Certain dental surgeries like tooth extractions and implants require you to be on a no chew diet afterwards for 3 weeks to help the tissues and bone heal. This can be daunting, I know. I’m in my second-ever no-chew diet after a dental surgery and this time I decided to track and write about my approach to eating is case it may be of help to you.
Because these surgeries are costly (several thousand dollars each), because I’m committed to my long-term health, and because I like to cook, I choose to invest the time toward successful healing when I’m in the thick of it. Healing and learning how to heal at the same time can be an added stress so it’s helpful to learn and prepare beforehand, when you have the luxury.
Given that, here’s what I’ve gleaned and how I chose to go about this.
Context: Food as Medicine
Food plays a critical role in providing the nourishment, nutrients, and emotional wellbeing for us to heal effectively, so it’s ideal to have a good sense of how to do that before you have surgery. (I gained intimate understanding of food as medicine during my healing from a near fatal accident over the span of 8 years.)
Everyone has their own thoughts on the exact particulars of foods as medicine. I’m prioritizing a nutrient-dense (primarily diverse fruits and vegetables), seasonal, anti-inflammatory diet (no alcohol, caffeine, dairy, gluten, processed foods including processed sugar, meat)—the general guidelines for my diet anyway. I’m going mostly vegan because pasteurized dairy is generally inflammatory/mucus causing and puréed or mashed fish is joyless to me.
Your dentist may tell you you can eat things like baked fish and overcooked pasta, but that you can’t use your teeth. Sit with that for a minute. This means using your tongue and roof of mouth to “chew”, which is incredibly ineffective, or just straight up pelican swallowing things like that, which is hard on the stomach and, again, joyless for me. But as you wish, my friend.
I’ve found it’s best for me to stick to soft things that can be swallowed.
Since the variety of texture is confined to the puréed spectrum , the main elements you can have to keep things interesting are color, flavor, and temperature.
Given my diet objectives and that it’s summer, here’s a list I came up with of possible things I can consume in this time:
- Cold-pressed juices, both fruit and vegetable centric
(*great if you have a juicer*)
- Celery juice as a tonic first thing in the morning
- Non-caffeinated teas and tonics
(Ginger Turmeric Tea is great. Make sure to boil it with some black pepper to make the curcumin in the turmeric bioavailable)
(*helpful for re-establishing your gut biome after/during antibiotics*)
- Bone Broth
(*helpful for bone repair*—Pastured Beef Bone Broth, Whole Chicken Bone Broth. Can add anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric. Lemongrass helps treat infections and is a tonic for the nervous system. Coriander is soothes upset stomachs and helps with infections from bacteria or fungus)
Smoothies & Blended Desserts
So many possibilities here… a common thing is to tire of banana based smoothies, so you can go for a more green, cacao, nut butter, or protein powder approach. Some I’ve enjoyed recently to get nutrient density, while also being tasty:
- Basil Mint Banana Avocado Smoothie (with coconut milk, spinach)
- Mango Greens Smoothie (with coconut milk, 1c spinach, 1/4 avocado, 1/4 pumpkin seeds, 2 T hemp seeds, spirulina, chlorella)
- Banana Tahini Smoothie
- Banana Blueberry Nut Butter
- Unfiltered Chocolate Almond Milk (lighter than a smoothie, more than a juice or tea, can be a good light snack with the almond pulp. Need to soak the almonds overnight and use a Vitamix. Can make this as a vanilla version by just removing the cacao)
Dates, avocado, coconut milk, and protein powder all help to get calorie density in your smoothies if you’re feeling that you need more.
- Cherry Chocolate Avocado Pudding (healthy and amazing)
- Non-dairy Milkshakes (*not anti-inflammatory because sugar, but for days when I just want something to feel comforting*)
- Clean Green Soup
- Velvety Mediterranean Gazpacho with Avocado Cream
- Dahl Fit for a Saint (blended)
- Curried Butternut Squash Soup
- Coconut Cauliflower Soup with Ginger and Turmeric
- Kale Soup with Coconut and Lime
- Vampire Slayer’s Soup
Spreads and Puréed Produce
- Pesto (So versatile and can be added to other things to make them more interesting. Here’s a great Basil Pistachio Pesto)
- Mashed avocado (can add spices like salt, cumin, smoked paprika for variety)
- Pulsed vegetable blend (eg. sautéed garlic, onions, shitake mushrooms, and spinach cooked first then pulsed in a Cuisinart. Can be a great add to basic things like potatoes, dahl, polenta, or soup)
- Pureed salsa
Soft Cooked Foods
- Mashed purple sweet potatoes with minced scallions (peel, boil, then mash with butter/coconut oil, salt & pepper, minced scallions. This keeps for days and is s a great staple food at any temperature)
- Mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, parsley, your favorite fat (butter, coconut oil, whatever)
- Mashed yams
- Creamy polenta —(a basic recipe, but I use 1:5 ratio of polenta to liquid, and use bone broth instead of water for more flavor and to help bone healing. Great with pesto, tomato sauce, pureed veg, ricotta cheese).
- Soft cooked scrambled eggs (herbs and melted cheese make these more delightful)
- Non-dairy yogurt
- Soft-baked soft-fleshed fish
In addition to choosing nutrient dense foods, I checked out this resource on supplements to promote faster healing of dental surgeries. From their list, I chose:
- Vitamin B-complex
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Calcium with Vitamin D
For some of these they recommend to begin taking them 1–2 weeks before the procedure to check out the details on this page if you choose to go this route.
Prep Before Surgery
This is a cooking-based approach to your diet, so it helps to get your first 5-7 days of food set in your fridge before your procedure. If you choose this route and don’t own a high-speed blender, I highly recommend investing in a Nutribullet or Vitamix beforehand.
I set aside time before my procedure to cook and get a bunch of things prepped like:
- Bone broth
- Clean Green Soup
- Velvety Gazpacho
- Mashed Potatoes (Purple, White, or Yams)
- Creamy Polenta (which can be made per serving or as a batch and reheated with bone broth to make it more soupy) with fixings like Tomato Sauce, Ricotta, Pesto
In addition to these for a sample week 1 menu, I recommend:
- Vegetable & Fruit Juices
- Ingredients for smoothies
- Avocados for mashing and having as a side to soup or other foods
- Some fish (buy a few days after your procedure to cook at the end of the week if you want to start experimenting)
FYI, it’s likely that Day 1 you’ll be restricted to cold foods and Days 2 & 3 to room temperature foods to help keep your stitches in.
You’ll find your own variety as the days and weeks go by.
Or you may be more inclined for a menu like this.
Whatever path you choose, all the best with your healing!