time to heal at home. Here are a few tips from my experience:
Tips For Gum Graft Surgery
1 – Plan to have a friend or family member drive you.
Some periodontists will offer sedation if you’re feeling especially nervous or uncomfortable. I chose not to be sedated for my surgery, but I still had a family member drive me to my appointment and back home. I was so thankful I planned in advance to have someone drive me as I felt a little woozy and dizzy from the pain meds.
2 – Load up an iPod with your favorite music.
My periodontist suggested this tip, and I’m so glad I followed his advice. Having music to listen to during my procedure made all the difference in the world. I found myself mentally singing along to the lyrics to entertain myself. As I mentioned earlier, the procedure is pretty quiet, but having music as a calming distraction definitely helped me relax. Meditation and yoga helped too, because at one point I think I realized I was holding my breath. I let out a long exhale and the doctor stopped to ask if I was okay. Yup! Just remembering to breathe. LOL!
3 – Avoid foods that are acidic, like citrus or tomato based dishes.
I had heard that the donor site on the roof of my mouth would feel like a burn from a hot pizza slice. Thankfully, it wasn’t that bad and the pain wasn’t constant like I had anticipated. The first few days I didn’t even notice it at all.
As the area started to heal, it did sting a little. And it really became noticeable and stung more if I ate something that was acidic, like fruit juice or something with tomato sauce. I’d equate the feeling to pouring peroxide on a paper cut. Not good, so avoid acidic foods if you can, and watch out for citric acid as it is a common ingredient in prepared foods.
4 – Prepare some soft foods in advance.
When I first got home, I spent the rest of the day slowly sipping a skyr smoothie while watching the latest season of Grace and Frankie. And I napped, a lot. After the first 24 hours, though, I felt a lot more like myself. I could talk just fine and get some work done, but I was more tired than usual. Whether it was the meds or lack of calories from not eating as much, I just didn’t have a lot of energy. So, it was great having some soft pre-packaged foods that didn’t require much prep.
Before your gum graft, pick up a few quick meals that are easy to make, or don’t require any preparation at all. Things like yogurt smoothies, pudding, and even ice cream for a treat. Also, make a pitcher of iced tea the night before and save the tea bags in a ziplock in the refrigerator to use later as a cold compress for your gums. The tannins help blood clot, and drinking cold tea seemed to help reduce the stinging for me.
5 – Plan your surgery for the end of the week.
This was another great suggestion by my doctor. I scheduled my surgery on a Thursday afternoon so I’d have the weekend to recover. The first day after the procedure, I felt a little more tired than usual and ate kind of sloppy with my head tilted at an awkward angle to keep the food to my ‘good’ side. By Monday, I could talk normally and get some work done, I just felt more tired than usual since I was eating less. And ten days after my surgery, I went back for a post-op visit to have the putty-like dressing removed. I didn’t have any stitches, and I felt like the dressing really protected the area so it could heal. It just looked like I had chewing gum stuck to my teeth for about a week.
What To Eat After Your Gum Graft
This is where being a foodie can be a major bummer. At first, the thought of a week-long liquid fast sounds like a great way to diet and drop a few unwanted pounds. And I thought I was especially clever scheduling my procedure right after a cruise. But most soft foods are on the sweet side, and smoothies get tiresome pretty quick. I was craving vegetables! And I missed the textures of food.
After 24 hours, Pete made me some scrambled eggs … and having a warm savory meal made it felt like the best dinner I had all year. Thankfully, my friend Brooke brought over some Colcannon Soup too. A couple of days later, I felt like I could eat somewhat normal again, but was still cautious about getting food stuck in the putty-like dressing that was along my gum line and teeth, or poking the wound on my palate. I started eating more soft solids like mashed potatoes, over-cooked pasta (not al dente), and ham salad.
If you’re looking for ideas on what to eat after a gum graft, here is my list:
Chilled Overnight Oats
Skyr Smoothies (an Icelandic yogurt high in protein)
Mac & Cheese
Munk Pack Oatmeal Fruit Squeeze
Kid’s Organic Fruit Slammers
Well Yes Soups
Homemade Soft Foods
Cucumber Melon Smoothies
Spinach & Kale Pesto with soft (overcooked) pasta
Portuguese Sausage & Beans
Gnocchi and butter
Looks like I’ll have to get a graft on my other bottom molars too, so if you have any other soft food ideas, I’d love to hear them in the comments!