An estimated 51,500 adults in the United States get diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancers each year. Many of these people require oral surgery as part of their treatment. Oral surgery itself can present problems, such as damaging teeth and gums, causing pain and swelling. Dealing with these before and after surgery can help to speed up your recovery time and improve your comfort throughout, getting you back to life as soon as possible.
Caring for your teeth
Many cancer patients lose their appetite during treatment or struggle to eat after oral surgery. They are encouraged to have high calorie drinks for nutrients, but these often contain a lot of sugar and can be very damaging to teeth.Oral surgery for cancer can be done after doses of chemotherapy or radiation, which can weaken teeth and gums. If you have any teeth that are damaged or vulnerable you should consider having these extracted before surgery as bone necrosis can occur afterwards, particularly if you’ve had oral radiotherapy. Once you’ve recovered, lost and damaged teeth can be replaced with dentures or dental implants to give a natural look and feel, helping you to live a normal life again.
What you can eat after oral surgery
Your surgeon will offer you advice specific to you, but there are some basic guidelines you should follow. Once any bleeding stops and for the first two days post-op you can eat soft foods and liquids, such as yogurt, soups and smoothies. Include foods that are rich in vitamins A and C as these help to speed up recovery from surgery. A study from the National Institutes of Health gave patients 500-3,000 mg of vitamin C, which is 8-50 times higher than the RDA. All patients were recovering from various types of surgeries, including oral surgeries. They found that the high doses promoted new collagen synthesis, which helped wounds to heal faster. Research from the University of Michigan also found that high doses of vitamin C before surgery reduced the risk of excessive bleeding, so upping your intake before and after can be beneficial.
Dealing with pain and swelling
Unfortunately, after almost any oral surgery you will experience some pain, swelling and possible bruising. Many surgeons will advise you to regularly put ice on the area to reduce swelling, however recent research indicates that ice can stop the immune system’s natural response and actually delay healing. Ice can be a natural pain relief though, so if you choose to use it, apply it for 5 minutes at a time with 20 minute breaks in between as this is less likely to stop the body’s natural response. You’ll probably receive pain medication too, make sure you take this as instructed, even before pain occurs as it can prevent it.
Recovering from oral surgery can be painful, but it can also be a step in the right direction for your recovery, helping you to lead a normal and happy life. Pain and swelling are to be expected, and consuming soft foods and plenty of nutrients and minerals can help with this.