Some people are lucky when it comes to teeth. They may not get cavities often, if at all. They never lose a tooth due to accident or disease. In some cases, they don't even have wisdom teeth.
Unfortunately, most people aren't so lucky. Even when they diligently brush and floss, they still face occasional cavities, lost teeth, and wisdom tooth extractions. They might develop an inner-tooth infection. Or, they may deal with other oral problems that don't resolve quickly.
When patients face these dental problems and others like them, their dentist may recommend an oral surgery procedure such as:
- Impacted tooth removal (for wisdom teeth)
- Dental implant insertion (for missing teeth)
- Jaw surgery (for misaligned bite and other issues)
- Bone grafts (for pre-implants or other issues)
- TMJ surgery (for TM disorders)
- Oral lesion removal (for oral cancer)
- Infection drainage (for RCT or other issues)
- Laser surgery (for sleep apnea and other issues)
- Tooth and facial injury correction (for accident recovery)
These are only a few reasons for oral surgery, either minor or major. But don't worry: if your dentist recommends a surgical procedure, he or she will tell you exactly what to expect. In the meantime, pay attention to the following dos and don'ts before—and after—your surgery.
Pre-Surgical Dos and Don'ts
Once you know more about your surgical options, you'll also receive important pre-surgical instructions. Even if your procedure is a minor one, it will go more smoothly if you pay attention to the following tips.
- Tell your dentist about other medications you take now, particularly if they contain an anti-coagulant (blood thinner).
- Take an antibiotic if your dentist so instructs you (for instance, if you have infected root canals).
- Tell your dentist if you have any other physical conditions that may interfere with the procedure.
- If your surgery involves general anesthesia, assign a friend or family member to drive you to and from your dental appointment.
- Eat spicy, hot, or hard foods that may irritate your gums.
Also, if your procedure involves general anesthesia, do not
- Eat or drink anything after midnight prior to the day of surgery (you may have a small sip of water if you must take critical medication, but nothing else).
- Wear makeup, contact lenses, jewelry, or nail polish.
Post-Surgical Dos and Don'ts
Although your post-surgical activities will depend on the procedure, most dentists recommend the following tips to help you recover from an oral surgery.
- Keep gauze compresses in place as instructed by your dentist.
- Apply an ice pack to swollen areas as needed.
- Bite gently onto a wet tea bag or gauze pad if you experience minor bleeding.
- Take pain medications as recommended by your dentist (usually ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a painkiller prescribed by the dentist).
- Take antibiotics, if prescribed.
- In the day following surgery, carefully rinse your mouth two or three times with a warm saline solution.
- Eat soft foods, chewing on the opposite side of the mouth from the surgical site.
- Rest as much as you can, particularly following a tooth extraction or implant surgery.
- Use a straw to drink fluids. This suction can interfere with proper healing (it may also cause a condition called 'dry socket').
- Drink hot beverages or eat hot foods. Cold foods are easier on the surgical site. Also, avoid hard and/or sticky foods.
- Drink alcohol or smoke tobacco.
- Brush or floss near the surgical/extraction site. Once your mouth has healed for a longer time, resume your normal dental hygiene routine.
- Try to open your jaw widely. First, allow a few days for swelling to diminish.
- Be worried about swelling and bruising. This is normal for tooth extractions, impactions, and implant surgeries. Most of these symptoms disappear within a week following surgery.
- Don't exercise excessively, if at all, in the first few days after an oral surgery (however, this depends on the seriousness of the procedure).
Even a minor dental surgery can feel painful. Remember, it's okay to relax for a while after your surgery. In most cases, your healing depends on giving yourself a little TLC.
It's also normal to feel some pain after your anesthesia wears off. No one person is alike in pain perception, so be patient if your pain lasts longer than you think it should. If you're concerned about the pain's intensity or duration, talk to your dentist.
Meanwhile, follow your dentist's instructions precisely regarding medication dosage. This is particularly important if you're prescribed a narcotic pain medication.
You can also alleviate discomfort by using a warm compress; however, if you do this, wait until at least 24 hours following surgery. Try wrapping a warm towel around a heating pad or water bottle. Remember, the heat needs to be warm, not hot (otherwise, it can burn unprotected skin).
If you experience nausea, fever, or unalleviated pain or swelling, call your dentist right away. Your dentist may have other recommendations to help you both before and after oral surgery. Don't be afraid to ask!