In the past, those with dental pain or abnormalities had to live with the uncomfortable complications or have the damaged teeth pulled. Today, the development of surgical repair and reconstruction techniques allow modern dentists to try to save damaged teeth or correct structural abnormalities.
It is important to keep in mind, though, that oral surgeons do not fully control the outcome of the procedure. As a patient, you also play a role in the success of modern dental surgeries by carefully following the dentist’s pre and post-op instructions. Here are several key pieces to consider to ensure your oral surgery is a success.
Oral Surgery Procedures
Oral surgeons regularly perform operative procedures to treat conditions affecting the teeth, gums, and jawbone. These operations may also be carried out to correct bite issues or to install dental prosthetics. Oral surgeries used to relieve pain and restore oral health include the following.
- Apicoectomy: Tooth root apex removal
- Root Canal: Removal of infected pulp and chamber filling
- Extractions: Complex removal of impacted or damaged teeth, including the wisdom teeth
- Fiberotomy: Disconnection of gingival fibers
- Maxillary Osteotomy: Correction of the upper jawbone
- Mandibular Osteotomy: Correction of the lower jawbone
- Cystectomy: Removal of dental cysts in oral cavity
Crowns, bridges, veneers, and implants are all placed as needed using modern oral surgery practices. Placement procedures for prosthetics often require the shaping of adjacent teeth, tissue removal, or preparation of the bone. These patients need to be anesthetized, monitored, and supported through recovery as with other complex surgical procedures.
Your dentist will determine the best type of anesthetic to use to control pain and discomfort throughout the surgery. In many cases, surgeons opt to use a combination of medications to keep you comfortable and calm.
Local anesthetics are injected or applied near the location of the required procedure to numb the entire nerve root in that area. Nitrous oxide is often used in conjunction with local anesthetics to act as a mild sedative. General anesthesia is used for long, complex procedures or patients with severe dental anxiety. The surgeon must weigh the risks and benefits of each option to find the best one for your situation.
Whenever anesthetics are involved, doctors help ensure you respond favorably to the medication by using pre-operative preparations. You may need to follow one or all of the listed preparation procedures to arrive at your surgical appointment ready to go.
Certain medications can interact dangerously with the anesthetics and may impact your breathing, heart rate, or other bodily systems. Other medications can thin the blood and increase the risk of excessive bleeding during surgery. Your board certified maxillofacial surgeon will go over your medication list and indicate how far before the surgery to stop taking each one.
You may need to stop eating at midnight the night before your surgery to avoid feeling nauseous during the procedure. Anesthetic medications can often make your stomach feel upset, or cause vomiting if it’s not empty. Your dentist will indicate if you also need to halt the intake of fluids, including water.
You should floss and brush your teeth like normal the night before surgery. You may need to avoid using mouthwash products, including sea salt rinses, the night before your surgical appointment.
Your Pennsylvania dentist will use a variety of tools to access and repair your damaged or diseased oral structures. You may feel pressure throughout the surgery if you are not under general anesthesia, but you should not feel any actual pain. If you do, avoid the urge to jump up or squirm. Instead, raise your hand to get your surgeon’s attention. Your surgeon will adjust the anesthetics and test for a pain-free surgical site before resuming.
Barring severe complications, you should be able to return home the same day as your surgery. Your recovery team will monitor your vital signs to make sure respiratory and circulatory systems are working as expected. Once the wooziness of the anesthetic medication decreases, you may be released to go home. Since the medication continues to work for several hours after surgery, you will need to have someone drive you home.
You will likely feel a little pain for the first few hours after surgery – or until the anesthetic medication fully wears off. You may notice the surgical site bleeding slightly for a day or two after the procedure, so expect to be sent home with gauze to absorb the excess blood and saliva. Avoid spitting, using straws, or smoking after surgery, as that could displace the blood clot and cause an extremely painful dry socket to develop. Plan to rest as much as possible for the week after surgery to keep bleeding and pain to a minimum.
Your dentist will typically send you home with medications designed to decrease pain and inflammation. You must take these medications on schedule until your pain drops to a manageable level. If the medication does not work, you can return to the dentist to discuss alternative options. You may also be able to utilize topical analgesics to reduce pain along the gum line.
After surgery, plan on maintaining a soft or liquid diet to avoid increasing your pain levels. You may also need to avoid hot foods for at least 24 hours after oral surgery. You will likely receive a list of acceptable foods to eat while in recovery. For most people this list will include cold soup, yogurt, gelatin cups, ice cream, pureed fruit, and non-carbonated beverages. Avoid crunchy or hard foods for up to eight weeks, depending on the surgery type.
You will need to return to the dentist for a post-operative checkup several days to a week after your procedure. Your dentist will perform a visual examination of your surgical site to note any signs of infection and to verify the location is healing properly. You should note any recovery-related problems you are having during this appointment to allow your surgeon to identify a suitable solution.
With this comprehensive accounting of the oral surgery process, you can confidently face the procedure and provide yourself with the best aftercare during the recovery period. If you are in need of dental care or a surgical consultation, make an appointment with your well-qualified Pennsylvania oral surgeon today.