Being prepared for oral surgery

Patient consulting with a dentist

Knowing what to expect during oral surgery and how to effectively recuperate can help guide you toward a speedy recovery. Oral surgery is often an outpatient procedure that requires local or general anesthesia, which means that you’ll return home shortly after your operation has been completed, with your doctor’s approval. During any preliminary appointments, ask your doctor how to prepare before and after surgery and any other questions you may have.

Recovering from oral surgery

Preparing for after-care at home before your oral surgery appointment is critical. You may have to spend a significant amount of time in bed after your surgery so set up extra pillows on the bed so that you can rest in a comfortable, reclining position. Try to find a television, magazines, and other entertainment options to keep near your recovery space. Avoid smoking while you’re recovering from oral surgery, as the sucking motion could cause bleeding or damage to the surgery site.

In some instances, you may have swelling around the surgery site. For the first couple of days after your surgery, you should put an ice pack on that area for 15 minutes at a time, and then rest for 15 minutes before putting it back on. After 24 hours, you should also start rinsing your mouth four times a day and after meals with salt water. Your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics or other medication to help you heal.

What to prepare the night before

On the night before your appointment, finalize your arrangements for transportation to and from surgery. You might not be able to drive yourself home because of the side effects of anesthesia, so it's important to get these details settled so that you won't feel anxious.

In addition, you will be required to fast the night before the surgery. Your surgeon will tell you exactly how many hours, although, eight to twelve hours is common for most outpatient oral surgeries. Most of the time, you won't be able to eat or drink anything after midnight. If you’re diabetic, however, you should eat breakfast. Take any prescribed medications the evening and morning before your surgery.

Foods that are safe to eat after oral surgery

After oral surgery, stick to soft foods, such as soups and yogurts that are rich in Vitamin A or C, for the first two days. Avoid any crunchy or hard foods, such as popcorn or pretzel sticks, for six to eight weeks.

You also should eat foods that are room temperature immediately following your surgery. Avoid hot foods and drinks while still under the influence of the anesthetic as you won't be able to feel pain, so you may burn yourself without realizing that the food is too hot. Don’t drink out of a straw or consume alcohol for the first 24 hours following your surgery.

How much healing time is needed after oral surgery?

It will take 48 hours for any swelling or discomfort to go down. During this phase of recovery, lie in bed as much as possible and don’t participate in any strenuous exercise or heavy lifting.

After those crucial 48 hours, you can expect to enter a longer-term healing phase. The length of this phase varies based on the type of surgery. Wisdom tooth extractions and other common surgeries often take one-to-two weeks to completely heal; however, any type of jaw surgery can take a month or more to completely heal.

Facts about oral surgeries

Here are 10 interesting facts you might not know about oral surgery:
  • Oral surgery practices were first developed during the Civil War. At this time in American history, both Union and Confederate dentists were experimenting with facial reconstruction procedures on injured soldiers, and were first able to successfully perform oral surgery.
  • In the 19th century, veterinary oral surgeons worked primarily on horses. In the 20th century, these surgeons began working on other animal's teeth.
  • Oral surgeons repair cleft palates and remove benign tumors from the mouth, as well as perform tooth extractions and root canals.
  • Some oral surgeons perform complicated facial reconstructions or other cosmetic surgeries. These surgeries can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • If you are an oral surgery patient, you could possibly get procedures covered by using a combination of dental insurance and health insurance.
  • Oral surgeons do jaw surgery to correct serious overbites that cannot be corrected via orthodontics or to relieve pain from a chronic jaw condition called Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
  • If you have a tumor or a cleft palate, oral surgery can allow you to have a normal life or prevent you from serious complications.
  • If you are badly injured in an accident, oral surgeons can reconstruct your jaw and implant missing teeth.
  • If you need a bridge or an implant, you'll need an oral surgeon to help you.
  • There is a lot of overlap between oral surgery and other dental specialties. Talk to your dentist to find out which specialist you should see to handle your tooth problems.

If you need to have a wisdom tooth removed, require jaw surgery, or a root canal, you need to schedule an appointment to see an oral surgeon. While oral surgery can be painful and anxiety provoking, everything should go smoothly if you prepare in advance and carefully follow instructions for your after-care. Your oral surgeon should tell you exactly what to expect and how long it takes to recover from the surgery. Just remember to follow his directions and take enough time to recover so that you can heal fast and avoid complications.

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