“Yeah, it looks like your wisdom teeth have come in, and two of them are turned sideways. You’ll definitely want to look into getting those removed as soon as possible. We’ll give you a referral.”
Oh, how I love visits to the dentist.
That was around November of 2016. Fast forward to a Wednesday in mid-June of 2017. I still have my wisdom teeth, and I’m standing in my kitchen wondering why I have an incredible amount of pain in the back of my mouth that makes it nearly impossible to chew. I do what any other malaised millennial in 2017 does – consults Dr. Google with my symptoms. After a couple minutes of searching, I learned that intermittent bouts of pain near the back of the mouth (where the wisdom teeth are located), ranging from mild to severe, can indicate that you definitely really probably may want to get your wisdom teeth taken out. Whoops. I forgot about that one.
In my defense, I couldn’t schedule the surgery when I was at the dentist back in November! You have to wait 6 months post-op (I had a breast aug in August of that year) to have any serious dental work done, and I was about to start school up again in January. Maybe over spring break? I thought to myself (that thought clearly stayed a thought and didn’t grow up to become an action). Excuses, excuses, Emily.
I also may have been somewhat bitter and in denial since neither my mom nor my sister had to have their wisdom teeth taken out.
Whether it was just a fluke (I do have a tendency to clench my jaw without my noticing, and the pain did go away), or I really did need to get my wisdom teeth taken out before matters got any worse, I decided that it was now or never. So, I called my dentist, got the referral, and made an appointment with my “maxillofacial surgeon” (say that 5 times fast) for a consult.
Thankfully, none of my wisdom teeth were impacted. But upon looking at the x-rays, my surgeon did inform me that the one on my bottom right side was verrrrry close to a sensory nerve, so I may lose some feeling along that part of my jaw for a few months. This is why I avoided this I lamented to myself.
I wanted this over and done with as soon as possible. After telling me about the procedure and informing me how much of a blow this was going to be to my bank account (about $2,4000… also around the same time that I had to pay for another semester of college… solid), I asked how soon they could get me in for surgery. Lo and behold, they had an opening the following Friday, which was 10 days after my consult. It really was now or never.
Also, I feel like it’s necessary to mention (even if it’s just for my own sake) that I hate dental work. I loathe anything that has to do with teeth. I don’t know why, it just freaks me out. I have a fear of getting teeth knocked out (possibly influenced by that one time in first grade when I was at the roller blading rink, ran into a wall, and lost a tooth. Shoutout to my sister and her friend Libby for going and finding it) and am overly conscious of teeth related things. We’ve all got our quirks, man. That’s just one of mine.
I digress. Surgery day arrived. I woke up, took the pill they told me to take when I woke up that day (at 22 years old, I am in fact capable of following simple directions), didn’t eat or drink (my mouth was like the Sahara and I was getting lightheaded by the time I went into surgery), and off to the surgeon we went. I feel like this is fairly standard, but thinking about anesthesia and “going under” makes me very, very anxious. My heart started pounding as soon as I got out of the car. I almost couldn’t do it – but I knew that I had to eventually, so I just kept taking deep breaths and prayed my way through it.
The nurses ushered me into my room. As it turns out, one of them was the exact same nurse when I had teeth pulled in like 5th grade. That made me feel old. My surgeon followed a few minutes after once I was all hooked up to bags and oxygen and fairy dust, and pretty soon it was lights out. When the lights came back on, I was four teeth less the wiser and very puffy.
I’ve watched my fair share of wisdom teeth “ride home” videos where people say outlandish sh*t and are generally a hoot and a half. I brought my vlogging camera just in case there were any laughable moments to capitalize on from this whole thing. Nothing. Not. A. Thing. Sure, I felt puffy and looked pretty comical, but I was 100% coherent. I asked my mom to get me an iced coffee from Tim Ho’s and some Sprite Zero when she stopped at CVS (bless her soul, there were no individual bottles of Sprite Zero, so she bought me a 2 liter), and that was about it. I was starving by the time I got home (I’m usually multiple meals deep at this point on a normal day), so I made myself a smoothie. I couldn’t use a straw, so I ate it out of a bowl with a spoon. Since I was still really numb from the local anesthesia, I used my phone’s front camera to make sure I was getting the spoon at the right place in my mouth and actually closing my mouth. Definitely a very lady-like example of proper table manners.
Long story short, the numbness wore off after a few hours and I spent most of my day (and the next few days following) watching reruns of Smash (again… it’s a really good series, okay? And I knew my mom would like it. Just let me live), and eating a lot of smoothies, yogurt, and warm broth. I couldn’t be prescribed Percocet because it makes me nauseous, but my surgeon prescribed me Oxycodone and Etodolac for pain along with an anti-nausea medication just in case (the absolute last thing I wanted to do after having teeth pulled was vomit. No thank you. I’ll pass).
I got some questions from my followers/subscribers on social media about the experience, along with maintaining some semblance of a healthy diet post-wisdom teeth extraction. First off, some salient takeaways:
- First and foremost, listen to your doctor. If they tell you to take time off from the gym, take time off from the gym. You aren’t going to die or lose all of your muscle in a week. You’ll be fine. Bored, but fine.
- Get good at making smoothies. I’ll list out some of my favorite recipes below!
- You can’t have anything warm for the first 24 hours, so not only would I recommend brushing up on your smoothie skills, but also make sure you have a hoodie and a blanket. I was freezing.
- To add insult to injury with the coldness part, make friends with your icepack. That little guy was my BFF for the first few days. You can move to heat after the first day as well, so keep that in mind!
- Save up episodes of your favorite TV show to watch or movies that you love. You’re going to be spending a lot of time on the couch. Stock up on good books as well. I finished The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson and started Grit by Angela Duckworth over the course of my couch sentence.
- There was definitely a lot of pain and swelling involved for me. It’s gradually gone down, but I’m 7 days post-extraction and my left side still looks like I’m smuggling a ping pong ball in it, it hurts to open my mouth past a certain point, and chewing is still a challenge. I want nothing more than to bite into a burger. Every time I hear my mom crunching on nuts or crackers, I become excessively envious. I should have eaten more crunchy food while I had the chance. THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS (yes, I am being overdramatic; no, this is not the pain killers talking).
- Make sure you have a few pillows to prop your head on while you sleep. Things like lying completely flat or bending over to where my head was upside down definitely caused/still cause a lot of discomfort.
- Speaking of sleep… I slept so much after surgery. Like 10-11 hours a night for the first few days.
- In terms of cost – my insurance company wasn’t in network with the surgeon I saw, so I had to pay everything out of pocket up front. Whatever my insurance does cover (I’m not exactly sure how much that is) will be reimbursed to me, but I did have to pay the full cost at the time of surgery ($2,400). If that’s the case for you too, know that you’ll make some of your money back through insurance, but be prepared for a big payment up front.
- Oxycodone can make you constipated. Good times.
Alriiiiight! On the health business. This is a primarily “health and fitness” centered blog, and I’ve had a couple people express concern (or their own struggle) with staying healthy/eating healthy foods while you can’t chew. Now, there are some people who will tell you to just “take it easy” and eat ice cream the whole time. This is not the greatest idea because a) you need a balance of nutrients to maintain health, so while ice cream is calorie dense and delicious, it’s rather void of necessary micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and b) while you aren’t going to balloon up like Veruca Salt in one week from not working out, your energy expenditure (especially from NEAT since you do a lot of laying around while recovering) is definitely lower than usual.
If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re a health and fitness enthusiast, so I am going to make the assumption that you’re also eating a healthful, balanced diet that includes a variety of sources of protein, fats, and carbs. Now, you take being laid up with minimal activity for a few days and combine it with a trash diet, while you likely won’t backtrack yourself severely in terms of physique progress, you’re likely going to feel like garbage (treating your body like a trash can = you feel like garbage). And don’t forget, food is medicine! The time after any surgery, injury, or illness is a time where healing needs to be the primary focus. Food is a tool for healing (or the opposite). Call me kooky, but I want to respect and love my body, so I feed it accordingly. A little ice cream won’t kill ya, but the majority of your food should still become from whole, quality, nutrient-dense foods.
You may be wondering how the heck you’re supposed to eat vegetables when you can’t chew. Lucky for you, there are definitely veggies that you can throw into smoothies with minimal taste-detection. Let’s dive into my go-to smoothie recipe while I was chipmunk-cheeked.
-1 serv. frozen fruit of choice. My favorites are strawberries, blueberries, peaches, or bananas. I rotated throughout the day to change up the taste and to keep healthy variety in my diet. Also, if you just had your wisdom teeth taken out, don’t use strawberries right away! The seeds can get in your wounds and infect them… not cute.
-1 serv. frozen veggie of choice. My favorites are cauliflower or zucchini.
-1 serv. frozen greens of choice. My favorites are spinach and kale.
-1 serv. protein powder (I used vanilla from PEScience. You can use the code EMILY to save you 30% off your order!) OR ½ cup egg whites (if you use egg whites, half your liquid of choice)
-1 cup cashew milk, almond milk, soy milk, or whatever milk you prefer (I prefer cashew. It definitely makes for a creamier smoothie)
-1 serv. fat. I opted for either peanut butter (duh) or avocado (you can’t taste it and it lends to the creamy texture of the smoothie)
-2tsp myo-inositol powder. This is something I take to help with my PCOS symptoms and to support overall reproductive health. Obviously optional if you don’t have any of these issues!
-ice to desired consistency
-If you AREN’T post-wisdom teeth, try adding other mix-ins like chia seeds, flax seeds, or hemp seeds! Great for extra fiber and a bit of fat as well.
Now, I know that’s a lot of options! I rotated through various combinations of the above-mentioned recipe. Is it as good as getting a wide variety of meals throughout your day like you would when you can chew (and eat warm things)? No. I don’t really recommend eating smoothies all day every day unless you’re forced to. But for the time being, this got the job done! I’ll give you my favorite variation below. I’m quite sick of smoothies at this point, but I definitely still love this one and will continue to incorporate it even once I’m back to normal mastication.
Peaches n’ Cream Smoothie Recipe:
-1 cup frozen peaches
-1 cup frozen cauliflower
-1 cup frozen kale
-1 scoop PEScience vanilla protein (Code EMILY for 30% off!)
-2 tsp myo-inositol powder
-1 cup cashew milk
Mmmmm mmmm! As the namesake would imply, this particular smoothie tasted like peaches n’ cream. I would recommend this guy 150%! Another easy-to-eat snack/food idea would be Greek yogurt. You can add extra protein if you like. Once you’re allowed to eat warm foods, oats with egg whites are a great option, along with things like mashed sweet potatoes, scrambled eggs, etc.
So, if you’re about to get your wisdom teeth taken out and you’re freaking out about various things like I was, I hope this blog helped bring you some peace of mind. If you’re particularly concerned about health while recovering, know that it is possible to still make healthy choices even when you’re limited on food options! If just requires a little creativity. And if neither of the above apply to you and you’re just here for the smoothie recipes, well, hopefully you found what you were looking for.
Til next time, I’ll be waiting for my cheeks to return to normal size and for my chewing ability to return… and drinking smoothies. Love y’all.
(PS – sorry for the lack of photos on this post! I’ve been on pain meds and feeling like death, so photography wasn’t at the top of my list).