As a dental hygienist, I see a lot of patients who require tooth extractions for many reasons, with the most common extractions being wisdom teeth. After the procedure, it is crucial to follow the post-op instructions, especially what foods to avoid to prevent complications, including popcorn!
Avoid popcorn for 7-14 days post wisdom tooth removal to allow proper healing and minimize the risk of complications like dry socket and infection. Popcorn can disrupt healing by lodging in extraction sites. Individual medical history, age, and health conditions can affect healing times.
Prioritizing healing in the first week will set you up for success and allow you to heal much faster. Every complication, no matter how small (like getting popcorn stuck in the extraction site holes), will delay healing and affect how quickly the bone and gum tissue fully heal and remodel.
In this post, I go into more detail about what can happen if you eat popcorn too early after extractions and what to do if you get food stuck in your extraction site holes.
I also touch on some helpful food substitutions, diet guidelines that I give my patients, and tips on keeping the extraction sites clean and preventing complications.
Snack Safely: Risks of Eating Popcorn with Wisdom Teeth Holes
Waiting 14 days post-surgery is the safest to include everyone’s circumstances. As I mentioned, individual medical history, age, and health conditions can affect healing times.
Some people may recover in 7 days with the gum tissue covering the holes, and others will take the full 14 days before the gum tissue covers up the holes.
There is nothing better than an in-person exam by your dental professional seven days post-op to see how the healing process is going. Still, often, they will not schedule this as the healing process is very straightforward. Patients are told to contact the office if they have excess bleeding, swelling or intense pain.
Unlike in the past, modern dental practices often avoid using stitches for uncomplicated wisdom teeth extractions. Patients previously would have a follow-up around seven days post-op for stitch removal and to check the healing progress.
Today, unless there’s a need for a bone graft or other invasive techniques due to complications, a more straightforward, stitch-free approach is usually used.
Stitches do not speed up the healing process or make the gum grow faster over the extraction site. So, they have been phased out in recent years. Source
Because there is quite a large hole and void where things can easily get trapped, popcorn is one of the worst things to get stuck because it does not break down.
Your saliva cannot dissolve the hard bits of popcorn, and due to the concave shape of the popcorn hull, it easily suction onto the tissue and is extremely difficult to get out.
Additionally, chewing popcorn can damage the tissue around the surgical site, and delay the healing and remodelling of the soft tissue around the extraction site.
I see so many patients with healthy gum tissue that have had those stubborn pieces of popcorn get stuck and cause inflammation, pain, and tissue loss.
I wrote a post about popcorn stuck underneath the gums and the severe associated consequences (including abscess). The post is linked below.
Not only is infection a significant concern, but dislodging the blood clot that forms within the toothless socket is crucial for quick and healthy healing.
If the blood clot becomes dislodged, it can delay healing and cause intense pain (because the bone is exposed to air) and increased risk for infection.
I even scoured Reddit and Quora to get a confirmation consensus from dental professionals for the time frame to ensure it aligned with what I was taught and my thoughts about always being more cautious in post-operative care.
Having wisdom teeth extracted is an invasive surgery, and taking care of your body before and after surgery can significantly impact your healing.
Other risk factors are increased age, deeper impactions, proximity to nerve canals and atypical root shapes such as curved roots.
Understanding the timeline for wisdom teeth recovery is essential in understanding why it is best to wait 7-14 days post-surgery to eat popcorn.
How long until food stops getting stuck in wisdom teeth holes?
Even 2-4 weeks after tooth extractions, there can still be a slight indentation and void where food can collect and get lodged.
Regardless of oral surgery, popcorn gets stuck underneath healthy gum tissue frequently. So, add in the complexity of surgery; popcorn is more prone to getting stuck in those voids.
As I previously mentioned, everyone’s healing journey is unique; someone might heal much faster than someone else.
This is why adhering to a diet that is tooth extraction-friendly is essential. It will prevent infection and disruption of the extraction site.
Below is a post about the best foods to consume after a tooth extraction. They are all vegan-friendly but can be enjoyed if you are not vegan.
Look in the mirror with a bright light to check your extraction sites. The risk is low if the tissue has covered the holes and is light pink and two weeks have passed.
Can I eat popcorn a month after wisdom teeth removal?
Eating popcorn is deemed safe one month after wisdom teeth removal, as the bone regenerates and the soft tissue has sealed over the extraction site. However, full tissue recovery and remodelling around the extraction site may continue for up to 3 months after extraction.
Trapped Popcorn in Extraction Site: Next Steps
Sometimes, we do things without thinking, such as reaching for a bowl of popcorn when we have had a tooth extraction recently.
We all crave the comfort of our favourite snacks, but what happens when a piece of popcorn finds its way into your extraction site, causing discomfort or even pain?
The steps to getting the popcorn dislodged from the extraction site vary depending on where you are in the recovery timeline.
- If it is less than 24 hours after the extraction, do not rinse or disrupt the site. Wait until at least 24 hours, and then you can do gentle rinsing with water or warm salt water.
- After three days post extraction, you can use a soft-bristled brush to try and gently brush away the debris. But remember to be very gentle to avoid disrupting the healing tissue.
- After day five post-tooth extraction, try using a Monoject syringe with warm salt water (in the image above) to rinse out the extraction site.
- Please see your dental professional if this does not remove the popcorn. We dental professionals have special tools, lots of light and can see much more in your mouth than you can.
Your dental health is of utmost importance to me, and I hope the information I have provided has given you insight.
This friendly and professional advice will guide you through a common post-extraction issue. It should not replace a consultation with your dentist or dental hygienist, especially if you experience prolonged discomfort or other complications.