What is Oral Surgery & When Do You Need it?

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Shot of a young woman with dentist in a dental surgery. Healthcare, medicine.

When a dentist mentions “oral surgery,” many patients begin to panic. The patient may be thinking that there is something seriously wrong with them that they are going to be undergoing a dangerous, painful, and expensive procedure.

The truth is, however, that many oral surgery procedures are commonplace and address conditions that many people experience, such as impacted wisdom teeth, sleep apnea or tooth loss. While every case is different, many of these procedures are completed on an outpatient basis, and patients can resume work or normal activities within a few days.

It’s also true that many dentists will recommend that you see an oral surgeon because the dentist wants to ensure that you are getting the best care possible. In some cases, the surgeon may advise you in your dentist that there are other, nonsurgical, treatments available. If you are extremely apprehensive about a referral to an oral surgeon, talk to your dentist. He or she can provide reassurance and more information about why they’ve made this recommendation.

Below are some common questions regarding oral surgeons and oral surgery:

What is Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery?

Oral and maxillofacial surgery is surgery that is performed on the tissues of your mouth, including your teeth and gums, or, in the case of maxillofacial surgery, in your jaw, head, or face.

What are the Most Common Types of Oral Surgery?

Oral surgeons are called upon to perform a variety of procedures, as well as to provide consultations in situations where general dentists may be unsure as to whether surgical treatment is necessary. Here are some of the most common types of oral surgery:

Impacted Wisdom Tooth Removal

While some people have no problem with their wisdom teeth, it is not uncommon for these third molars to become impacted, or trapped, due to not fully erupting or misalignment. Over time, and impacted wisdom tooth can become painful and eventually lead to misalignment of the other teeth. In addition, food can easily become trapped around wisdom teeth, contributing to gum disease and tooth decay.

In some cases, your regular dentist can remove a wisdom tooth, but impacted teeth may require specialist care from an oral surgeon.

Sleep Apnea Treatment

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that requires treatment. While there are several options for treating this condition, including the use of a mouthguard or a special machine that helps keep the airway open at night, surgery is an option for some people. An oral surgeon can remove excess tissue from the back of your throat, clearing the airway and lessening symptoms significantly.

Reconstructive and Jaw Surgery

Maxillofacial surgeons are trained to diagnose problems with jaw alignment as well as injuries that may require surgical intervention. Reconstructive and jaw surgery can not only improve a patient’s appearance, it can also relieve pain and help the patient be able to chew food normally.

Dental Implants

Dental implants are an option for treating tooth loss. During a dental implant procedure, small posts are placed in the patient’s tooth sockets and allowed to heal. Next, artificial teeth are screwed on to these posts, resulting in permanent replacements that look and feel like natural teeth.

Do Oral Surgeons Have Special Training?

Yes. In the United States, oral surgeons have, at minimum, completed a four-year residency in oral surgery after completing dental school. Some oral surgeons may have a medical degree instead of a dentistry degree.

What Should I Expect if I have Oral Surgery?

Your oral surgeon will provide you with information about what you need to do before having surgery, arrangements that you may need to make for your care after the procedure, and what kind of medications you may need to take.

If you undergo general anesthesia, your oral surgeon may ask you to not consume any food or beverages starting the night before your surgery. In such cases, your surgery will often be scheduled early in the morning to reduce discomfort from hunger and thirst.

You may also be instructed to have a friend or relative accompany you to the office, as it may not be safe for you to drive after your procedure.  When you enter the procedure room, feel free to ask your oral surgeon and hygienist any questions that you may have. They will explain to you what will happen next and, if you are not asleep during your procedure, may offer you pain medication or a sedative.

Your oral surgeon will let you know how much time will need to recover after your procedure. You may need to take a day or two off work, and avoid strenuous activity. You may also need to take antibiotics and pain relief medications for a period of time and may need to avoid certain types of foods and beverages while your mouth or jaw heals.

How Much Does Oral Surgery Cost?

The cost of oral surgery depends on the type of surgery that the patient undergoes, the complexity of the patient’s case, and the kind of anesthesia used. Talking to your dentist or oral surgeon about costs can be helpful in understanding what you will need to pay and whether you can make certain choices, such as undergoing local anesthesia versus general anesthesia, which can reduce the cost of the procedure.

In many cases, dental office staff may be able to assist in finding ways to afford oral surgery. For example, they may be able to work with your insurance company to maximize your benefits. If you don’t have dental insurance, you may be able to use a discount program or even obtain financing so that you can make monthly payments to get the care that you need.

Final Word

If you don’t have a dentist and are experiencing problems with your teeth, jaw, or gums, contact your neighborhood Gentle Dental office today. Our professional staff can help you book an appointment and answer any questions that you have about insurance and costs. Since we often have oral surgeons who operate within our offices, we can offer you comprehensive oral health care in one location. In addition, we can schedule weekend or evening appointments to make your consultation even more convenient.

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