Monday, March 25, 2013

Surgery "Must haves"

3 Posts in 2 days... I am on a roll I guess. After giving it some thought, here is my list of "must haves" after surgery.  Please note all brand names I mention are my own personal experience and am not receiving any kick-backs :)

At home: * week 1 another adult was a MUST for me to help with children.
1.  Water pik/flosser- A MUST have if you have braces and especially if you are having jaw surgery.  There is no way to explain how difficult it will be to get your teeth/mouth clean after the surgery.  I purchased mine after my braces were put on because it was taking me 30 minutes to floss my teeth each time I brushed... I am quite OCD with my teeth and it was making me miserable.  My orthodontist and her staff all commented on how I had the cleanest teeth of all their patients... it was truly the water pik/flosser- Again, I am not getting a single kick back from them I promise.  I had to wait a week post op before my surgeon allowed me to use it (didn't want to disturb the incisions.)  You can feel the food collecting in the splint and a tooth brush just can't get to it... it was my only relief.  Should your significant other try to lean in for a kiss they will appreciate it as well.
2.  Lap tray and a good transportable mirror- I combined these because together they made my life much easier, especially the first week.  If you don't mind eating away from the table, the tray will bring food higher than the typical kitchen table and make eating more comfortable....a mirror will allow you to get food to your mouth easier.  As you get braver and go out to eat, you will want to use this mirror so that you don't embarrass yourself by having your food pour down your chin, sticking to the corners of your mouth/lips, as well as, sticking out of your braces/splint, all without you realizing it... you will want a small mirror that can be propped up and used hands free.  At 4 1/2 weeks post op I am still using my mirror when eating.
3.  Cloth Diapers/dish towels- At least half a dozen. I went through at least 2 a day, 1 for drooling and 1 for "bib" while eating.  Around day 4, I began drooling like crazy... continuously plus the fact  when you eat you will get food all over yourself.
4.  Vaseline- yes- basic, cheap vaseline is all you need.  I had aquaphor, and carmex, all the things I used for chapped lips in the past and they did not help.  Vaseline was the only thing that healed the corners of my mouth from the irritation caused by the constant drool.  Your lips will get so dry over night and you will want the Vaseline.
5.  Hydrogen peroxide and q-tips- for your nose... it will bleed a lot especially the first week and q-tip with hydrogen peroxide will clean everything up with the least amount of discomfort. You won't be allowed to blow your nose ... this is the only thing that will help.
6.  Ice packs/heat pads.  Ice packs for swelling the first week, then later when the nerves and muscles start "twitching" heat and cold helps relieve the pain.
7. Blender- I have a braun stick blender/with food processor I bought several years ago.  This works great for pureeing, creaming soups and vegetables. This $70 blender/food processor did just fine compared to my friends' high end blender/processors.
8.  Boxes of 5 weeks I have gone through 2- 180 sheet boxes for drooling, eating, and nose bleeds.
9.  Cool mist humidifier was nice at night if you have one.

Not a "must" but helpful:  I found a flat tongue brush that actually came in handy after the splint was taken out ... I still had difficulty getting a baby toothbrush to the back of my tongue without gagging while brushing.  I also found this rubber, pointy tooth pick kind of tool that was helpful in getting food out of my braces/splint when I couldn't use my water flosser.  I had some baby food fruit with rice cereal on hand for little snacks .... not horrible but not something I "restocked."

Food: because eating took so much energy I tried to make sure everything I ate was high in protein, and nutrients with minimal empty calories. Being lactose intolerant limited my dairy options but I managed.
*Drinks with electrolytes- I was really dehydrated when I got home from surgery was 7 hrs so my mouth was extremely dry and you are so swollen and congested the first week or so, that you breath out of your mouth and that keeps your mouth VERY dry...  I preferred SOBE lifewaters because Gatorade has so much sugar.  There are other options out there just look before so you have it on hand when you get home from the hospital.
* Of course there are lots of recipes for smoothies and soups you can find online and cookbooks but I got to the point where I NEEDED food textures rather than liquid.  Homemade soups were no problem blending and tasting good .... flavor after blending seemed to only be an issue with prepackaged soups that had pasta and/or meats in them.  I am a huge tomato soup fan so of course they were not an issue....BUT in my childhood, tomato soup always meant grilled cheese...I was going crazy for a grilled cheese... that has yet to happen.
*Apple sauce of course...mixed it with different fruit puree's to make life a little more interesting.
*Greek yogurt and cottage cheese with pureed fresh fruit or Trader Joe's Fresh fruit preserves are really good in a pinch (blueberry is my favorite.)  If you are lucky you can find some granola without nuts or chunks of dried fruit to add to your yogurt... I ended up having to pick out nuts and fruit...that just made me mad cause I REALLY wanted to eat them.

 *Protein powders that you can add to fruit smoothies or milk. Atkins Protein drink- Milk Chocolate Shakes are very good....Thank you Wanda!
*I had friends who made me incredible soups so I will try to get recipes and their permission to post the recipes...Thank you Erin, Linda and Matt!

 Here are a few "textured" foods I found I could eat.
*Sweet potatoes... for those local- we have a local Deli- Village Deli at Cameron Village that has sweet potato fries that were soft enough for me to swallow without chewing :) dunked/combined with their Cheese Beer Soup.. excellent lunch!  After splint was removed I could eat their cream of mushroom soup... great choice as well.
*Creamed corn.
*Grits with cheese- plan to spend extra time getting your teeth clean :)
*Oat Bran made with Almond Milk- smaller grain than Oat Meal found it easier to eat.
*I found it hard to eat scrabbled eggs alone but if I added salsa the added moisture helped make it easier to swallow.
*Mashed potatoes- different gravy helped to keep this from getting old too fast.
*Refried beans with cilantro, cheese, chopped tomatoes
*when I got really hungry for fresh vegetables I chopped tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, black olives, with oil/vinegar/dressing, and pureed in blender- it was more of a salsa consistency but gave me the taste of fresh vegetables.

*Shaved ham- talking very shaved deli ham- didn't try this until around week 3 when I was really desperate but it worked well.. it was literally shredded into little pieces...thank you Melody!

*Angel hair pasta over cooked and chopped with marinara sauce.
*After a couple weeks with a little more feeling in my mouth I could eat Salmon, Tilapia and Cod.
*If you have a sweet tooth... cheese cake was pretty easy to swallow without chewing :)  Also when completely desperate a tub of icing works... Thank you Claire!

*Once my splint came off I was able to eat rice, finely chopped chicken and lasagna... before that it was too difficult.

*After week 1 when I had some feeling mixed with numbness inside my mouth, really cold things were actually painful. At 5 weeks still having this issue.

That is all I can think of right now.   For those preparing for surgery please let me know if you have any questions.


  1. No one would be able to list all of these practical and helpful tips and must-haves than someone who is going through the same ordeal. I found your post really helpful especially the tips about the mirror and Vaseline. The dry lips are painful if not ugly to look at. And the mirror is a saving grace especially when eating out with friends. Talking and laughing your heart away is not so fun when you gross the people in front of you because you have something on your teeth. Thank you for listing all these. I'm definite a lot more will benefit from it. Aura Minaya

  2. I found my Nutribullet was my best friend.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. You will learn to love your blender, especially in the first few weeks of having jaw surgery done, because your food either needs to be pureed or you’ll have to stick to yogurt. And while eating nothing but yogurt seems appealing at first, it tends to get old really fast. I do like the idea of making a salad with a salsa consistency, though I haven’t found another soft food I can mix it with.


  5. The humidifier definitely helps with not drying up your mouth. Since saliva production is minimal when you sleep, that’s when it’s most prone to dry up. The humidifier can help you get that uninterrupted sleep so you’re not cranky on top of having sore gums.


  6. Did you find you were really congested after? I have heard horror stories about people feeling like they can't breathe (even though they can). Just sounds stressful!