What to Expect After Surgery

Anesthesia Dental Implants Dental Surgery TMJ Wisdom Teeth

Many of our patients will get very nervous about the after effects of the upcoming surgery.  During the consultation appointment we go over the routine expectations and try to estimate how you will be feeling and what activities you will be able to do afterwards.  The vast majority of our patients have little to no unexpected problems after their procedures but there are a few key points that are the most common questions after the surgery.

  1. Swelling- The level and degree of swelling varies significantly with the procedure type and location of the surgery.  For example, getting front teeth removed typically will not cause as much swelling as back teeth, and lower teeth tend to cause more swelling than upper teeth.  Two procedures in particular tend to create more swelling in general; wisdom tooth removal and bone grafting procedures.  The reason behind this has to do with the location of the wisdom teeth in the corners of the mouth, underneath a major muscle attachment, and the incisions that are necessary during both the bone grafting procedure and wisdom tooth removal surgeries.  Typically swelling will increase over the first 48 to 72 hours and will begin to subside slowly over the next 7-10 days.  Swelling that does not begin to subside after 5 -7 days is cause for concern.
  2. Pain- Everyone experiences and tolerates pain at different levels.  As with any surgery we expect some level of pain after any oral and maxillofacial surgery.  Some more major or difficult procedures are often accompanied by more severe levels of pain.  We will typically prescribe narcotic pain medications after your procedure to help minimize your pain.  Pain medications cannot fully eliminate the experience of pain.  They are designed and used to reduce the amount of pain.  All narcotic pain medications come with a variety of negative side effects including: nausea and vomiting, insomnia, hyperactivity, dry mouth, constipation, and numbness/tingling feelings in the extremities. Non-narcotic medications such as Motrin can be substituted for the narcotic pain medications and typically do not have the severe side effects.  Patients should also be careful when taking narcotic pain medications as many of them contain Tylenol and taking additional Tylenol containing medications can cause liver damage.
  3. Bleeding- Almost all of our surgical procedures will cause some degree of minor bleeding.  Typically this bleeding is minimal and will subside over the first 24-48 hours.  Occasionally even later in the healing process some bleeding may occur but typically stops within 15-30 minutes.  The typical treatment for this minor bleeding is to bite down on a roll of gauze.  This gauze can be moistened for comfort and is designed to apply direct pressure over the source of bleeding.  It is the pressure, not the gauze itself that stops the bleeding.  If the bleeding is not severe the gauze is not necessary.  Often the constant changing out of the gauze packs will disturb the blood clot that is forming in these areas and will cause continued bleeding.  Another similar tactic to stop bleeding involves substituting moistened tea bags for the gauze.  The tea contains a chemical that can aid in stopping bleeding.  If these simple home solutions do not stop the bleeding over 30-60 minutes it may be necessary to return to the office for the doctor to assess the situation.  Occasionally a procedure may be done to stop the bleeding under local anesthesia in emergencies.
  4. Fever- After anesthesia or dental surgery a low grade fever is common and is typically no cause for alarm.  Temperatures greater than 101F after surgery can indicate a possible infection.  This is typically treated with antibiotics if it occurs but you may be asked to return to the office to have the surgical area evaluated to determine if infection is present.  When your body is recovering from surgery of any kind it often becomes more susceptible to viruses or other illnesses that may cause similar symptoms.

With any surgery there will always be occasional unexpected side effects or outcomes and we understand that questions will arise.  Our doctors and staff are available to handle these questions and concerns for our surgical patients every day.