Breaking Down the Basics of Dental Surgery

Preparing for your oral surgery is essential. Taking steps like setting up a recovery space and arranging for transportation home (due to the lasting effects of anesthesia), can help you stay comfortable throughout your recovery period.

In addition to routine procedures, many oral surgeons perform corrective jaw (orthognathic) surgeries. These correct abnormalities and improve chewing, speaking, and facial alignment.

Dental Implants

Dental implants are the gold standard for replacing missing teeth. They look, feel and function like natural teeth and help preserve the bone in your jaw. They also allow you to chew more effectively and speak clearly. In addition, unlike traditional dental bridges, which require that healthy adjacent teeth be sized down to accommodate the restoration, dental implants replace only the tooth root and not the surrounding healthy teeth. Make sure that you have understood the dental implants guide before going to an operation.

A typical implant is comprised of a titanium metal post, an abutment and a crown. The post is surgically placed into the jawbone. During the procedure, you will be awake but comfortable thanks to a local anesthetic and long-lasting pain relievers.

During the surgery, an oral surgeon makes a cut in your gum to expose the bone. Holes are then drilled into the bone, and the implant is screwed into place. The bone heals around the implant, a process called osseointegration, creating a strong foundation for the prosthetic tooth.

When done properly, dental implants can last a lifetime with proper hygiene and routine visits to the dentist. They normally don’t need to be replaced or repaired, although it is possible for them to fail due to infection or other factors beyond your control. Nevertheless, well-planned and cared for implants have survival rates comparable to or better than other tooth replacement options such as dentures.


The mouth is a complex, essential part of the human body that plays many important roles, such as breaking down food and articulating speech. As such, the mouth is prone to a range of problems that may require the attention of an oral surgeon.

The most common type of procedure involves repairing tooth decay and other damage using fillings. The dentist first needs to prepare the damaged area by numbing it and removing any existing bacteria or debris with handheld tools. The dentist will then clean the remaining space before applying a multilayered filling of composite resin and other materials to reshape it and cover the cavity. Once the process is complete, the dentist will shine a special light on it to harden or cure the material.

Indirect fillings (also known as inlays or onlays) are crafted in a dental laboratory before they’re bonded into the damaged teeth. They’re used when a tooth is too damaged to repair with a direct filling but not so damaged that it requires a crown.

Some patients have medical conditions that can increase the risk of bleeding or infection during a procedure. It’s the dentist’s responsibility to understand these issues and liaise with the patient’s medical team where appropriate. The surgeon should also provide a clear set of post-treatment instructions to reduce the risk of complications and promote faster recovery.


A crown is a dental cap that covers a damaged tooth, helping it restore shape, strength, and appearance. It can be placed over a cracked or chipped tooth to protect it from further damage, and also helps hold in place a root canal treated tooth, a dental bridge, or a dental implant.

A crown may also be used for cosmetic reasons, to improve the look of misshapen teeth or to match the color of adjacent teeth. This type of crown is often the best solution for patients with crooked teeth. It is also helpful for patients with large fillings that are deteriorating, as these can break or dislodge and leave the underlying tooth vulnerable to further damage.

When a patient needs a crown, their dentist will first prepare the tooth by cleaning it and possibly filing the surface. They will then take digital pictures of the tooth and use these to create a crown that fits perfectly over the tooth. Depending on the case, this can be done either as a same-day procedure or over two visits. During the initial visit, your dentist will put in a temporary crown to help protect the tooth while the permanent one is made. They will then cement the new crown in place. Costs will vary, but it is important to understand that most dental insurance companies cover crowns at least partially.

Flap Surgery

In severe cases of gum disease, where the bacteria that cause it can eat away at the supporting structure of your teeth and create pockets of infection, a dentist may have to perform flap surgery. This procedure involves incising and temporarily pulling back a section of the gum tissue to clean the root surfaces and repair damage to the bone. This treatment is often followed by periodontal bone grafting.

The first step in this procedure is the administration of a local anesthetic to numb the targeted area. Once the gums are numb, the surgeon folds them gently until the infected tooth roots and ligaments are visible. This allows them to remove the inflamed tissue, plaque, and tartar that’s causing the infection. They’ll also treat the underlying bone, if needed.

Depending on the type of flap used, there are a number of different options for closing it up. This includes a free muscle flap, a diaphragm flap, or a perforator flap. This will be determined by the specific needs of the patient and surgeon. The surgeon will then suture the donor and recipient site and apply a dressing to the surgical area. The results of this procedure are conditional and require a commitment to diligent oral hygiene, but it can reverse some of the most severe signs of gum disease. A successful outcome will also depend on how well the patient follows up on their post-treatment care.

Bone Grafting

Dental bone grafting procedures are required when the jawbone loses density as a result of tooth loss, gum disease or injury. This type of surgery improves candidacy for dental implant placement and other restorative dentistry procedures.

When performing a bone graft, the first step is to thoroughly clean the area. Next, the surgeon will make an incision to separate the gum tissue from the bone to be grafted. They will then source the bone material, which can come from the patient’s own body (autograft), a donor, or modern synthetic materials. Once the grafted bone material is placed, it is secured with either a membrane or dissolvable adhesive.

During the recovery period, minor discomfort is to be expected as the incision site heals. However, this can be managed with over-the-counter pain relief medication or a prescription, if needed. Keeping the graft site elevated, avoiding hard or crunchy foods and limiting strenuous activity helps promote faster healing.

Dental bone grafts can be performed as a standalone procedure or in conjunction with a tooth extraction or dental implants. For example, a socket preservation graft is used in the empty tooth “socket” immediately after a tooth extraction, while a ridge augmentation graft increases the height and width of the alveolar ridge to support future restorations. The best option depends on your individual situation. Your dental professional can help you determine the most suitable option.

Soft Tissue Grafts

The loss of gum tissue can not only affect the appearance of your smile, but it also puts your oral health at risk. The gaps and exposed tooth roots left behind by receding soft tissue can become a cradle for bacteria that can lead to infection. Soft tissue grafts can repair damage caused by periodontal disease, halt further gum loss and promote healing of the treatment site.

A soft tissue graft is an easy, minimally-invasive procedure that can be performed under local anesthesia at your dental practice. During this intervention, your oral surgeon will remove a strip of gum tissue from the roof of your mouth (also known as donor tissue) and splice it into the area that needs to be thickened or covered with more tissue. The type of graft used will depend on your unique situation, but options include a free gingival graft or an autogenous palatal mucogingival graft.

You may experience some discomfort after the soft tissue graft, but this is usually minor and should fade as your gums heal. Taking anti-inflammatory medications and using an antibacterial mouth rinse can help, as will keeping your mouth as clean as possible to reduce the risk of infection. You should avoid hard, crunchy foods until your oral surgeon tells you it’s safe to do so. When you do start eating, try to eat soft foods like yogurt, scrambled eggs and cooked vegetables to protect the surgical site.