Eating for oral surgery

Eating after dental work is hard.  You have balance total calories, protein, vitamins, and other nutrients against pain, stress, and a limited capacity to chew.  In my case, you have bonus digestive track issues.  In the hopes that this could be useful to someone else about to undergo oral surgery, here’s a list of recipes and tasks to help.


Before Surgery

  1. Find a protein powder you like with a neutral taste.  I use Thorne MediClear because it’s what my doctor recommended.  Before I found out I was sensitive to milk and eggs I used MLO Milk and Egg Powder.  A lot of supplements use soy.  Soy is a great thing to eat in small doses, but it contains xenoestrogens, so be wary using it as your main source of protein.  
  2. The neutral taste is because we’re going to be mixing that powder in with other things.  If you’d like to just drink some protein, consider finding a shake or a flavored powder as well.
  3. Figure out what vitamin supplements you need, and if your protein powder contains them.  This can be very specific to you and your surgery, so ask your doctor.  Mine put a special emphasis on omega three fats (because I have nerve involvement), so I picked up a fish oil supplement.  Post surgery, I’ve also found myself craving iron (which makes sense, since my red meat consumption was low to begin with and is now lower) and Diindolylmethane (DIM).  DIM is a compound found in Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussel sprouts that activates several liver enzymes that can aid in removing toxins from the body; my conjecture is that the surgery and recovery are generating a lot of waste products and this is helping to clear them.  Obviously eating the real vegetables is ideal, but I only have so much chewing in me.
  4. Make stock.  As usual you can throw in whatever you want, but my usual recipe is onions, garlic, ginger (a stomach settler), maybe some spinach, bones (which have meat + marrow still on them), and organ meats.  My dentist loved this idea particularly for the healthy fats.  Freeze the stock before surgery so you can dole it out afterwords.
  5. Make juice.  Ideally, have a friend with a juicer so you can make several Tupperware containers worth of juice from the materials of your choice.  You really can do whatever you want here: the difference in value between produce is so much smaller than the difference between eating it and not that you should optimize for what you’ll drink the most of.  Do try and get a variety, both because it’s healthier and because you will get sick of any one thing really fast.
  6. Find a comfort food that doesn’t require chewing.  I used fudge.  Ice cream is an excellent choice if you eat dairy.
  7. If you plan on taking pain meds, and you should, talk to your doctor about supporting your digestive track.  NSAIDs can do a real number on your stomach especially when it’s empty, which it will be because eating is work.  I was taking so much naproxen before my surgery that I developed serious stomach pain, and had to take some support vitamins.

During recovery

  1. DO NOT USE A STRAW.  I love straws more than anyone older than 7.  In this situation straws look like your friends because they let you consume liquid with less work and keep it away from your surgery site, but it is a dirty, dirty lie.  The suction can dislodge the blood clot protecting your surgery site (the infamous dry socket complication of wisdom tooth removal).  They tell you this is extremely painful, but what they don’t mention is that it also leaves the surgery site vulnerable to infection, requiring many painful and exhausting surgeries to correct.  Learn from my example
  2. Take your pain seriously.  We have a tendency to try and tough out pain, or dismiss it as unimportant.  It’s not.  First, your suffering matters.  Second, pain is extremely disruptive to the healing process.  It makes it hard to eat and sleep.  Third, fear of pain will slow your recovery.  Right after surgery, a lot of activities will hurt you, like eating and talking and in my case, breathing.  It is healthy to restrict those activities for a while (except the breathing, although I did try).  But it is not healthy, physically or emotionally, to hold yourself rigid and withdrawn because you don’t know if you’ve healed enough to do something.  The availability of pain relief can enable you to take more chances, which ultimately leaves you healthier.
  3. Alternate comfort food with one of the medical foods.  For example, I would take a long sip of stock (possibly mixed with protein powder), and then a bite of fudge.  This wasn’t just a bribe or a comfort: the fudge triggered my brain to recognize that I was eating and it should take steps to digest it, and the stock got caught it the cross fire.  This let me eat a lot more medical food than I would have otherwise.  

The recipes

  1. Bone stock + water, salt, and protein powder to taste.
  2. Juicer juice + water, salt, and vitamins.  At a gut level I feel like protein goes with stock and vitamins go with juice, but your gut may vary.
  3. Oatmeal + protein powder + sweetener. It is filling, requires minimal chewing, and gives you protein.  
  4. Oatmeal + nut butter.  Like above, but with one fewer steps.
  5. Congee.  The base recipe is to boil rice for four hours.  It is easy to chew and filling.  You can add some nutritional value by boiling it in bone stock instead of water, or by putting stock ingredients in the pot with the rice (which you remove before eating).  The texture is gross but I love it because I can feel the nutrition coming off it.  I have to toss the fat when I make bone stock because it’s just too gross, which has always been a shame because it has all the fat soluble vitamins, and is an extra shame in this case because my dentist wants me to get omega 3s so much.   With this I can let the rice absorb the fat, and get the vitamins from there.  I plan on continuing to eat this after I’ve healed.  Also, while the texture starts pretty gross, it does not get any more gross on reheating and it keeps for a surprisingly long time.
  6. Applesauce with protein powder.  Apples are actually not as nutritious as their PR would leave to believe, and applesauce doesn’t even have the fiber or skin.  But it’s a fruit, and you’re mixing protein powder in it, and that is good enough for now.
  7. Berries.  They’re relatively easy to chew, full of nutrients, and delicious.  
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