Just hearing the word ‘surgery’ is enough to give some people chills. But if your dentist says you need oral surgery, does it mean you’ll have to go to a big hospital, undergo uncomfortable preparation, and wake up in a recovery room? Most of the time, the answer is no. Oral surgery most often involves routine, minor procedures that are done right in your dentist’s office – for example, the extraction (removal) of a tooth that can’t be saved, the placement of dental implants, or the treatment of gum problems. However, oral surgery can also be instrumental in treating complex and serious issues such as facial trauma, cleft palates, and cancers of the head, neck or mouth.
Sometimes, your general dentist can perform oral surgery in his or her own office; in other cases, you may be referred to a dental specialist such as an endodontist (root canal specialist), a periodontist (gum specialist), or an oral surgeon. Exactly where you will get treatment depends on the nature of the problem and the experience of your dental professionals. In general, routine procedures (such as simple tooth extractions) are often performed by family dentists, while more complex issues (for example, impacted wisdom teeth or severe gum disease) are handled by their respective specialists.
In many cases, corrective or reconstructive oral surgeries and other extensive procedures are performed by a dental specialist called an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. To earn certification in this specialty, a candidate must complete four years of dental school, and then spend another three to four years in a hospital-based residency program for surgery. Oral surgeons are trained in emergency medical procedures, general surgery and anesthesiology; they are skilled in a wide range of surgical procedures, and can administer all levels of anesthesia, including general anesthesia and conscious sedation, when needed.
But if you’re having oral surgery, does it mean you’ll necessarily need a deep level of anesthesia? Again, the answer is usually no. Most of the time, oral surgery requires only local anesthesia, such as a numbing shot, to avoid any pain. However, many patients find they can have a more stress-free experience when various forms of sedation dentistry are employed. This may involve the use of oral sedatives or anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) medications before and during the procedure, delivered in pill form or as a gas through a nasal mask.
Here are some common situations in which oral surgery may be recommended:
- Tooth extractions due to deep decay, infection or trauma
- Impacted wisdom teeth (third molars)
- Severe gum disease or other gum problems
- Replacement of missing teeth with dental implants
- Root canal infections spreading into gum and bone tissue
- Jaw problems requiring corrective surgery
- Sleep apnea caused by excess tissue in the airway
- Cleft lip or palate
- Oral or facial reconstruction following trauma, accident or disease
- Cancers of the head, neck or mouth
Call us at 1-800-238-5163 to find out about how dental savings plans can help make quality dental care affordable.