Eating while wired

Eating well when you can’t open your mouth is necessarily a challenge, but it can be done with a little bit of creativity. After some experimentation, I adopted into a pretty consistent dietary routine. I was lucky to be able to drink through a straw while wired; your results may vary. Also see my posts tagged liquid diet.

Kitchen Equipment

In my experience, there were two pieces of kitchen equipment that were crucial to eating well. This doesn’t include things that are in most any kitchen, like cups, bowls, and spoons.

The first item is a blender. In retrospect, I managed with a relatively bad blender, but I’d definitely recommend getting a decent one if you don’t already have a blender. A good blender will leave your meals with fewer lumps, which means your straw is less likely to get clogged, and you’re less likely to get food stuck on your teeth. This doesn’t mean you have to drop hundreds of dollars on a blender, but do a bit of research before you buy. When my Cuisinart blender/food processor died, I replaced it with a $50 Oster blender, which I think is pretty good.

The second item, a strainer, is particularly important if you have a less effective blender. After you blend something for a while, if there are still solid chunks, you can pour everything into the strainer. Set aside the liquid that passes through, and then dump the solids back into the blender, and blend again. Sometimes when there’s a lot of liquid in the jar, the blade makes only infrequent contact with the chunks that you’re trying to liquefy, and this problem is rectified by removing some of the liquid. If you find that the chunks are getting stuck on the side of the jar, add just enough liquid to keep them flowing back down toward the blade.

Foods

For breakfast, I typically had a serving of Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer, a product which I wholeheartedly recommend for anybody (even nonvegans) whose jaw is wired shut. Vega has a full day’s supply of a number of different important nutrients. It’s also high in protein and free of all major allergens (including soy). I was hungry pretty much all the time until I started using Vega, and I don’t think I would have been able to teach back-to-back classes without the nourishment that Vega provided. The stuff doesn’t taste great, but it was definitely  tolerable.

I’d recommend getting at least one serving of Vega per day for each day that your mouth will be wired shut, although if your appetite tends to be smaller, you might need less. I found I could get the best price on two containers online from Food Fight Grocery. Note that you get a couple more servings in the “Natural” flavor, so that’s a slightly better price per serving. Even with Food Fight’s price, it comes out to about $4 per serving, which might seem like a lot. Remember, though, that one serving actually replaces a meal (at least nutritionally), and $4 is not so much money to spend on a whole meal.

One thing that Vega doesn’t have much of is fat, so in order to succeed in my attempts at maintaining my weight, I needed to find that somewhere else. The best source I found was peanut butter, which I used in smoothies. For obvious reasons, creamy peanut butter is preferable for this situation. Smoothie ingredients varied from day to day, but the following are things that made their way into my smoothies:

  • Soy, rice, hazelnut, almond, or oat milk. (Hemp is fine, too, but more expensive)
  • Soy yogurt
  • Spinach (this required the smoothie to be blended longer than usual, but with a better blender, that might not have been an issue)
  • Applesauce
  • Ground flax seeds (strictly for the nutritional value, I found it best to add directly to the cup, rather than in the blender because they’d tend to stick to the jar of the blender)

Two things that I might ordinarily (that is, when my jaw isn’t wired shut) put in a smoothie, bananas and frozen fruits, proved to be more trouble to liquefy than I deemed worthwhile. This may have been less of an issue with a better blender, so please let me know either by email or in a comment if you have a different experience.

For dinner, I’d typically have a can of soup, blended. Sometimes one can wasn’t enough, so I’d have a second can of soup or a smoothie. If you’re going to be drinking multiple cans of soup in a day, it might be worthwhile to buy some low salt soups (Amy’s and Health Valley both have some options) to avoid excessive sodium intake.

I struggled to find a way to take in whole grains while my jaw was wired shut. Breads and crackers would absorb moisture and expand when added to water, and couscous was just too big. On the eve of my wireless upgrade, I did finally find that pasta blended with a lot of tomato sauce and a little bit of water could pass through a straw and between my teeth.

I’m generally not the sort of person who eats dessert every day, but when my jaw was wired shut, I found it nice to indulge frequently to keep myself from getting down about not being able to open my mouth. Sometimes I’d make smoothies using Soy Shakes which have a somewhat sweeter and maltier taste than regular soy milk. Sometimes I’d also blend some sandwich cookies (Candy Cane Joe-Joes from Trader Joe’s) in with some soy milk. This was kind of weird, since the filling of the cookie would float to the top, rather than blend in, and the cookie didn’t blend all that well either. It tasted pretty good, at least by the standards of somebody whose diet is severely restricted. Towards the end of my wired days, I also started having some sorbet and soy ice cream. Of course, I couldn’t eat these solid, but if I microwaved them for a few seconds with some soy or almond milk, the result was still solid but soft enough to drink through a straw. Note that it’s important to choose flavors without chunks of fruit (or chunks of anything else), unless you just want to blend everything.

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33 Responses to “Eating while wired”

  1. Ashley Tryba August 20, 2009 at 7:59 am #

    It’s so crazy to find another vegan with the same injuries as me! I too had a cycling accident- flipped over my handlebars at 9:30 at night after I put my wheels back on (coming back from a trip to philly), my chin broke my fall, so clearly I had a huge gash in my chin, my jaw was fractured in 4 different places, broke some teeth, and even managed to fracture my T7 in my spine.
    I just wanted to let you know that your blog has been very helpful! I have been considering starting my own to keep track of food intake, problems, solutions, ect.
    Thanks, Ash

    • Adam August 20, 2009 at 11:53 pm #

      Wow, your story makes me feel lucky to have gotten away with a single mandibular fracture. I hope your recovery goes smoothly and quickly.

      I’d definitely urge you go ahead and start a blog. I’m sure that you’ll have plenty to say that would be helpful to others with similar injuries. If you do start a blog, please do let me know of the URL so I can read it and add you to my blogroll.

      Adam

    • Linda Laing June 30, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

      Hi Ashley, I see you are years post bicycle injury! Hope you can offer some feedback, I am 4weeks out from over the handle bar mtn bike accident, (3weeks post op jaw surgery) mandible fx in 2 places, needed a titanium plate to hold by split chin together, fortunately lost no teeth as of this point, I fractured my T6, in a jewitt brace and discussing possibility of a kyphoplasty, timing is difficult for T6 fracture surgery due to wired jaw. How have you fared with your T7 fracture, any treatment/procedures, I’am very concerned over a deformity and getting back to my active lifestyle, any advice would be much appreciated. Jaw wiring has caused me sudden anxiety at times just knowing I cannot open my mouth. Hope you are doing well and active at this point.

  2. Jason December 20, 2009 at 11:48 pm #

    It’s been 1 week since my jaw was broken and 3 days since being wired shut. I am not fortunate enough to get a straw to fit in my mouth, I have to eat by a syringe. Anyway, we always get-together for holidays and last night was no different. There was alot of food that looked good, however, circumstances prevented eating. Well just to let you know, both last night and tonight, I made myself eat deer chili. Since my uncle hunts and actually processed the deer knowing my situation, made it more tender than usual I guess. However, chunks posed a problem. This did not stop me though. I came home, pulled out the blender, dropped the chili in and began to liquiefy. To make it a little more of a liquid consistencey I added some sour cream, green onion dip and a little shredded cheese for texture I guess. I don’t know I like cheese too though. Anyhow, after 10 minutes of the blender grinding at me, I poured out this brown/orange pudding look-alike mixture. I was hesistant about eating it, but after loading the syringe and tasting it, I would eat that every night if I had to. I think the part that gets people is mixing everyything together at one time. Anyway, if there are any questions or even suggestions to make the recovery process more tolereable, please let me know. By the way, don’t know if this was a problem for you, what did you do about the constant drooling? And did the numbness ever go awy?

    • Adam Merberg December 21, 2009 at 7:21 am #

      Hi Jason,

      Sorry about your broken jaw. It’s not fun, but you’ll get through it.

      I really only had a problem with drooling when I was sleeping, and then it wasn’t really that much of a problem because nobody could see it. Even that went away after a few days, when the swelling in my face subsided.

      As for numbness, it has definitely gotten better, but not completely. At this point, I think it’s probably permanent nerve damage, and I don’t expect it to improve much more.

      Adam

  3. wiredshut June 16, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    Adam –

    I broke my jaw about two weeks ago after falling off my bike. I’ve had the wires on for about a week now and find I’m starting to get creative with food. I had just purchased a really good blender (blendtec) prior to my accident, it has been a lifesaver. Anything I put in blends smooth enough to drink through a straw and pass through my teeth.

    I’m also keeping a blog on my experience. I have a day by day record on the food I eat and then notes on frustrations/celebrations. http://wiredshut.wordpress.com/

    -Michaela

    • Adam Merberg June 16, 2010 at 10:24 am #

      Very nice blog! I just added it to my blogroll. Best of luck with your recovery.

  4. brigette July 14, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    Hi Adam: thanks for your awesome blog. I am week 1 into my jaw wired shut and had a quick question. What is the benefit to using a straw? I am finding it hard to suck anything through. I usually just try to sip and suck from a cup..but I am a real newbie at this..any advice?

    • Adam Merberg July 14, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

      Hi Brigette,

      Sorry to hear about your injury. I found a straw very helpful at first because my lip was very swollen. After that, the main advantage was that it allowed me to direct liquid toward the places where it was most likely to pass through my teeth. One of the gaps between my top and bottom teeth was near the back of my mouth, and the straw was useful for aiming stuff at that gap. My suggestion is to try sucking from a straw while moving it around your mouth to see if you can find a place through which liquid can pass relatively easily.

      Best wishes on your recovery. Feel free to contact me with further questions.

      Adam

  5. Sandy August 28, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

    Just wanted to add that I found a stick blender really helpful. So much easier to clean which is useful when you’re blending 3 times a day or so. Blended ramen soup and smoothies made with full fat yogurt, strawberries, bananas, a little ice and a little ice cream are my favorites. Root beer floats are also great if you can manage a straw ’cause they are tasty, high in calories and no blending required.

  6. Sandy August 28, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    Also, Special K protein shakes are great because they aren’t as sweet (which gets old) and have 5 grams of fiber which is useful when you’re on pain meds and not getting fiber from your usual diet.

  7. Josh February 13, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading this. I have had my mouth wired shut for a week and a half now and it really hasn’t been too bad at all. As someone mentioned, a high tech blender has been key. I survive at work on plenty of shakes, v8, mango juice, etc. But at home, I can eat anything – including plenty of whole grains. In the morning I can eat oatmeal, and for dinner I can eat whatever I would usually cook for my family, but i just take my portion and put it in the blender with some broth, or soup, or some water. My teeth are close together without any big gaps, so everything has to be perfectly blended. I bought the vita-mix blender at costco, and while it is almost $400, it has really been worth it. I love to cook, so I am toying around with lots of different combinations. I even have eaten out – although it was messy – one place had a pumpkin soup. Another place had a pureed soup, but even the tiny pieces of onion immediately clogged my teeth. I can always get by with the Naked smoothies, available at Starbucks – lots of good stuff in there and they are completely smooth. Things I watch out for: bananas are surprisingly viscous, so I only put a small amount in. It’s hard to judge how hot or cold something will be, and most things I need to be just medium. When cooking other people’s food and my food, use a different spoon! Any pieces of solid food that make their way in to mine (e.g. grains of rice) immediately clog my teeth. I basically have stopped using a straw, and drink everything from a cup. The exception is if there is something I want with little chunks, then I use a straw and pass it to the back of my mouth, where the gap where my wisdom teeth were sometimes allows it through. Good luck to anyone who happens to read this — and just remember – this is a unique adventure in life- it can be a bit fun, and not just frustrating.

    • Adam Merberg March 10, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

      Hi Josh,

      Thanks sorry for not replying sooner. I was traveling in February and fell behind with this blog.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. I especially like your last bit of advice: “this is a unique adventure in life- it can be a bit fun, and not just frustrating.”

      Best wishes for your recovery,
      Adam

  8. view pacific May 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    Nice blog. Thanks for your thoughtfulness of sharing your journey with the blender and about keeping your chin up (wired or not!)
    I had some big dental work done several years ago and had a similar experience to Jason above. Once colorful food goes through the blender, it can change into a sort of grey glop. I found after experimentation that by keeping similar colors together the food looked better, and even seemed to taste better! It meant cleaning the blender a little more often for separate courses, and yet made things more interesting.

  9. Liz May 10, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    I am going though something a little different. I dont have my jaw wired shut but I do have the arch bars on now for a week and have about 8 more to go. I am having my left joint replaced and they have to wire my jaw shut for the CT and leave the arch bars on till my surgery on the 11th of July. They make the joint to fit so it takes 6+ weeks for that alone.

    Any way I loved reading your experiences with trying to eat. I will not be wired shut but I will be on a liquid diet for several weeks after surgery and reall now I am on a soft food diet.

    Arch bars are not friendly at all.

    Liz

  10. Meeka June 29, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    I am literally freaking out! i have had my jaw wired shut for 2 weeks now and it seems like eternity. I dont know what to do. My jaw is fractured in 3 places and the doc says it can take 6- 8 weeks to heal. I dnt think i can last. I have been reading the blogs and while everyone else seems to be doing well, i keep breaking down. I am so hungry! All i want to do is cut these stupid things off and eat. I have 4 screws and some wiring in my mouth. I hate how this feels and I cant find anything new to eat. I can only drink shakes, ice cream, soup and ensure. I really need help with this. I love to eat and not being able to is killing me. I see food all day and it makes it soo much worse. I have 3 kids and i dont want them to see me like this. Im losing so much weight. Please give me some advice.

    • Adam Merberg June 29, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

      Hang in there, Meeka! Aside from this site, you might find suggestions at Jaws Wired Shut and Broken Jaw Tips. If at all possible, you may find it worthwhile to invest in a powerful blender.

      Best of luck with your recovery.

      Adam

  11. Sandy July 17, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    Last night my husband was riding his bike, hit a rough patch in the road, flew off his bike and split his chin open. He called me, I picked him up and took him to the ER where they stitched up his chin, but did not take any x-rays. At the time his jaw felt fine. Later that night and today, his jaw has become sore on one side. He’s going to call my oral surgeon in the morning and see if they can get him in for a panoramic x-ray to see if it is broken. He doesn’t seem to be in too much pain so I’m hoping its just bruised or something. Really hoping he doesn’t have to go through what I went through.

    • Adam Merberg July 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

      Broken jaw or not, that sounds nasty. I’m hoping for the best for both of you.

      • Sandy September 23, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

        Thanks Adam, sorry I forgot to respond to your reply. My husband had an x-ray it was thankfully not broken and it only hurt him for a few days. All he has to show from the accident is a broken bike seat and a scar on his chin. He showed me the graph on his phone (he uses an app that tracks speed, elevation and distance) where he went from 20 mph to 0. He was so lucky!

  12. tommy c September 7, 2011 at 7:00 am #

    ny name is tommy

    i had just broken my jaw dam what pain i hade to have 5 plats put in and had to have wired shut . ben 1week so far 5 more to go. feel a lot better today. my wife has best thing i have right nowmy true love .

  13. Kyla September 11, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    I’ve had my jaw wired shut for less than a week now. My biggest frustration is the possibility of permanent numbness in lip and chin. Can anybody give some feed-back of recovery? Feeling very down today.

    • Adam Merberg September 17, 2011 at 11:18 am #

      Hi Kyla,
      Sorry I’ve been so slow to reply. Truth be told, I still have some numbness (though more on the cheek than the lip and chin) two and a half years later, but I have heard that there are ways that doctors may be able to help with that. I haven’t bothered because the numbness doesn’t really been a problem, but I’d definitely encourage you to ask your doctor.
      Adam

      • Caitlyn December 6, 2011 at 9:46 am #

        Hi everyone, I had my jaw wired only 12 hours ago so it is still very sore. I think I can handle a liquid diet for the next 6 weeks but what I’m most worried about is permanent damage to my appearance. I’ve been told I’ll have a scar on my chin where i cut it but I’m nervous about my facial structure changing and not looking like myself

      • Adam Merberg December 10, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

        Hi Caitlyn,

        Sorry I’ve been slow to reply here. I hope your jaw is a bit less sore by now.

        I’ll be honest; my face doesn’t look exactly the same as it used to. But none of my friends or family ever had any trouble recognizing me. I’ve never had anybody comment on the difference or ask if I’ve been in an accident, but of course, it may just be that people are more tactful than that.

        I suspect that if I were to walk around with my mouth wide open all day, it would be pretty obvious. Since I don’t do that it’s pretty subtle. My chin slants a little bit (maybe a millimeter and a half from left to right?). Most people would probably notice if they were trying to, but not otherwise.

        Maybe I should do an updated photo post so you can decide for yourself. It’s been a couple of years since the last one.

        Best wishes in your recovery.

        Adam

  14. Chris January 26, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    Great blog! I really enjoyed reading it after I fractured my jaw in October. My injury was pretty similar to yours – a subcondylar fracture from a biking accident.

    I was wondering whether you had any problems with popping or shifting in your joint after you got unwired. Ever since I started eating real food again, I have had this weird popping. It is like I can bite down halfway, but then something has to shift around in the joint before I can bite the rest of the way down. This only happens when chewing something that offers a little bit of resistance (like bread for example), not if I just open and close my mouth. Since all this is happening on the side opposite to the fracture, I am guessing that it is due to something that happened while it was wired shut or by the fact that one side of my jaw is now a few millimeters shorter than the other. Anyway, I asked my oral surgeon about it, and he just said not to worry about it and not to stop chewing things. He did not seem optimistic about it getting better, but didn’t think it would cause long-term damage. That was a few weeks ago, and it has only gotten worse since then. It’s not really painful, but it is definitely unpleasant and makes eating uncomfortable. I’m just getting really frustrated and worried, and I’m not sure what I should do. I would love to hear if you experienced anything like this and how it turned out.

    • Adam Merberg January 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for commenting. I haven’t had any problems with that. However, I have read that temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD) is sometimes a complication of jaw fractures, and TMJD is sometimes characterized by popping in the jaw. Needless to say, your oral surgeon ought to know more than some guy on the internet, but it might be worth mentioning to him. If you think it might be TMJD, you might also try talking to other types of medical professionals, since TMJD is related to a number of medical disciplines.

      Best of luck with your recovery.

      Adam

  15. Nate February 24, 2012 at 1:53 am #

    Hello. I too suffered from a broken jaw. After a few weeks the soups get very repetitive :s I did try a couple things.
    I blended Campbell’s Chunky soup, it was ok. If you can get passed the texture. Haha
    I took a steak, cut off the fat, and put it into the blender with mashed potatoes and gravy. And it was actually quite good! Lol And then I started getting lazy and just doing the potatoes amd gravy, and that became my favorite! I would just add a little chicken broth until smoothed out!
    I tried Mr. Noodles … Don’t do it!!!! Hahah I almost needed to use the emergency wire-cutters when I tried that :s
    Like what Adam said about desserts, not really into them, but when you’re this limited EVERYTHING looks good! I do like chocolate though, so instead of the usual banana, strawberry, yogourt, milk smoothie. Or pineapple, kiwi, strawberry yogourt smoothie ( both are great btw) I tried putting 2 reese cups, and 2 oreo cookies in a blender. With Cookies N Cream ice cream, chocolate milk, and Nesquik. And i must say, i did enjoy that! Haha
    I Also tried making potato bacon soup. It tasted ok but ended up in the garbage :s Another good one I liked was Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato soup. And as you heat it, whisk in some small cheddar cheese cubes. But what really kept me going was the meal replacement drinks you find at GNC. It sucks, but dont be discouraged! Im just consistently making a mental list of EVERYTHING I want to eat after this is all done!!! Haha I hope everyone a great recovery! 🙂
    Take care 😉

    • Adam Merberg February 26, 2012 at 9:05 am #

      Thanks for sharing your experiences!

      • anshu July 3, 2014 at 7:36 am #

        I broke my jaw from two places, and my dentist wired shut my jaw for 6week. I was crying like hell. that i’ll not b able to talk nd eat, nd also that i ll lose the symmetry of my face.and my first two days were really bad.but this the 4th day of my jaw wired shut. the swelling nd pain is gone. I’m feeling quite better.it’s not that bad. reading ur blog made Me realize that I’m not the only one. all who gone through this.. just a big salute to u guys.this boosted my confidence level.

  16. Kalyn April 27, 2015 at 4:53 am #

    Thanks for making this blog! I didn’t break my jaw like most others who have commented, but I have dislocated my jaw four times in the past two weeks while sleeping (I accidentally take off the head wrap while I’m asleep) and my doctor is going to wire it shut today so that it can heal. I kind of have an idea of what to expect and ideas for eating for the next few weeks. Thanks!

  17. Amanda July 29, 2015 at 11:03 pm #

    Hi I just wanted to say that your story did help me in a way , I don’t have my jaw wired shut but my boyfriend does , he was jumped by 4 men and they broke his jaw, anyway he just got the surgery done and I feel completely help less cuz he loves to eat sing and talk But all I can do for him is be by his side, your story was helpful cuz I didn’t quite know what kind of blender to get until you mention the name brand, I’m a very good cook and I just happened to come up or experience in making my own blended food soups and smoothies that I like to share with you, a peanut butter banana maple pancake smoothie which is pancakes ( cooked ) butter , peanut butter ( banana is optional or can use dif fruit ) syrup , heavy cream or milk put it in blender and enjoy tastes really good! Another one I made was spaghetti soup, put spaghetti , beef broth and v8 in blender and enjoy ! Well that’s about all. Thank you for your story !

  18. Ali Darniel August 29, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

    Thanks so much for your blog, had a jaw fracture a week ago and am 5 days wired up aiidy, still got 5+ weeks to go. Was frustrated with taking just shakes and that’s when I stumbled upon your blog. It’s comforting to know that others have also been in this same situation and this just gave me a bit of peace. I look forward to trying out the different ideas posted on here, got a blender at home already so that kinda saves cost and makes things easier. Look forward to quick recovery and like someone posted earlier, this should be fun. Thanks

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