If you’re preparing for a gum graft procedure, you might assume that the outpatient surgery will be the most challenging part. Actually, recovery following the procedure can be a challenge if you don’t incorporate post-op recommendations into your routine. Many patients have had trouble when attempting to eat, and it can be more difficult than you anticipate.
The dentists at Metropolitan Dental Care want to provide you with some helpful suggestions on how to enjoy your meals post-surgery. These Q&As will help you prepare for a successful recovery.
Is pain normal after a gum graft surgery?
While a gum graft procedure isn’t considered major surgery, it does require some recovery time and short-term modifications to your diet. The procedure typically takes tissue from the roof of the mouth, also known as the palate. The healthy tissue is attached to the location where dead and diseased tissue was removed.
As an alternative to an autograft harvested from the patient’s palate, an allograft may be purchased from a tissue bank. Allografts are human tissue from a donor source. There are benefits and drawbacks to both autografts and allografts.
After your graft procedure, you will experience some oral discomfort, especially at the surgical site(s). Eating will be challenging post-surgery, but you can reduce the difficulty by preparing.
If you had an autograft, the dentist may provide a palatal stent to be worn immediately following the surgery. A palatal stent is a device that protects the entire roof of your mouth. It helps the wound on the roof of the mouth heal and prevents it from being exposed to food that may aggravate the wound. A stent also helps the sutures to stay closed during recovery, reduces bleeding, and can expedite healing.
It’s recommended that you wear the palatal stent for the first several days following a gum graft procedure. You may find it is easier to eat while wearing the palatal stent.
What types of food should I eat?
Gum graft patients should visit the market prior to the surgery to stock up on soft foods prior to the procedure. Grocery shopping is not something you’ll want to after gum graft surgery when you should be relaxing and recovering.
Patients should follow a soft-food diet for the first few days following gum grafting. Bland foods are also recommended. Seasoned foods can trigger pain and discomfort at the surgical site.
If chewing is too painful, start out with a liquid diet of broths or juices before gradually moving on to soft foods, like soup, pudding, mashed veggies, scrambled eggs, pasta, and yogurt. Introduce these foods slowly as you transition over from a liquid diet.
What should I avoid after a gum graft?
Don’t try to eat foods that are difficult to chew for at least two days following surgery. Foods such as steak, chips, and hard or sticky candies should be avoided for the first few days. Excessive chewing is not only painful during recovery, but it can cause your sutures to open or make the wound bleed.
Here are some more great tips for maximizing your healing and minimizing discomfort and risk following gum graft surgery:
- Spicy and Salty Foods
Spicy foods can aggravate the wound and cause additional discomfort. Salt in an open wound is also something that can be incredibly painful. Stick with bland foods to play it safe during recovery. You can slowly begin to reintroduce these foods further into recovery.
- Hot or Cold Foods
Foods that are extremely hot or cold such as ice cream, oatmeal, or soup can cause sensitivity and increase pain. It’s best to eat foods that are room temperature to reduce any chances of aggravating the surgical site(s). You should be able to resume eating hot and cold foods several days into recovery.
- Alter Your Chewing
Chew on the opposite side of your mouth from where the graft was performed. The last thing you want to do is damage the new tissue or sutures. Damage will delay your recovery. Chewing on one side of your mouth may feel awkward at first, but you will quickly get used to it.
- Refrain from Using a Straw
Avoid drinking liquids through a straw during your recovery, because it can reopen the wound and may cause it to bleed. If this happens, you could experience pain and extended healing time. Straws should not be used until the wound(s) has had a chance to completely heal.
- Quit Smoking
Smoking during recovery should be avoided at all costs. Not only does smoking negatively affect recovery time, but it also damages the health of your teeth and gums. If ever there was a time to quit smoking, it’s after oral surgery. Your dentist can provide resources to help you quit before your procedure.
While it’s obvious that some pain is to be expected during recovery, it should not become unbearable. If your pain or discomfort continues to worsen, contact your dentist as soon as possible.
Most likely, your dentist will ask you to return to the office for an examination. He or she will examine your gums to make sure they are healing properly and that there are no signs of infection. Complications from gum grafts are rare, but it’s a good idea to have your dentist take a look if you have any concerns.
If an infection is found, your dentist can prescribe an antibiotic so that your gums to heal properly.
On average, recovery from a gum graft procedure can take up to 14 days. During this time. it is imperative that you follow your dentist’s instructions. Continue brushing, but be careful to avoid the wound(s).
It’s also a good idea to avoid flossing until the gums have had time to fully heal. You may be prescribed a special mouthwash to use before surgery and during recovery. This mouthwash will kill bad bacteria in your mouth, to promote quick and effective healing.
Once your gums have fully healed and are healthy, stay on top of your dental hygiene. To prevent the need for future gum grafts, proper oral hygiene should be performed daily. This includes brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist for routine checkups and cleanings at least two times per year.
Gum disease is chronic, meaning it cannot be cured. However, flare-ups that cause symptoms to increase will alert you to see the dentist. The earlier gum disease flare-ups are detected and treated, the less invasive treatment will be.
While recovering from gum graft surgery, some discomfort and pain can be expected, but the pain should lessen every day. If you have any additional questions regarding recovery from a gum graft surgery, please give us a call. The team at Metropolitan Dental Care is always happy to answer questions and provide helpful tips for dental care.