Posted by Janet Harriett on Oct.08, 2009
Keeping teeth in good shape allows for a lifetime of healthy eating, and proper care of teeth and gums can prevent bacteria from entering the bloodstream to wreak havoc throughout the body. However, keeping teeth in good shape sometimes requires procedures like tooth extractions that require a diet of soft foods during recovery and healing.
Many of the suggestions for soft foods following dental procedures are anything but good for you. Milkshakes, ice cream, snack cakes, cheesecake filling and mac and cheese provide calories, but few nutrients that your body needs to heal. Canned soups are loaded with sodium. Even seemingly healthy choices like bread, noodles and porridge are usually made from white flour or refined grains, since whole grains are chewy. Usual protein recommendations are for mayo-laden tuna or chicken salad, or processed, fried fish sticks or chicken nuggets. Even commercially prepared liquid meal substitutes are little more than liquid blends of artificial protein and vitamin enhancements that take second place to sugars and questionable flavors to make the synthetic liquids palatable. Here are some healthy alternatives for soft foods following dental work.
Fruits and Vegetables
Green Smoothies: Vegetables are a challenge on a soft food diet, since few are soft enough to swallow without being cooked beyond the point of being nutritious. Green smoothies deliver the nutrients of the raw veggies in an easy-to-swallow form. Check out twelve great-tasting green smoothie recipes.
Fruit smoothies: Like green smoothies, fresh fruit smoothies can help you get vitamins and nutrients to support natural healing processes. Blend in tofu or yogurt for protein. If your dental procedure involves extractions or leaves a site in your mouth that must be kept diligently clean, avoid any kinds of berries, including blueberries and strawberries, as the tiny seeds can lodge in the site and delay healing or promote infection.
Baked, mashed winter squash: Winter squash is full of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, fiber and potassium. Adequate fiber intake is a challenge with soft foods, but one cup of baked winter squash has almost 6 grams of dietary fiber. The beta-carotene in squash is an anti-inflammatory.
Juices: Juicing your fruits and vegetables makes them a breeze to swallow and digest, no chewing required. Fresh pineapple juice contains bromelain that promotes healing and enzymes that help digestion, although the acid in pineapple and citrus fruits may irritate incision sites.
Applesauce: Unsweetened applesauce has natural sugars to keep your energy up. Applesauce is also a delicious delivery vehicle for cinnamon, which has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can be beneficial after dental procedures, and cinnamon may help prevent yeast overgrowth that may accompany an antibiotic regimen prescribed following oral surgery.
Frozen fruit bars: Cold foods like frozen all-fruit bars can soothe an oral incision site. Try to avoid bars with added sugars, or make your own by freezing pureed fruits and fruit juices in ice cube trays or popsicle molds.
Mashed banana: Bananas are full of potassium that your body uses to heal bone, and are easy to swallow mashed. Mix in a small spoonful of warmed, creamy-style natural peanut butter or cottage cheese for flavor and protein.
Whole wheat farina: This whole-grain version of Cream of Wheat is available in many health food shops. It retains the fiber and nutrients stripped out of most hot cereals and is easy to make when you’re up and about for short periods during recovery.
Mashed potato: Mashed potatoes are a mainstay of soft food lists since they are smooth and come in easy-to-prepare, if overly processed, instant flakes. Potatoes have a bad nutritional reputation since they are usually fried or sreved dripping in other types of fats. However, potatoes themselves are nutritious, and the starch content of even peel-free instant potatoes can alleviate the stomach upset of pain medication used following dental work. Make mashed potatoes with lots of skim milk or soymilk and minimal salt or butter to get the best nutrition, and leave the peels on if you’re making homemade mashed potatoes. Better yet, prepare mashed sweet potatoes a day before your procedure to have an even more nutritious alternative on hand.
Oatmeal: Though normally chewy, oatmeal can be cooked until soft and swallowed whole, providing a good dose of dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates if you are careful to avoid getting the oats near extraction sites or stuck in dental appliances. Be sure to cook the oats thoroughly. For flavor, add some sliced banana or other mushy fruit, or stir in some all-fruit spread. To boost the nutrition of oatmeal, make with half milk and half water.
Yogurt: Plain and greek style yogurt don’t have the extra sugars and overprocessed flavorings, while providing protein and calcium in an easy-to-swallow form. To flavor, mix in well-pureed fruits or honey. Yogurt is particularly good if your follow-up care includes a course of antibiotics, which can kill beneficial digestive microbes along with the bad bacteria. Be sure not to eat yogurt within 2 hours of taking a dose of antibiotics.
Scrambled eggs: Soft scrambled eggs don’t require chewing, while providing protein, vitamins and beneficial fats. Try adding some soft chopped tomato.
Tofu: You can blend tofu into a smoothie or warm it in a skillet with herbs, spices and other very soft foods like cooked tomatoes.
Hummus: While pita, chips or raw vegetable sticks are out of the question on a soft diet, the hummus is still a good way to keep up your protein intake. Flavored hummus, like roasted red pepper, can be tasty straight off a spoon. Check out GreenDivaMom’s primer on hummus.
Milk or soymilk: It’s how humans get nourishment before they have teeth to chew, and milk still works its nutritional wonders when we can’t chew later in life, too, providing protein, vitamins and minerals. If you are lactose intolerant or choose not to consume animal milks, try soymilk, rice milk or almond milk.
Tea. Tea contains vitamins and minerals to speed healing. The tannins can even help soothe the incision sites directly with topical application. Some dentists and oral surgeons even advise placing a moistened teabag over the site of the procedure to help stop bleeding and improve healing time.
Article By: Janet Harriett
Profile: Janet Harriett, Green Diva Mom's fomer editor, has been a writer and editor for print and online media, specializing in education and environmental issues since 1999. She lives on 2 acres in central Ohio with her husband, a 275-square-foot backyard garden and a home orchard growing 25 varieties of fruit. Janet holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing.
Latest posts by Janet Harriett
- Pumpkin Flour - November 1st, 2010
- Get Your Whole Grains In - October 12th, 2010
- Recipe: Apple Pie Oatmeal - October 8th, 2010
- Nature Encounter: Wolf - October 6th, 2010
- Seven Food Ingredients with Industrial Uses - October 4th, 2010
- Five Food Additives that Sound Scarier than They Are - September 28th, 2010
- Autumn: Preparing for Winter - September 25th, 2010
- Happy Autumn! - September 24th, 2010
- Rebranding Corn Syrup as Corn Sugar - September 16th, 2010
- What to Do With Too Much Produce - September 13th, 2010