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!
OMG your post is such a savior for me. I had my gum graft yesterday and being a food blogger, my mind revolves around food ALL THE TIME. I am so confused on what to eat and being food blogger is not helping a bit. Thank you for the suggestions — this is very very helpful. It hasn’t been 24 hours yet, so I look forward to trying the dishes from your list.
One quick question: did you have the plastic mold that covered the palate?? I feel weird eating anything with that on. Any suggestions on how to handle that.
Rachelle Lucas says
I had a sort of hard putty on mine to cover the area as it healed. I didn’t go over my palate since my gum surgery (both times) was on the bottom outside gum. The covering was okay with food and really just looked like I had a hard piece of chewing gum stuck to my teeth. I was still careful with it and chewed just on the non-surgery side of my mouth.
Definitely watch out for anything acidic, such as orange juice or pre-packaged foods with citric acid as it tends to burn the graft part.
Hope you have a speedy recovery! And enjoy having an excuse to eat all the pasta you want. 😉
Thank you so much. Overcooked pasta sure sounds delicious now 🙂
BTW how long did you have to eat soft foods after the surgery?
Rachelle Lucas says
I had the putty/cast thing on for 14 days. But I still took it easy for another two weeks afterward just to be sure. I got used to chewing on one side of my mouth. LOL!
Hi Rachelle, Are you happy with your results? Does it look normal now? I mean not like a chewing gum stuck to you teeth? I am going to have this surgery soon.
Rachelle Lucas says
It turned out fine! Just looks like a normal part of my gum now. Good luck with your surgery!
Thanks! What about the roof of your mouth. Did it fill in back with more gum or does it feel like you are missing some gum there?
Rachelle Lucas says
It filled back in like nothing happened. Felt weird for about a month. But it looks a feels normal now.
Thank you for sharing your experience! I will likely need this procedure too and I’m extremely nervous about it. I’m happy to hear it wasn’t painful for you. I like your food ideas too. It looks like il be having a lot of applesauce and yogurt.
Jessica Fortuna says
I wish I had found this before I had my gum graft done! I’ve been surviving on soup and other liquids. I would have definitely stocked up better because I know I’m not eating enough because of the soreness in my mouth.
Jill Snell says
I would add popsicles and tapioca to my list. Having surgery on 3 on my lower front teeth – both lower canines and 1 adjacent bicuspid. Day after tomorrow.
All 3 of my sisters, and my mother had g graft surgery.
I didn’t see any questions on the standard medical questionnaire about family history. Seems odd to me since it is obviously genetic.
Healing will increase significantly (by two weeks) with a high protein diet. Also take 500 mg of vitamin C and 30 mg of zinc to improve healing.
FISH!!!! Beans, Peanut butter, Homemade pea soup with ham cut up is super easy to make, thinly shaved turkey, roast beef, shredded chicken, beef stew with potatoes.
Homemade chicken soup stock can be changed up with an assortment of herbs etc… like, cilantro, parsley, ginger, garlic, or what ever you like to change it up, also you can add beans, potatoes, Lima beans, black eyed peas, soft vegetables etc… Make a big batch and add whatever you like to smaller batches to keep it from getting too boring.
This is a late comment, but hopefully it will still help others who are finding this blog – I had gum graft surgery two days ago, and have found that cottage cheese has been great. Dean’s makes a few flavors, including savory ones. The Chive flavor has been great as it’s soft and cool, but also not sweet.
I’ve been eating cauliflower mash (TraderJoes) and my boyfriend has been making me mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. Those have been great. You can mix the cottage cheese with jam for some added taste. Yesterday I tried couscous… definitely don’t recommend it unless you want the tiny spheres stuck in your graft.
My main issue has been having all the food stuck in the graft area (I don’t have the gum cover) and having to wait to get it out until my follow up appointment. I didn’t feel a lot of pain after the surgery, mainly just uncomfortable and paranoid , hoping it went all right. They did my lower front six teeth.
This is my issue too…no putty covering on the surgical site, it’s just on the roof of my mouth, so I’m really worried about eating something that will tear the stitches or get caught in there! I’ve basically been living on high-protein Boost for the past 4 days, but will try eggs, butternut squash soup and mashed potatoes this weekend! What a great blog and great comments!! Thanks!!
I’m on day 10 from gum graft surgery and would add that soups are your friends and always make sure to serve food like warm for hot foods and letting smoothies warm up a bit before eating. Extreme temps are really bad for recovery.
My best advice is to ice like crazy for the first 24 hours to reduce swelling- stick to liquid foods (soup and smoothie) for the first 3 days and avoid spicy or acidic foods.
I did a lot of potato, avocado and Greek yogurt soup bases for protein and thickness then puréed tons of veggies. I made a basic chicken broth with chicken bones to increase the protein and tons of veggies to ramp up my vitamins. I found rice and overcooked pastas were good and introduced those by day 5 with some scrambled eggs for protein. I didn’t do real meat until day 7– and just fish and shredded chicken.
Definitely avoid crackers and chips too. Anything that can crumble and get stuck in the teeth is bad!
I had a stent over my donor site and ate with it religiously until day 9. Was a lifesaver for eating but very gross because the food does get caught under the stent. You have to brush your teeth about 20 seconds after you eat because it’s so uncomfortable!
Other good soft food ideas/
Bread for your carb – just pick off the crusts and eat the soft centers – I snacked on bread and soft cheese or hummus by day 6. I found a soft Italian bread was best.
Smoked salmon, cutting turkey or chicken sausage down into bite size pieces by day 8… my first “real meal” was a deconstructed Huevos Rancheros — refried beans with some rice, avocado and scrambled eggs.
I wish I would have found this blog before my gum graft. I am day 5 post procedure. Boiled and mashed sweet potatoes and pudding have been my staples. I have eaten the soft parts of bread, but find it difficult to chew with the mouth covering and trying to keep solid food on one side of my mouth. I can’t fathom starting solid foods anytime soon. I’m still pretty sore and swollen. Thank you for all of the feedback. I have to have a second gum graft in a few months. I will definitely re-read this before the next procedure.
I had 4 bottom front teeth and top and bottom on side 5 days ago. I can only eat yogurt. I think I had too much done in one session. I can’t chew because I can’t push the food to the untreated side.
Rachelle Lucas says
Oh no! Hope you heal quickly.