How to Prepare for Oral Surgery: 6 Tips to Avoid Complications and Ensure a Speedy Recovery

By Shawn Watson,

If you require oral surgery, you will want to prepare yourself so that you can undergo the procedure without complications and have a speedy recovery at home. Oral surgery is most often performed on an outpatient basis and usually involves either a general or local anesthetic.

From a patient perspective, oral surgeries should be approached in the same way as any other surgery. You need to make many of the same preparations and follow post-operative instructions to avoid the risk of infection.

Here are six simple tips that may help.

Discuss Your Surgery in Detail

It’s surprising how people will often clam up when meeting with an oral surgeon about a dental procedure. They will listen intently as they are given the rundown about the operation, anesthesia, and recovery time but avoid asking questions that they either think are silly or feel uncomfortable about.

Don’t leave anything unspoken. If you have a health condition or are undergoing a medical procedure that you haven’t discussed yet, let your surgeon know. This includes any drugs you may be taking, prescription or otherwise. The more the dentist knows, the more you can avoid complications and possible drug interactions.

If you have anxiety about any part of the procedure, such as the type of anesthesia used, ask how safe it is and whether there are alternatives that may work as well. It’s not a courtesy to know these things, it’s your right.

Finally, make sure that your insurance covers the procedure and that you’re not hit with an unhappy surprise if a claim is rejected. Work with the dental office on this and, if needed, get a written description of the procedure with ICD-10 codes to confirm coverage with your insurer.

Organize Transportation and Post-Operative Care

While this tip may seem like a no-brainer, people will often underestimate the impact of certain oral surgeries.

By and large, it is best to have a friend or family member accompany you to the office and take you home. If this is not possible, don’t fool yourself into thinking you can drive. Even local anesthesia may impair your reflexes and make you less steady at the wheel.1

If you decide to take a taxi or use an Uber-like app, don’t rush to order the service until you are told that it is safe to leave.

If you are undergoing a more complicated operation and live alone, find someone who can stay with you overnight (or, at the very least, check on you regularly). The same applies if you have kids; arrange child care or have food pre-prepared so don’t have to worry about cooking once you are at home.

If you were given general anesthesia, it generally advised that you avoid driving for 24 to 48 hours after the operation.

Know the Eating, Drinking, and Smoking Rules

If your surgeon is using an intravenous (IV) or general anesthetic, you will need to follow the same pre-operative guidelines as anyone undergoing surgery.2

Generally speaking, you should not eat or drink anything, including water, for eight to 12 hours before your surgery. If the surgery requires a local anesthetic, you may be allowed to have a light meal one to two hours in advance but be sure to brush and floss thoroughly before arriving.

Equally important is the fact that you cannot smoke for at least 12 hours before an oral surgery and a minimum 24 hours after.

Dress for the Surgery

Dress practically for your operation. Wear short-sleeved, comfortable, and loose-fitting clothing. This is especially important if you are scheduled to have an IV drip.

Although the doctor and staff will do their best to prevent staining your garments, consider wearing something that you won’t mind being ruined just in case. In addition:3

Do not wear jewelry as you may be asked to remove it prior to certain procedures.
Avoid wearing contact lenses because your eyes may remain shut for an extended period if undergoing general anesthesia.

Do not wear any makeup or lipstick (but do bring along lip balm as your lips may be chapped after the surgery).

Out of courtesy, avoid any perfumes, colognes, or body sprays.

You may also want to tie or pin your hair back if it is especially voluminous.

Plan Your Post-Operative Diet

Pre-plan a menu of soft foods that require little to no chewing. Avoid spicy or acidic foods that may irritate the gums. Protein drinks such as Boost, SlimFast, or Ensure are excellent sources of nutrition during your early recovery. Oatmeal and other quick-cook foods are also great.

While it may seem wise to do so, avoid using a straw to drink beverages, especially after a tooth extraction.4 Sucking on a straw can cause a painful condition known as a dry socket which can send you back to the dentist for additional treatment.

Know When to Cancel

While a mild cold won’t interfere with a surgery per se, it doesn’t make it any easier to perform if you are sneezing or have a runny nose. Even if the symptoms are mild, you may want to cancel if only to avoid infecting others. Call your dentist or oral surgeon to see what they advise.3

Allergies may not be a concern if you are still able to breathe and won’t have a sneezing fit mid-operation. If you are prone to allergies (especially during allergy season), take an oral antihistamine in advance and advise the surgeon that you have done so.

On the other hand, if you have symptoms of the flu (including a sore throat, fever, and muscle or body aches), cancel without hesitation. It will be difficult to perform any oral surgery if you are unable to breathe properly or are coughing.

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