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What is Oral Surgery?

Taking care of your mouth, teeth, and jaw is critical to your overall health. For many people, this will include oral surgery.  

Oral surgery encompasses any procedure performed on your teeth, gums, jaw, or adjacent oral and facial tissues. Teeth extractions, dental bone grafts, periodontal (gum) grafts, and corrective jaw surgery are all part of it.1 

One of the most common forms of oral surgery is wisdom teeth removal. It is a procedure that millions of people get done at some point in their life. 

As with most medical procedures, a person needs to prepare for oral surgery. This will help you before, during, and after your procedure. 

When is Oral Surgery Necessary?

Oral surgery becomes necessary when a dentist or oral surgeon decides that it is the only way to fix a problem with the teeth, mouth, or jaw. They may try other traditional dental treatments first and then decide surgery is the next step. 

Here are some common types of oral surgery:

Root Canal

The surgeon will remove the infected pulp from a tooth during a root canal and clean it out. It is a procedure that helps save the natural tooth.2 

Tooth Extraction

Only complex tooth extractions require an oral surgeon. It may be necessary if the root is curved or can not be taken out easily for some reason. 

Dental Impaction

Impaction refers to a tooth that cannot erupt through the gum or grow fully. This can happen for several reasons. Most commonly, the positioning of the tooth puts another structure in its way, such as another tooth, bone, or even soft tissue.

Not all impacted teeth require oral surgery. The dentist will recommend this treatment if the tooth is causing pain or interfering with the mouth's health in some way. 

Jaw-Joint Problems

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), between 5 and 12 percent of the population suffers from temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJD).4 

Acute TMJD can require oral surgery if other treatment options fail to provide relief. 

Dental Implants

A dental implant fills the space left by one or more missing teeth. The infrastructure of an implant is post-surgically embedded into the jawbone. This post secures a prosthetic tooth that functions like a natural one.5 

In some cases, other forms of oral surgery are necessary to ensure a successful dental implant. This may include bone and tissue grafts to shore up the supporting structures to hold the post and prosthetic tooth. 

9 Ways to Prepare for Dental Surgery

You will want to follow the guideline set out by your oral surgeon before your surgery. 

Some general rules can help you prepare, though: 

1. Prepare your home for after the surgery 

This is an important, yet often overlooked, step before surgery. Your recovery will be smoother if you can come back to a clean home set up to allow you to rest.  

2. Make sure to create a comfortable place to sit or lie down after your medical procedure 

Put things like bottled water, soft foods, your favorite book, and the TV remote within easy reach. 

3. Read through your surgeon’s pre-op instructions 

It is essential to know if they will be using local or general anesthesia. In most cases, you will need to avoid eating or drinking anything for up to 10 hours before your surgery.6 

4. Set up transportation 

Whether you get a local or general anesthetic, you will likely need a ride to and from the surgery. Even nitrous oxide can impair your judgment enough that driving is out of the question.

Talk to the surgeon’s office beforehand to see if you need transportation. This will give you time to arrange it with a friend or family member. 

5. Discuss pain medication and other post-op requirements before the procedure 

If you need a prescription, ask about getting it filled ahead of time so you can go straight home after treatment. 

6. Stock up 

Eventually, you will want to eat after your surgery. Ask your dentist what your diet should include immediately afterwards and for the next few days. 

You may need to stock up on soft foods in advance. Put some ice packs in the freezer, too, to help with swelling and pain management.

7. Put out everything you need the night before 

Set out comfortable clothes (short sleeves are the best option), your schedule, and whatever you need to take with you, such as your phone or a book. 

8. Plan to arrive early at the doctor’s office 

This will give you time to fill out the paperwork before your surgery.

9. Less is more when it comes to most surgical procedures

Plan to leave home with just the necessities. That way, there are fewer things to keep track of when you go. 

What to Expect During Surgery

The surgeon's office will probably provide you with information to guide you before, during, and after your surgical procedure. Read through anything they give you carefully. Failing to follow the guidelines may mean you’ll have to reschedule. 

Make sure to wear loose-fitting clothing to the surgical office. Leave all your jewelry at home. Wear glasses and take out your contact lenses. 

When you arrive, a staff member will escort you to a surgery room. At this time, they will administer anesthesia. It may be a local anesthetic, IV sedation, or general anesthesia. This will keep you pain-free and relaxed during the procedure. 

The surgery should take only an hour or two. Afterward, they may have you stay in a recovery room for a set amount of time to ensure no complications occur. 

What to Expect After Surgery (Recovery Tips)

The recovery period will vary based on many factors, including the type of oral surgery and the healing process. You can expect to be recovering for at least a day or two. 

Your mouth may be sore, and there could be some swelling around the surgical site. The surgery team will recommend ice for the first day or two. Place the ice on your face for 10 minutes at a time. 

Expect to eat soft foods and fluids only. Keep your liquids at room temperature or lukewarm to avoid irritating your mouth. Avoid acidic foods like juices or sodas. 

Follow the dentist’s instructions for cleaning your mouth and general oral hygiene. They may want you to wait a day or two before brushing your teeth to avoid tearing any stitches or irritating your mouth. 

Follow the post-operative care instructions they provide you. In most cases, this will mean a return to the surgeon's office to check your progress. 

They will also give you information on the signs of complications, such as infection or dry socket, along with what to do if there is bleeding. 

Last updated on April 19, 2022
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on April 19, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Prepare for Oral Surgery: What You Need to Know.” Cigna. 
  2. What is a Root Canal?” American Association of Endodontists.
  3. Impacted Tooth.” Beth Israel Lahey Health Winchester Hospital Health Library.
  4. Prevalence of TMJD and Its Signs and Symptoms.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. July 2018
  5. Dental Implants: What You Should Know.” U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
  6. Preparing for IV/Oral Sedation.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
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