What is dental surgery?
Dental surgery is any type of surgical procedure involving the teeth, mouth, gums or jaw, and can include procedures such as:
- Dental implants
- Tooth extractions
- Root canals
- Gum surgery
- Wisdom teeth removal
- Restorative dentistry
- Cosmetic dentistry
Is dental surgery painful?
Surgery would be painful if you could feel it – but you won’t be able to. Most dental surgeries usually involve the use of a general anaesthetic to block feelings of discomfort and pain.
After surgery is when you might start to feel some pain and discomfort – although this shouldn’t last too long. You may experience some bleeding, swelling or bruising following your surgery, depending on the procedure you have.
If it’s a significant surgery, your dentist might prescribe you strong painkillers to deal with the pain. Otherwise, over-the-counter pain remedies and ice should do the trick.
What should I eat?
After surgery, it’s important to avoid solid foods for at least a few days while the incision is healing. Instead, eat cool soft foods such as cold soups, jelly, yoghurt, custard, milkshakes and pureed fruits.
Yes, that may not sound too exciting, but it’s only for a few days. Gradually start reintroducing solid foods as your wound heals – you should be back eating as normal in approximately a week.
Try and consume only cold liquids for the first day or two following oral surgery. Keep the warm soups and mashed potato for the next few days. Avoid crunchy, tough or chewy foods such as carrots, apple, popcorn or lollies for at least a week, to prevent them irritating the surgical site.
Spicy food is also best avoided. Don’t use a straw or drink alcohol or carbonated beverages for at least three days after your procedure, as this may prevent the blood from clotting as your mouth heals.
A vitamin C supplement or eating foods rich in Vitamin C may also help with healing.
What am I allowed to do?
Just like recovering from any surgery, healing from dental surgery requires rest and self-care. Don’t try to do too much while you allow the area to heal. You likely will not be able to work, go to school, drive or engage in physical activity for at least 24 hours following surgery.
Try not to move too fast or lift heavy items until you’ve recovered. Be kind to yourself, and plan for a few days of rest and relaxation after your surgery. Lay in a supply of books or movies beforehand to give you something to do during this time.
If your dental surgeon gives you specific instructions on what you can and can’t do, make sure you follow them exactly. Avoid activities such as driving or going back to work until your dentist believes you are able to do these safely.
What medications should I take?
Your dentist may have prescribed strong painkillers if they feel it’s necessary, or you may choose to take over-the-counter pain remedies. Whichever type of medication you’re taking, make sure you read and follow all the instructions on the pack carefully.
If you need to take antibiotics following surgery, make sure you take the full course and don’t stop taking them if you start to feel better.
It’s best to check with your dental professional about when you can start re-taking your regular medication, if you have any. It’s far better to be cautious and make sure you are doing what your dentist wants you to do, than just assume everything will be okay.
How should I care for the incision site?
Try rinsing your mouth with warm salt water a few times a day to relieve the pain and help reduce the swelling. Wait until 24 hours after your surgery to start this process, however.
Use an ice pack if necessary, to numb the pain and decrease swelling and inflammation. If you’re experiencing pain, apply ice to your face every one to two hours for 10 to 20 minutes at a time during the daytime. Make sure the ice is wrapped in a cloth and not applied directly to your skin.
Prop your head up on two or three pillows when resting to help minimise swelling. Your jaw may also feel stiff from having your mouth open during the surgery, but this will go away given time. Don’t try and force your mouth open.
After around two to three days, your stitches should start to dissolve or fall out. Some people will need to have their stitches removed by the dentist.
Can I look after my teeth as normal?
Your dentist will advise you when you’re able to start cleaning your teeth and gums again, as it might be wise not to do this straight after surgery. When you are able to brush and floss, do so very gently for the first few days while you’re healing. Avoid vigorous spitting or rinsing at first, as this might increase or re-start bleeding. It’s important to keep your mouth clean, but make sure you do so with care.
Am I able to smoke?
Smoking is best avoided for at least 24 hours after your surgery – longer if possible. Smoking allows germs and contaminants to enter your mouth, decreases blood supply to the area and delays healing, so it’s definitely not a wise idea.
Do I need to attend a follow-up appointment?
Your surgeon will usually want to see you for a follow-up appointment around two weeks after your surgery, to check for complications or infections and to evaluate the area. Even if you’re feeling great and completely back to normal, attend this appointment to make sure everything is going as expected.
What do I need to watch for?
Keep an eye out for any signs of trouble following your surgery.
When to seek help from your dental professional:
- If your tooth or gum is still bleeding after 24 hours
- If you have significant pain that doesn’t improve after taking pain medication
- If you have severe, persistent swelling
- If you develop signs of infection such as increased swelling, warmth, a fever or red streaks from the area
- If you have pus in your mouth
- If your incision opens or your stitches become loose
- If you feel sick and can’t keep fluids down
- If you develop signs of an allergic reaction, such as a rash
- If your mouth is persistently numb after the anaesthetic wears off
- If you have trouble swallowing or breathing