How long should you wait to eat after leaving the dentist?

Going to the dentist often requires procedures that can leave your mouth numb, tender, or irritated afterwards. This means you may need to wait a little while before eating and drinking normally. How long you should wait depends on the specific treatment you received.


In general, avoiding hard, crunchy, hot, or spicy foods is recommended for at least a few hours after dental work. More invasive treatments like extractions or implants may require waiting 24 hours or more. It’s always best to follow your dentist’s specific post-procedure food instructions. Eating too soon could disrupt healing, damage dental work, or increase discomfort. Patience allows numbness to subside and gives tissues time to start mending.

Why does the dentist say not to eat right away?

There are a few key reasons your dentist recommends waiting before eating after a procedure:

  • To avoid biting or chewing while your mouth is still numb from local anesthetic. This could lead to accidental injury of soft tissues.
  • To let anesthesia fully wear off before attempting to eat. Numbness affects your ability to chew and swallow safely.
  • To give irritations or wounds time to begin healing before exposing them to food and drink.
  • To prevent dislodging any blood clots needed for healing after invasive treatments.
  • To allow dental fillings, cement, crowns, bridges, etc. time to set and bond properly.

Most dental procedures require some healing time afterward. Even a simple cleaning can leave your gums tender for a while. Any food or drink you take in too soon could hinder the healing process or undo the dentist’s work. Follow their post-procedure recommendations to allow your mouth to recover.

How long to wait after a filling

For routine dental fillings, most dentists recommend waiting at least 1-2 hours before eating anything. This allows the filling material to completely harden and bond to the tooth structure. Exact wait times depend on what type of filling you received:

Filling Type Wait Time
Amalgam (silver colored) 1-2 hours
Composite resin (tooth colored) 2-3 hours
Temporary filling Until permanent filling placed

For the first 24 hours, stick to soft foods and avoid chewing on the side of your mouth with the new filling. Extreme temperatures and pressure could damage it while the bond is still strengthening.

How long after a crown or bridge

Dental crowns and bridges require waiting longer before eating to allow cement to fully cure. Traditional crown cement takes about 2 hours to initially set. Your dentist may use temporary cement if the crown or bridge is being placed just for esthetics while a permanent one is being made. This temporary cement washes away easily with pressure. Avoid chewing on that side until your permanent crown is delivered and permanently cemented at a follow-up visit. With permanent cement, it’s best to wait:

  • 6 hours before eating soft or semi-soft foods.
  • 24 hours before chewing harder foods on that side.

The cement needs a full day to harden enough to withstand the forces of biting and chewing. Even after 24 hours, continue taking extra care when eating on the crowned tooth to avoid damage while the bond strengthens over the first few weeks.

How long after a tooth extraction

After having a tooth extracted (pulled), avoiding eating helps prevent dislodging the blood clot that is crucial to proper healing. Most oral surgeons suggest waiting:

  • 30-60 minutes after simple extraction before drinking anything.
  • 24 hours before drinking hot beverages through a straw.
  • 24 hours before rinsing your mouth with anything.
  • 24-48 hours before eating solid foods on that side.

Stick to a liquid diet for the first 24 hours. Then gradually progress to soft, lukewarm foods like yogurt, pudding, applesauce, or scrambled eggs. Avoid hard, sharp foods that could disturb the extraction site. Don’t drink alcohol or smoke during the 7-10 days it takes for the socket to close.

How long after oral surgery

Oral surgery like dental implants, gum grafts, or wisdom tooth removal involves deeper wounds and requires longer healing time. Avoid eating for at least several hours post-surgery, and follow any special instructions from your oral surgeon such as:

  • 24 hours of only clear liquids.
  • 5-7 days of soft foods like yogurt, oatmeal, mashed potatoes.
  • 2 weeks until eating firmer foods like apples or salad.
  • 4-6 weeks until resuming normal diet.

Healing timelines vary based on your specific procedure. The surgeon may prescribe a medicated mouth rinse to use daily starting 24 hours after surgery to keep the area clean. Avoid spitting, swishing vigorously, drinking through a straw, or other actions that could dislodge the blood clot.

How long after a root canal

A root canal involves deep cleaning of the tooth’s roots and typically leaves you with tenderness and inflammation afterwards. Your endodontist will cover the tooth with a temporary crown following the root canal procedure. Recommendations typically include:

  • Avoid eating or drinking until numbness subsides, usually within 1-2 hours.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication as directed to relieve post-procedure discomfort.
  • Avoid chewing or biting down on the temporary crown.
  • Eat soft foods for the first 24 hours.
  • Avoid very hot or cold foods and drinks which could aggravate tenderness.

At your follow-up appointment about 1 week later, the temporary crown will be removed and a permanent crown cemented into place. You’ll again need to avoid chewing on that tooth for about 24 hours as the permanent crown cement sets.

What you can eat after dental work

While waiting to resume your normal diet, stick to foods that are soft, lukewarm, and unlikely to aggravate any post-procedure discomfort. Some good options include:

  • Soup, pudding, applesauce, bananas – Smooth, non-spicy
  • Scrambled eggs, oatmeal, grits, cream of wheat
  • Cottage cheese, cream cheese, mashed potatoes
  • Cooked pasta, macaroni and cheese
  • Fish, poultry, beans, cooked vegetables – Soft and bite-size pieces
  • Protein shakes, milk, smoothies – Use a straw placed toward the back of the mouth.

Avoid foods that are:

  • Crunchy – chips, popcorn, nuts, raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Sticky, chewy – gum, caramel, bagels, dried fruit.
  • Hard, sharp – pretzels, crackers, pizza crust.
  • Spicy, acidic, salty – carbonated drinks, citrus, seasonings.
  • Hot in temperature – soup, drinks.
  • Alcoholic

Read all instructions from your dental provider closely. Call them with any concerns about eating after a procedure. Proper post-care helps avoid complications and supports healing.

Reasons to wait before eating

More specifically, here are some of the main reasons your dentist will advise waiting before resuming your regular diet after a procedure:

To avoid chewing while mouth is numb

Dental anesthetics like lidocaine or novocaine numb your mouth while you undergo procedures. The numbness helps block uncomfortable sensations. Chewing while still numb raises your risk of unknowingly biting your cheek, lips, or tongue. This could cause injury you can’t feel. Let the anesthetic wear off first.

To prevent damage to dental work

Newly placed dental restorations like fillings, crowns, bridges, and implants take time to fully harden and bond. Premature biting or chewing could crack or dislodge them. Wait the recommended time before eating on the affected side.

To allow extraction sites to form clots

After a tooth extraction, a blood clot must fill the empty socket to initiate healing. Sucking through a straw or vigorous swishing can pull out this clot. Avoid this and stick to soft foods that won’t disturb the clot.

To let periodontal wounds start recovery

Deep cleanings and procedures to treat gum disease often leave gums tender, swollen, or irritated. Spicy, acidic, or crunchy foods could aggravate wounds. Let gums rest initially and gradually resume normal diet as discomfort subsides.

To give surgical sites time to heal

Invasive oral surgery like dental implants, bone grafts, or biopsies require careful post-op care. Eating too soon could disrupt stitches, tissue reattachment, or other healing. Follow your surgeon’s timeline for safely reintroducing foods and drinks.

What to do if you eat too soon

If you accidentally eat or drink sooner than recommended, don’t panic. Here are some tips:

  • Rinse your mouth gently with warm salt water to help cleanse the area.
  • Use pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve any discomfort.
  • Apply an ice pack on the outside of your face by the affected area to reduce swelling.
  • Stick to soft foods and avoid chewing on that side.
  • Call your dentist if severe pain, swelling, bleeding, or other issues arise.

Be extra diligent about keeping the area clean by brushing carefully and using medicated rinse if prescribed. Monitor for signs of complications like worsening pain, foul taste, or fever which could indicate infection. Seek prompt dental attention if problems develop.

Special considerations for children

Getting children to wait patiently before eating after dental procedures can be challenging. Here are some tips for handling post-op care for kids:

  • Explain the importance of waiting in terms they understand – “This lets your tooth get strong.”
  • Distract them with screen time, books, toys, or games during the waiting period.
  • Offer soft cold treats like popsicles or ice cream to soothe discomfort.
  • Have child rinse mouth gently with warm salt water.
  • Give scheduled pain medication doses as needed.
  • Offer lukewarm soft foods like soups, smoothies, applesauce.

Children tend to heal quickly after dental work. But avoiding hard, crunchy foods for a day or two helps prevent damage to any treatment sites. Be sure to follow all of your dentist’s post-procedure food and drink instructions.

The bottom line

Following your dentist’s recommendations after procedures allows your mouth time to recover before resuming eating and drinking normally. Healing and protection of any dental work take precedence over appetite. Have patience and stick to soft, lukewarm foods as advised. Call your dentist’s office with any concerns after treatment and follow all post-op instructions closely to prevent complications.

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