Nutrition refers to the intake of nourishment, specifically the fluids and fuel needed to survive. After oral and maxillofacial surgical procedures, nutrient needs increase to help bodies heal. Consuming needed nutrients may be particularly challenging for patients recovering from oral and maxillofacial surgery as surgical incisions in or around the mouth and postoperative swelling can make it difficult to chew and swallow normally. In addition, this type of surgical procedure may further require a diet that is limited in consistency.
The single most important nutrient for the human body is water. In general, the average adult should drink six to eight glasses of fluids per day. Keep in mind that “fluids” are not limited to water and may include broth, juice, dissolved gelatin and even popsicles. While the amount of fluids consumed may be increased following surgery or due to illness, fever, etc., six to eight glasses a day is a good rule of thumb. Total calorie needs may be estimated as 15 calories per pound of body weight per day. For the average adult, this translates to about 2,000 calories a day. The body’s need for protein also may increase following surgery to promote healing. During healing, 0.5 grams of protein per pound may be required.
Oral Surgery Recovery
Surgery in the mouth – such as removal of teeth, placement of dental implants, biopsies and similar procedures – does not require a significant increase in nutrients. Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) will suggest a liquid or soft diet for a short time to make eating easier and to avoid injuring the surgical site. You also should avoid carbonated beverages, drinking through a straw, vigorous tooth brushing and mouth rinsing and other activities that could disrupt clotting and the healing process. Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon will advise when you can safely resume these activities.
Jaw Surgery Recovery
Orthognathic surgery, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) surgery and surgery to repair facial fractures are more complicated procedures and require extended recovery times. Historically, patients who underwent jaw and fracture surgery had their jaws immobilized to promote healing. This was accomplished by wiring or using elastic rubber bands to hold the teeth together. Although this technique may still be necessary in some cases, especially for jaw fractures, today’s surgeons place small screws and fixation appliances to ensure accurate and predictable healing. Although these fixation appliances are small and barely perceptible, even to patients, they still must be protected from the forces of chewing until the surgical site has had some time to heal.
Do I Need a Liquid Diet?
Immediately after jaw surgery, your OMS may inform you will not be able to eat solid foods. During this period (which may last several days) all nutrition will be consumed in liquid form – a challenge given an adult patient’s daily nutrition needs. A variety of nutrients are needed to help you heal and maintain good health. Because fluids remain the most important nutrient, particular care should be given to ensuring you get your six to eight glasses of fluids per day. Meeting your caloric needs also may be challenging during this phase. In addition to liquids such as water and juice, a diet that includes nutrient-rich foods blended with enough liquid to produce a thin, easily swallowed meal is strongly recommended. Cooked portions of your favorite foods can be blended separately or in combination to suit your taste. Juice, milk, water or broth may be added as a thinner to achieve the proper consistency.
To prevent oral hygiene problems, strain the blended mixture to remove particles and food fiber. You may find it easier to consume small quantities every few hours rather than three times a day; you may tire of drinking a large volume of liquid at each meal.
Many good liquid nutritional supplements also are available. Their high-caloric density and balance of protein, calories and vitamins will help you meet your daily requirements. Brands such as Ensure, Sustacal and Boost are available for over-the-counter purchase at pharmacies and grocery stores. Blenders and slow cookers make home food preparation much easier and affordable than commercial supplements.
What is a Non-chewing Diet?
After a few days on liquids, your oral and maxillofacial surgeon will likely recommend a semisolid, “non-chewing” diet. This diet should be of a consistency that can be consumed without biting or chewing. Many of the foods you generally eat – including soft scrambled eggs, soft pancakes, well cooked pasta, flaky fish, etc. – are likely recommended to you. Remember, it is most important you avoid stressing the surgery site until healing has progressed. This non-chewing diet should be maintained until your oral and maxillofacial surgeon specifically approves a move to a more solid diet. This may be three to six weeks following surgery or longer, particularly for patients undergoing TMJ or reconstructive surgery.
Recovery requires listening to your OMS for the best advice on how to obtain a speedy recovery.
Article Courtesy of AAOMS, https://myoms.org.
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