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Could Oral Surgery Trigger a Relapse in Your Eating Disorder?

Working with so many adolescents and young adults with eating disorders we are frequently presented with the dilemma that patients, in treatment for their eating disorder,

might need to get their wisdom teeth out (or have an oral surgery). We have seen this surgery derail #recovery for some (irrespective of diagnosis or weight!!!) and here are some things to consider before scheduling that surgery:

1. Is the patient medically stable?

Surgery is always risky, but does the patient have stable and consistent enough vitals to ensure both surgery and post-surgery should there be difficulties eating (which are very likely).

2. Can the patient imagine themselves successfully following the post surgery diet, necessary after the wisdom teeth are removed? This includes soft foods and liquids like ice cream, smoothies, shakes, yogurts…? If that alone is too anxiety provoking, then stop right there and proceed no further. A patient has to be ready to be able to fuel themselves during this time, and “not eating” or “undereating” should not be considered as a viable option, even if temporary. We have seen this be a very slippery slope, which can lead to dangerous consequences.

3. The dangers of altering one’s diet: Changing one’s diet is incredibly triggering for most people with an eating disorder. Even if #1 and #2 sound okay, you might want to consider how altering your diet might affect you.....The mindset might become, “ooh, I ate a little less on Tuesday, so I now I won’t eat that much today….” And before you know it, the #eatingdisorder has swept in. This is often surprising and distressing to the patient, and family, who are surprised at how the eating disorder resurfaced so quickly.

It may never feel like there is the "right time" to get your wisdom teeth out. But the best time would be when life is least stressful, not during a major transition, not in peak sports season, when mood feels most stable, when you have support around you, not during a big move, or a major life event etc.

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