So, your dentist has recommended that you need to have dental surgery. Perhaps you are having some teeth removed or having gum surgery. Knowing what to expect ahead of time will help you be prepared so that the treatment procedure and subsequent healing phase can be as successful as possible.
There are benefits and risks inherently involved with all surgeries – medical or dental. Communication is key to understanding why you need this treatment, the specifics of the procedure and on how best to prepare and recover.
The following instructions are provided to help you prepare for most oral surgeries, however, your dentist may provide you with additional suggestions.
- This will be your preliminary appointment to discuss the surgery being performed. If you have been referred to another dental office or specialist and the office staff has not contacted you to confirm this appointment make sure that you do to verify the date, time and location of this consult appointment.
- Ensure that all records, including radiographs (x-rays) have already been sent and received. Sometimes, additional x-rays may need to be taken.
- Discuss the manner of payment and bring your dental insurance information so that a claim can prepared for you.
- We always advise that you write down any questions you may have so that you can make the most of your time with the dentist and avoid having to call again. Sometimes. a patient likes to bring a trusted family member or friend to this appointment for support and to help write down the information and instructions being discussed for future recall.
- Understand fully the type of anesthesia the dentist recommends for the treatment procedure and ensure that they have your current medication list and an updated medical and dental history on file. Your dentist wants to avoid any unexpected reactions or side effects, so it is especially important to inform your dentist if you have any artificial joints, artificial heart valves/stents, have ever had bacterial endocarditis or need antibiotics before dental treatment. If you take blood thinners, discuss what steps you need to take to discontinue their use before surgery and when to resume taking them.
- Understand fully how to prepare for the type of anesthesia the dentist recommends for the treatment procedure. If you will having your surgery under general anesthetic you are likely going to have a fasting period before your treatment, so understand how this will affect you if you are diabetic or take medications. Diabetic patients should inform their family physicians about their upcoming surgery and ensure there are no additional/contrary instructions further to the what their dentists have already advised.
- If the dentist will be prescribing you medication for before and/or after your treatment, you may wish to get the prescription given to you at this appointment and filled by the pharmacy the day before your procedure so that you do not have to run this errand after your appointment. Understand the instructions for taking any medication prescribed.
- Discuss the type of pain medication you will require after surgery and the expected level of discomfort.
- Ask if there are any known side effects to the medication you will be receiving. Women should know that antibiotics can reduce the effectiveness of birth control so discuss this with your dentist.
- Discuss the need to arrange for someone to accompany you on your treatment day and also be available to transport you back home.
- Ask the dentist if there are any restrictions he/she advises for you i.e.. activity, work, diet etc…
- Discuss any concerns or fears you may have prior to your appointment so that your dentist understands fully your worries and level of anxiety and can address these issues with you while offering suggestions.
- If you smoke, tell your dentist.
- Ask for an employment/school absence letter in advance and ask that it be ready the day of your appointment just in case you may need to take a few days off from your normal routine during your healing time.
- Will you be given the dental office after hours telephone contact number in case you have any recovery questions? Ask them what to expect when you call this number. Will you just be speaking with an answering service who may have limited capabilities in answering your questions or will you be able to contact the dentist directly?
- Lastly, at Your Smile Dental Care, we follow up any surgeries with “Care Calls” to our patients or their designated caregiver. If your office does this, make sure they have a reliable telephone number for you and that they know the name of your appointed advocate who can speak with the dentist on your behalf should you be unable.
Here are some sample questions you may want to ask your dentist:
- How many teeth need to be removed? or What type of surgery is being preformed?
- What type of anesthesia will I receive?
- How complicated do you expect the procedure to be?
- How long is the procedure likely to last?
- Is it possible that the surgery can cause damage to other teeth?
- What is the likelihood of nerve damage?
- Will I need stitches?
- Will I need further treatment afterwards?
- Do I need to fast before surgery, if so how long? or When should my last meal be before surgery?
- Can I take my normal, daily medications day of surgery and when? (before and afterwards)
- How long should normal recovery take?
- What type of pain medication will I require after surgery?
- When can I resume normal activity?
- When can I return to work or school?
- Will there be restrictions on activity?
- What kind of a diet do you recommend after surgery and for how long?
- Should I expect to feel pain after the anesthetic wears off?
- When should I arrive at the office and is the dentist typically on time for procedures?
- Will I need to make arrangements for someone to drive me home after the procedure?
- May I bring a friend along for support?
- What is the office after hour emergency telephone number? Who will I be speaking with?
- What if I need to postpone my surgery; how much notice am I able to give without penalty?
- What if I feel unwell day of surgery?
Day before appointment
- On the night before your appointment, finalize your arrangements for transportation to and from surgery and pick up your prescription if you haven’t done so already.
- Clear your calendar for at least 24-36 hours following your surgery to avoid any unnecessary stress or activity.
- If you have small children that you normally care for daily, make arrangements for someone to help care for them the day of your surgery and during your initial recovery time. Consult your dentist to determine the length of time you will need childcare.
- Prepare a recovery room in your home to ensure that you will have a comfortable resting place with extra pillows. Have hand towels for pillow protection, extra pillows for head elevation, Kleenex, lip balm, and any entertainment electronics/books you may wish to have with you as your recuperate.
- Prepare a “medical waste” garbage for you to place bloodied gauze or facial wipes into.
- A trusted friend or loved one should be with you at home for at least the first 24-36 hours after surgery. Make sure they know and understand your dentist’s instructions, know where to find and dispense your medication and will be there to help prepare your foods and beverages.
- You may be advise to apply cold compresses to your healing area. You can get a DIY Ice Pack instructions here. Never use ice packs while asleep!
- Ensure that you have already done your grocery shopping for the foods and beverages you will need if a soft diet has been recommended for you. We have prepared a great list of soft foods in our blog, “50 Soft Foods.” We hope that there is something for everyone on this list.
- If you have been given and received your post surgery medication, have it ready in a handy place with any written instructions the dentist has given to you.
- Have the dental office emergency number on hand in case you need to call your dentist.
- If you are a friend or family member who will be bringing in a patient who resides in a long-term care facility, ensure that the staff who care for this individual has been fully briefed on all the details and understand their responsibilities.
- Your dental team wants to be prepared for your day of surgery also so that things will go smoothly. To help them avoid the unexpected, if you have any last minute questions or concerns now is the time to call your dental office – not the day of surgery. This will allow the dental staff to pass on your questions to the dentist and return you call before the day of surgery.
Day of appointment
- Take your daily medications unless your dentist has advised you otherwise.
- Eat a light, nutritious meal 1-2 hours before the procedure if you are receiving a local anesthetic unless your dentist has advised you otherwise. Follow doctor’s meal instructions if you are having another type of anesthesia.
- Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing to your appointment that you don’t mined getting soiled if something accidently stains your garment. If you are having intravenous, wear a top with short sleeves so that the dental team can access the veins in your arm. Avoid wearing jewellery especially if it occupies your tongue or lip. Avoid lipstick and heavy makeup, although some Vaseline or lip balm is a good idea as sometimes your lips can become chapped during a long procedure.
- Let the dental team know if you are very anxious. Deep breathing exercises may help to calm you down and relieve some of your tension. Unless instructed otherwise, do not arrive too early for your appointment. If the office is typically always on time, you need only arrive 5-10 minutes before your appointment time. This way you can avoid some of the anxiety that occurs when made to wait a long time.
- Give the dental staff the telephone number you can be reached at after hours and designated an person to speak or advocate on your behalf. Make sure you have their after hours emergency contact number.
- Obtain your employment/school absence letter if you have asked for one.
Oral surgery is often different from other routine treatments because the procedure is usually more complicated with more preparation and recovery is needed. Planning for your recovery is just as important as the surgery itself. The first few days after the procedure is a crucial period and it is very important that you follow your dentist’s home care instructions exactly so that your recovery can be as predictable as possible and pass by more quickly. If you have any uncertainties, do not hesitate to call your dental office.
And lastly, understand that the recommendations your dentist gives to you may be different those listed above. Always consult your own dentist about their preferences for your, specific to you, needs. Each person’s circumstance are unique and only your own dentist is qualified to answer your questions.
Thanks for reading and have a safe and speedy recovery,
The Your Smile Dental Care team