Preparing for Dental Surgery: Overview, Risks & Recovery

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How to Prepare for Dental Surgery

Are you planning for dental surgery? We know it’s not really something anyone looks forward to. Although, we also know that by planning ahead and being prepared for surgery, you will improve your overall experience. This includes your post-op pain and risks for complications!

Dental surgeries vary widely. Some require longer healing periods, while others are more invasive with a higher risk for complications. Regardless of the type of surgery you need, understanding your role and planning accordingly will give you a better experience. In this article, we will discuss the most important factors you need to consider before undergoing dental surgery.

Status of Your Overall Health

This is the most important factor to consider when preparing for any type of surgery. Sadly, it’s also the most neglected. Depending on your current state, it could take several weeks or months to prepare for dental surgery with the best prognosis. This is because your overall health plays a large role in the body’s ability to heal.

It makes sense when you think of your body’s immune system as an army. When you undergo surgery, it has to fight a battle in order to heal. If you are also suffering from other medical conditions, your army is fighting battles on multiple fronts, which makes it rather ineffective. There are certain medical conditions that specifically impair the body’s ability to heal. 

The general rule is this: Get your body to the healthiest state possible before undergoing any kind of surgery.

If you have medical conditions, see your doctor and make sure they are well controlled. You may need to adjust medications, make more progress with exercise or diet, or work with your doctor further. Here are some specific conditions that can have a big impact on dental surgeries.


Most diabetic patients know that one of the complications of their disease is delayed or impaired wound healing. Surgery creates a wound, and your body needs to heal from it. People with diabetes struggle with healing from injuries and surgeries, and the ability to heal is directly related to how well controlled their blood sugar is. We recommend seeing your endocrinologist for thorough bloodwork before undergoing dental surgery. For example, your dentist will want you to reach a specific HbA1C level prior to placing dental implants because of how great an impact blood sugar has on implant success rates.


Smoking cigarettes also impairs the body’s ability to heal by constricting blood flow. Blood is necessary to bring healing cells to the site of injury or surgery. Smokers have a much higher rate of post-operative complications like infections, dry socket, and dental implant failure. If you are preparing for dental surgery, you should stop smoking at least two weeks prior to the procedure.

Nutritional Deficiencies

If you’re not sure how healthy you are, see your medical doctor for a physical exam with bloodwork. One of the other common causes of delayed healing is a nutritional deficiency. The body needs an array of vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins in order to heal properly. 

Make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced, low-sugar diet prior to and following your surgery!


Prescription medications don’t just affect the condition they were prescribed to treat. They have side effects. Often, they can affect an aspect of your dental surgery. There are certain medications you may need to stop (with your doctor’s permission) prior to surgery. There are others that could require a dosage adjustment. Although, you are not responsible for figuring all of this out. You are simply responsible for making sure you’ve communicated your exact medical history to your dentist prior to any surgery. He or she will work with your medical doctor and recommend any necessary adjustments.

Then your job is to strictly follow their instructions regarding these medications. The same goes for post-operative medications. Take them exactly as prescribed for the best outcome.

Preparing for Sedation

Some dental surgeries are minor enough that no sedation is necessary. However, due to a wide range of anxieties and fears expressed by patients, you can choose sedation for any procedure in most dental practices. If you choose to be sedated, whether through an oral medication (a pill) or an IV, you MUST strictly follow all instructions before your surgery. The sedative medications can interact with other drugs, so do not take anything that hasn’t been approved by your dentist.

If you choose sedation, expect to be out that entire day. You shouldn’t respond to emails or text messages to anyone other than close loved ones. In addition, you definitely don’t want to go to work, as you will still be pretty loopy. (Often, sedated patients insist they are “fine” and need to take a call for work. This only results in embarrassment and apologies. Just take the day off.)

Time Off & Recovery After Dental Surgery

Every person is a little different. Your dentist will be able to give you an idea of what the average patient experiences with the same procedure, but always understand that you could be better or worse than the average.

Here are some great questions to ask, in order to plan how much time you take off:

  • Is there a specific minimum amount of time I must take off work? (For example, if you’re being sedated, you would take a minimum of one day off.)
  • How long should I expect to be in pain or discomfort?
  • How long should I expect to take prescription pain medication that could affect driving or work performance?
  • What dietary restrictions will I have, and for how long?
  • Will I have trouble speaking normally? If so, for how long?

One helpful tactic for planning time off for dental surgery is to schedule the surgery for a Friday and return to work on Monday. Then you only miss one day of work but get three full days of rest after the procedure.

What’s the Takeaway?

  1. Be as healthy as possible before and after surgery of any kind.
  2. Follow all of your instructions to the letter.
  3. Always be prepared.
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