Anytime you hear the word “surgery” it’s important to understand what is being done, and who is doing it. Oral surgery is no different. Everyone probably has some sense of what oral surgery is, but we promise it’s not the generous, painful and expensive nightmare you’re imagining. Most oral surgery procedures are very common, safe, and affordable.
Of course, every oral surgery case is different, and your dentist or oral surgeon will walk you through your unique circumstances, but let’s start by covering the basics.
What Is Oral Surgery?
Oral surgery includes any surgical procedure performed in or around your mouth and jaw. Oral surgery can be performed by a prosthodontist, oral surgeon, or dental specialist who’s trained to perform certain kinds of oral surgeries.
The CDC defines oral surgery as, “Oral surgical procedures involve the incision, excision, or reflection of tissue that exposes the normally sterile areas of the oral cavity.”
Types of Oral Surgery Procedures
You wouldn’t get a hysterectomy to fix your gallbladder, would you? Of course not. Just like general surgery, there are specific oral surgery procedures to fix specific issues. Depending on your specific needs, your dentist or oral surgeon will recommend the procedure that will best resolve your problem.
In some cases, multiple procedures may be done in conjunction like in full mouth reconstructions.
Here are just a few of the most common oral surgery.
Wisdom Teeth Extraction
This is the most common of all dental surgeries most often done by oral surgeons. Almost everyone will have their wisdom teeth out at some point because the average mouth has no room to support the two extra teeth at the back. Today’s wisdom teeth removal is quick, easy, and more comfortable than ever before.
Another very common oral surgery is a tooth extraction. Some don’t even consider this a full “surgery” because generally the patient is not put completely under anesthesia and instead just uses a little bit of “laughing gas” during the procedure. Tooth extraction is very common in both pediatric dentistry and adult dentistry to make room in the mouth for incoming teeth or upcoming procedures.
Although the human body can do amazing things, it cannot produce replacement teeth once you lose your adult teeth. We are born with all the natural teeth we will ever have. Dental implants are the only way to replace missing teeth that look, feel, and function just like natural teeth. A dental implant could be for one tooth, or several teeth. Dental implants work just as well (and sometimes even better) than your natural teeth.
In some cases, the jawbone isn’t strong enough to support a dental implant. When that happens, bone grafting is used to actually transplant bone into the jaw and create a strong foundation for the dental implant.
A root canal is another very common procedure that occurs in millions of mouths every day. Root canal surgery is designed to clean out an infected root canal and seal it to prevent future infection. Most patients walk away from a root canal feeling much better than they did when they walked in because the pain of infection has been alleviated.
If you need dental implants, but don’t have enough bone to support them, a sinus lift can give the additional bone structure necessary. This is done by inserting a bone graft in the upper jaw and allowing that to heal thoroughly before moving forward with dental implants.
Orthognathic (Jaw) Surgery
This is generally used when the upper and lower jaws are not aligned. Braces can reposition teeth, but surgery is required to realign jaw and facial bone structure. This may be due to accident, disease, or birth defects. It’s also a procedure that can improve one’s airway and breathing capabilities.
Difference Between An Oral Surgeon and Dentist
Dentists and oral surgeons work closely together. Dentists handle the everyday while oral surgeons handle the rare. You should see your dentist twice a year and only visit the oral surgeon if your dentist refers you.
- Dentist: In order to become a dentist, a person needs a Doctor of Dentistry degree and must be licensed.
- Oral Surgeon: Dental surgeons must have a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree, as well as a license for their specialty including a residency program. Dental surgeons are more highly trained in the use of anesthesia than dentists.
Who should I call?
While there is some overlap in what dentists and oral surgeons do there are clear differences.
- Go to the dentist first: This should always be your first stop. The dentist is there to check on the health of your teeth and gums. They perform routine check-ups, fill cavities, treat early-stage gum disease, take x-rays, order and fit dentures, place crowns and bridges, perform root canals, can answer questions about removing mercury amalgam fillings, and prescribe medications. A dentist can easily perform a tooth extraction but will often refer you to an oral surgeon if it’s for wisdom teeth.
- Head to the prosthodontist: If you or your dentist believe you would benefit from dental implants, then a consultation with a prosthodontist is your very next stop.
- Head to the oral surgeon if: Your dentist may send you to an oral surgeon if your teeth or jaws do not align or if your dentist sees a suspicious lesion in your mouth. Anytime your dentist recommends you to an oral surgeon, they will often send along x-rays and other information so that the oral surgeon can pick up right where your dentist left off.
- In case of emergency: In cases of facial trauma, such as a car accident, you want to call 911 first and the paramedics/hospital will determine where you need to go. If you have one or several teeth get knocked out, call your dentist first.
How To Prepare For Oral Surgery
First and foremost, follow the instructions given to you by your oral surgeon. That will always be your best bet. But in general, here are some helpful tips on how to prepare for your oral procedure to ensure you’re ready when the time comes.
- Start by making sure that you will be comfortable for the next couple of days after your procedure. This may include ensuring that your home is clean and neat, errands are run, and your calendar is cleared.
- Change the sheets and set up your bed and add in additional pillows so that you can sit at an incline if necessary.
- Follow all pre-surgery instructions your oral surgeon gives you. This typically includes fasting for 8-10 hours before your surgery.
- Arrange for transportation back home depending on what kind of anesthesia you’ll be getting. If you are having an IV anesthesia, you’ll need someone to drive you home. It may also be nice to have someone there the first day to be there with you throughout your recovery.
Oral Surgery Aftercare
Your oral surgeon will give you very specific aftercare instructions and guidelines. Be sure to follow those carefully so you can recover as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Do not smoke or drink alcohol afterward and rinse your mouth with saltwater every few hours to kill off any bacteria. You may be given ice packs for swelling, pain medication, and antibiotics which should be taken as prescribed.
Be patient with yourself.
Depending on the type of oral surgery you’ve had, recovery can range from 48 hours to 1 month. Make sure you follow up with your oral surgeon as directed.
How Much Does Oral Surgery Cost
We hate to burst your bubble, but when it comes to the cost of oral surgery, there is no one flat rate for each type of procedure. In the U.S. there are several factors that go into the cost of any dental procedure. This includes the following:
- Type of procedure
- Complexity of your situation
- Type of anesthesia
- Availability of insurance
- The choice of oral surgeon and hospital
Your oral surgeon will be able to give you an exact dollar amount after your consultation and can check your insurance coverage so you should know exactly how much you will pay before the procedure takes place. In many cases, the office staff may be able to assist in finding ways to afford oral surgery such as discount programs, or financing options.
Oral Surgery FAQs