How to Prepare for Oral Surgery


If you’re planning on an upcoming surgical treatment with your dentist, you’ve likely spent a lot of time deciding whether or not to move forward with the procedure and may even feel a bit anxious about it. Now that you’ve decided that the time and monetary investment is worth it, there are a few things you should do to prepare for oral surgery.

What Types of Dental Procedures are Considered Surgical?

Some of the most common types of oral surgery offered by dentists (or specialists) include:

  • Wisdom teeth extraction
  • Dental implant placement
  • Gum grafting
  • Bone augmentation
  • Sinus lifts
  • Crown lengthening

Because each of these treatments impact the soft or bony structures of your oral anatomy, they are more invasive than having a filling or getting a dental crown. As such, they are coded as surgical procedures by healthcare providers and insurance carriers.

Choose the Right Provider for the Job

Depending on the type of oral surgery that you need, you may want to discuss having your dentist refer you to a specialist, such as an oral surgeon or periodontist. Your dentist may be able to offer certain types of surgical procedures in his or her office, but this will depend on his or her training, experience, and resources.

Keep in mind that having your procedure performed by a specialist will typically cost more than it would in a general practice setting, but the experience is likely to be more efficient overall. This is because specialists are experts in these key areas, with resources such as newer or advanced technology that may not be available in a family practice setting.

Review Your Medical History with Your Dentist

One of the most common misconceptions about dentistry is that it doesn’t matter if your dentist knows about other health conditions that you’re living with. This is untrue. Your dental provider should be made aware of recent hospitalizations, past surgeries, medications or supplements that you are taking, and other health issues. This is especially true if you’ve been seeing the same dentist for awhile – make sure your medical record is up-to-date.

Because the oral-systemic connection is extremely strong, your overall health can significantly affect how you respond to specific types of oral surgeries. Failing to disclose a particular situation or medical need could result in dangerous and/or unwanted complications or side-effects during your procedure.

Follow Home Care Instructions Precisely

From smoking to drinking through a straw, it’s important to avoid certain activities so that you heal and recover as quickly as possible. Your dentist will provide you with a written list of instructions to keep in mind during your recovery. Otherwise, surgeries may not “take” or side-effects such as dry sockets may develop. In addition to causing unnecessary discomfort, you may cause the surgical procedure to fail altogether.

Have Someone Drive You Home

Depending on how complex your procedure is, your dentist may use a sedative to ensure your comfort. Conscious sedation or IV general anesthesia cause lingering drowsiness after dental procedures. Although you can drive yourself home after receiving a mild analgesic such as nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) you cannot drive if you received something stronger. Be sure to have someone that you trust escort you both to and from your appointment and stay with you at home until the initial drowsiness of the sedatives wear off.

Take Medications as Prescribed

Will you be taking a prescription pain reliever or antibiotic? Follow the dosage instructions and take the medication as prescribed. Failing to complete a round of antibiotics can contribute to drug resistance and increase your chance of a recurring infection. Your dentist may recommend an over the counter pain reliever instead of a prescription narcotic, depending on how simple the surgery is.

Give Yourself a Few Days to Recover

When you get home, you’ll want to have things set up to keep comfortable while you recover. Consider stocking up on soft foods such as pudding or ice cream, fluids to stay hydrated, and pillows to prop yourself up on the couch.

The number of days you need to take off of work will depend on the type of surgery that you’re having. Be sure to ask your dentist what is to be expected, as some procedures may only require one day of down time while others need up to a week.

Find Out if it’s Covered by Your Insurance

Oral surgeries often fall under either medical or dental insurance plans, depending on the nature of the procedure. For instance, wisdom teeth removal may be coded as a dental extraction, but the anesthesia falls under medical benefits. Be sure to review all of the procedures listed on your treatment plan to determine if they are covered by the plan that you carry.

If you do not have insurance coverage, a Cigna dental savings plan can save you 15-50% off of treatments such as oral surgery without a deductible or maximum annual limit. Speak to one of the discount experts at Cigna Dental Plans to learn more.

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