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When Do You Need an Oral Surgeon?

Oral surgeons are specialist dentists who have completed additional residency training after finishing dental school. The residency, which lasts four to six-years, is in a hospital where they train next to other medical students. They perform a wide range of surgical services, including removing impacted wisdom teeth, placing implants, and performing jaw surgery. IV sedation and general anesthesia training is also part of their studies. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are the only medical professionals trained to administer general anesthesia besides anesthesiologists. Only candidates in the top of their dental school graduating class are accepted into the oral surgery program, so you can rest assured your oral surgeon has the experience needed to fix your issues.

Is Oral Surgery the Right Option for You?

Typically, your dentist will refer you to an oral surgeon if you need more than a simple extraction or if you have another problem that wasn’t procedufixed with procedures from a dentist. Examples include:

If you have a TMJ disorder, a night guard from a dentist can often repair the problem if it’s caught early. If not, an oral surgeon may have to repair or replace the joint.

Dentists can extract visible teeth, but if the tooth never emerged from the gum, or it broke at the gumline, an oral surgeon would have to remove it.

Some dentists place implants, but if you need a bone graft first, your dentist will send you to an oral surgeon. Once the implant is in place, your family dentist can place the crown.

An oral surgeon can also treat a broken jaw or other facial bone, cleft lips, and cleft palates. They can also do corrective jaw surgery, such as correcting a severe overbites or underbites that orthodontics cannot correct.

Oral surgeons can diagnose and treat oral cancer, including tumor removal.

An oral surgeon can also treat severe sleep apnea that does not respond to conventional treatments.

Oral surgeons excel at treating facial traumas, such as broken jaws or cheekbones. They treat broken or fractured jaws from accidents by stabilizing them with screw and small plates. This recent innovation helps patients heal faster than immobilizing the jaw.

Another reason to see an oral surgeon is to receive general anesthesia. It’s the only form of true sleep dentistry. Some dentists are trained in administering IV sedation, but not all of them are.

What Should I Do Before Oral Surgery?

If your family dentist is referring you, you should ask why, and what’s likely to happen. Your oral surgeon will also go over the treatment they recommend and what your options are for anesthesia. When you come on for a pre-surgery consultation, bring your referral from your dentist and your X-rays if you have them.

You’ll go over any medications you take; you may be asked to hold off of any blood thinners or other drugs. You will also be asked about your medical history. Tell your oral surgeon if you have any conditions, like diabetes, artificial heart valves or anything else that may be a concern before surgery.

Ask for an estimate of the cost of your oral surgical procedure. During this time, you will also be able to confirm if your oral surgeon takes your dental insurance and what your out-of-pocket costs will be. In some cases, medical insurance may cover your procedure. We can help you understand if your treatment would qualify as a medical procedure.

You can get your home in order before your oral surgery to make the process less stressful. Get any medications you’ll need ahead of time. Have ice packs or bags of frozen vegetables handy to reduce swelling. Stock up on soft, cool foods you can eat, like ice cream, nutritional drinks, yogurt and more. If your oral surgeon tells you to rest for several days, arrange for someone to take care of your small children and pets.

How Do I Get Home After Oral Surgery?

If you only have local anesthesia, and possibly nitrous oxide, you can drive yourself home. Laughing gas wears off almost immediately. If you get IV sedation, where you easily drift off during your procedure, or general anesthesia, where you go completely under and have no recollection of the procedure, you should have a friend or family come with you and drive you home. With general anesthesia, you should have them stay with you for at least a few hours if you’ll be alone.

How Do I Prepare for Oral Surgery?

If you’re having IV sedation or general anesthesia, don’t eat or drink for eight hours before your procedure.

  • If you wear contacts, you cannot wear them during surgery. If you have glasses, wear them instead. You don’t want to try putting contacts back in while you’re groggy.
  • Don’t wear jewelry
  • Avoid makeup
  • Wear something comfortable with short sleeves
  • Don’t smoke for at least 12 hours before surgery
  • If you have long hair, tie it back before surgery

Your oral surgeon may give you more specific instructions about taking medication beforehand.

What Will My Diet and Lifestyle Be Like Afterward?

Everyone is different and certain procedures take longer to recover from than others. You’ll receive unique instructions, but most are similar. Always follow your oral surgeon’s instructions exactly. You’ll need to take it easy and not engage in anything strenuous for several days. Don’t lift anything heavy. Also, keep your head elevated when resting. Resting helps your body recover and keeping your head elevated helps reduce swelling and control bleeding.

If you’ve had general anesthesia, don’t drive or operate any heavy machinery for at least 24 hours, even if you feel fine. You can’t smoke for at least 24 hours after surgery. You can eat soft, cool foods the first few days, but nothing hot and no alcohol. Avoid hot and spicy soft foods, too. Good choices include cottage cheese, yogurt, smoothies, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, Ensure, Boost, and ice cream. Don’t use a straw for at least a few days as you risk dislodging the blood clot forming at the site.

Call your oral surgeon if ice and the recommended pain meds are not helping your pain and swelling. Also call if you develop a high fever after surgery. You may be developing an infection.

While our office often receives referrals from family dentists, a referral is not necessary. You can contact us directly if you need an oral surgeon in Virginia. If you have an emergency situation, like severe trauma, you should visit your local emergency room.

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