Finding out that you or your child needs oral surgery can bring questions and uncertainty for anyone. It can also be surprising to have the subject of oral surgery brought up during a dental appointment — particularly if you have never undergone or had to consider a procedure before.
From wanting to know how extensive a procedure is to how to prepare for recovery, it’s understandable to want to know what to expect. This guide is here to provide a basic explanation of oral surgery, including the types, common procedures, how to be prepared for a procedure, and what recovery is usually like.
What is Oral Surgery?
Oral surgery, also called oral and maxillofacial surgery, is a term that encompasses a wide range of procedures performed on any structures of the mouth and immediate surrounding facial area. This can include the jaw, gums, teeth and other areas. Oral surgery is usually performed by a dental specialist such as a periodontist, endodontist, or prosthodontist.
Patients of all ages undergo oral surgery for a variety of reasons, such as for broken or seriously decayed teeth, gum disease, jaw disorders, and certain forms of cancer. Oral surgery can range from simple procedures with minimal local anesthesia to relatively major surgery that requires a lengthy recovery period.
Types of Oral Surgery
Types of oral surgery depend on where the procedure is performed and how extensive the operation is. Oral surgery types can include tooth surgery, gum surgery, and jaw surgery that can encompass minor extractions or repairs to full jaw reconstruction or tumor removal.
Common Oral Surgery Procedures
Some of the most commonly performed oral surgery procedures include:
- Tooth Extraction: Tooth extraction, including baby tooth removal in pediatric dentistry, is the most common form of oral surgery. This involves a specialist removing a tooth due to severe tooth decay, fracture, or being impacted.
- Root Canal: Also called endodontic surgery, root canals help to save teeth with damaged or infected pulp and roots. This procedure involves carefully detaching an infected tooth while the surgeon goes in to clean out and disinfect the nerves, blood vessels, and other soft tissue. Root canals have become far less painful and more streamlined in recent years due to advances in surgical technology and techniques.
- Jaw Alignment Surgery: Also called orthognathic surgery, this can be required if orthodontic treatments such as braces and headgear are not sufficient to fix severe jaw misalignment. During alignment surgery, the surgeon will carefully reshape and reposition the jaw to promote proper alignment.
- Cleft Lip and Palate Surgery: If a baby’s lip and palate do not form properly due to a birth defect, surgery to join the anatomy together may be required. This usually involves small incisions and stitching to encourage normal lip, nose, and palate function.
Other types of oral surgery can include gum surgery, dental bone grafts, and dental implants.
Benefits of Oral Surgery
The benefits of oral surgery can depend on the specific procedure a patient undergoes. These can include:
- Pain relief
- Improved health and reduced risk of infection
- Reduced risk of tooth decay and tooth loss
- Reduced risk of gum disease
- Better jaw alignment
- Reduced need for orthodontic treatment
- More effective orthodontic treatment
Preparing for Oral Surgery
Patients will usually be screened for oral surgery during routine dental visits and examinations. If a dentist identifies a problem, such as an impacted or severely decayed tooth treatable through oral surgery that cannot be addressed through more conservative options, oral surgery will be recommended. Additionally, more immediate or even emergency dental surgery may be needed in situations where there is an injury, infection, or severe pain.
Your oral surgeon will give you detailed instructions to follow before you or your child’s procedure that you should always follow. Patients should generally prepare the home for rest and recovery as much as possible. Transportation to and from the surgery site should also be arranged.
Recovering from Oral Surgery and What to Eat
The length and difficulty of the oral surgery recovery process is also highly dependent on the specific procedure. Minor tooth extractions and root canals may only need a couple of days to recover with minor discomfort, while extensive jaw reconstruction may need a month or longer.
Patients should follow all postsurgical instructions, take any prescribed medications as directed, and get plenty of rest. Ice packs can be used to help with inflammation and pain, and in most cases, patients will be advised to use a warm salt water rinse instead of brushing to keep teeth clean and free of bacteria.
Most oral surgeons and dentists recommend eating soft foods that are at room temperature, although you will be given specific dietary instructions for your or your child’s procedure. Commonly recommended foods include:
- Mashed potatoes
Generally, patients will be advised to avoid crunchy, salty, chewy, and hard foods, as well as straws.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry
Going to the dentist or orthodontist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!