Easing Your Oral Surgery Recovery
Tips to Improve Healing after Oral Surgery
What's wrong with this picture?
He's brushing his teeth; that's a good thing, right?
As an oral surgeon, though I don't do dental cleanings or fillings like a general dentist, I still have to worry about the bacteria in dental plaque.(Remember that plaque is that soft white, cheesy film that forms on your teeth within 24 hours.)
The key word here is bacteria. Bacteria cause infections and there are many different kinds of bacteria in your mouth, even when it is clean.
Imagine how many more bacteria there are when you can feel the colonies of bacteria growing on your teeth?
So, did you catch it?
This guy's back teeth were barely touched by his toothbrush! Why do I care?
What if he were coming in today to have his wisdom teeth out? Imagine the millions of bacteria on his back teeth next to the wisdom teeth. Do you think this could affect his healing afterwards?
While rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash before you leave home may help, it really doesn't substitute for brushing the plaque off thoroughly.
As a surgeon with excellent manual dexterity, I can clean my teeth much better with an electric toothbrush than with a traditional brush. My personal preference is the Sonicare electric brush (pictured above) because the soft bristles vibrate into those hard-to-reach areas (like where the tooth meets the gum) that are prone to decay. It is also very easy to use.
For aging adults, if there are issues with poor manual dexterity, this is a necessity. A caregiver can also brush their patient's teeth more effectively and easily than with a manual brush.
For your convenience, links to a selection of Sonicare and Oral B electric toothbrushes have been provided below.
What about brushing before surgery?
It is important to have clean teeth before and after your surgery.
If you leave your teeth coated with colonies of bacteria (plaque), especially the ones next to teeth you are having removed, doesn't it seem logical that you are increasing your risk of infection afterwards?
Brush before you leave for our office, spitting the water out after you rinse. If you need to take medication, swallow just a sip of water to get it down.
After surgery, the Sonicare does a good job of cleaning the tooth surfaces without putting a lot of pressure on tender gums. Though having clean teeth can help with healing, be careful not to put too much pressure on the gums, which could adversely affect healing.
For Your Convenience
Note: The latest generation of Sonicare toothbrush is the HX9332/05 DiamondClean. Sonicare cites research showing that it removes 4x's more plaque than manual brushing.
If You're Thinking of Doing This:
THE ABSOLUTE WORST THING
YOU CAN POSSIBLY DO BEFORE and AFTER SURGERY IS
The patients who are the most miserable, for the longest period of time after surgery, are patients who smoke.
Surprisingly, it is not the smoke itself, but the nicotine in the smoke, absorbed into the blood stream through the lungs, that is the problem.
Nicotine produces a chemical in our bodies that cause blood vessels to get smaller when exposed to it. This narrowing of the blood vessels reduces blood flow vital for rapid healing, as well as getting antibiotics and white blood cells to infected tissues, or even to prevent infection.
Tissues will not heal well when the blood supply is compromised and there is no pill that we can give you to counteract this.
You must get the nicotine out of your system to get the best results. Using a nicotine patch or chewing nicotine gum instead of smoking will NOT help; you will still have nicotine in your body.
FYI: Since nicotine goes everywhere that blood goes, narrowing of the small blood vessels in the skin is what contributes to the premature aging seen so commonly in smokers. (It may look cool now, but it won't in the not so distant future, when you want to look as young as possible!).
Preparations for Oral Surgery
There are several things that can be done in advance to make the recovery period easier to get through. In addition to an electric toothbrush to more effectively clean the bacteria off your teeth, here are other items that might come in handy, avoiding an unexpected trip to the drugstore:
- post-op supplies (gauze, disposable gloves, etc)
- nutritional items for 1st few meals
- vitamins (powdered) for improved healing
- mouthwash (NON-alcohol) to start using a couple of days later
- For Anesthesia patients: Important reminder to prepare for your surgery