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5 Reasons You Might Need Oral Surgery
Oral surgery may sound like an extreme course of action, but there are several situations in which a general dentist may recommend his or her patients for surgery that involves the teeth, gums, or soft tissues of the mouth. Learn more about five situations that may require oral surgery and what steps you will take before and after your surgery appointment.
5 reasons your dentist may suggest oral surgery
Has your dentist informed you that your mouth is too small for all of your teeth, sleep apnea contributes to your daytime fatigue, or temporomandibular joint pain may improve with oral surgery? There are many reasons why a dentist may recommend oral surgery for you. Below are a few examples of conditions that may warrant at least a surgical consult.
1. Oral cancer
It is nearly impossible to view some malignant tumors (or those suspected to be malignant) in a patient's mouth or throat. Some patients may only know they have oral cancer or a tumor that may be cancerous when they visit their general dentist for a regular cleaning appointment. Fortunately, these tumors can be removed surgically.
2. Wisdom tooth extraction
Wisdom teeth removal has become almost a rite of passage for teenagers and young adults. Many young adults expect that they will have their wisdom teeth removed sometime in late adolescence (usually between the ages of 18 and 24). These large molars are assumed to be leftover from eons ago when humans' mouths and jaws were bigger. Now, with our smaller jaws, we do not have room for the number of teeth that our bodies are programmed to give us.
Though you may want to extract these molars as soon as possible, is not a good idea to consider extraction before the jaw has fully developed and all permanent teeth have erupted. Sometimes, the wisdom teeth are impacted, which means they cannot erupt. Therefore, oral surgery may be necessary to remove them from below the gum line so that the rest of the teeth can remain healthy.
3. Temporomandibular joint pain
TMJ pain is multifaceted and can arise from several different sources — arthritis, jaw clenching, or issues with the jaw itself. Oral surgery is considered in extreme cases of TMJ pain that do not improve with traditional first-line treatments. These patients often notice relief from oral surgery after years of struggle to find the right treatment.
4. Jaw issues
If you were born with a jaw that was misshapen, protruding, or formed in a way that causes pain, you may need oral surgery to correct this issue. Jaw problems may range from a deformity that causes an asymmetrical bite to an overly prominent or receding jaw.
5. Sleep apnea
You may be surprised to learn that oral surgery is sometimes recommended to treat severe cases of sleep apnea. Often, these patients use corrective treatments such as CPAP machines, mouth appliances, or medications, but these measures are not enough to fix the problem for some patients. Occasionally, oral surgery is recommended to treat a structural issue that may be making the apnea worse.
Oral surgery may be recommended for sleep apnea patients whose uvula or tonsils are too large or obstructive and make breathing during sleep difficult for the patient. Similarly, the surgery may move the tongue forward or insert a corrective rod into the soft palate to keep the patient's airway unobstructed.
What to expect before and after surgery
Before you attend your oral surgery appointment, your general dentist will go over the basics of your condition with you and reassure you that surgery is the right course of action for correcting your oral problem. Whether you are planning surgery to correct a jaw problem or extract an impacted wisdom tooth, it is important that you understand your dentist's reasoning and that you are on board with the plan. Your dentist will explain what will happen during the surgery and let you know if there are any precautions you need to take before the appointment.
After your surgery, the dentist will give you care instructions and let you know when it is safe to eat your favorite foods again. You may be given advice on diet, changing gauze, or oral hygiene while the site of surgery heals.
Many dental conditions can be corrected without the help of oral surgery, but when you need surgical help, it is important that you fully understand your condition and feel comfortable asking your dentist questions about the procedure. If you need to see a dentist for an oral surgery consultation, do not delay seeking treatment or try to fix the problem at home.
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