Reviewed by Dr. Jason Fluckiger, DMD

Reading time: seven minutes

Oral surgery can be intimidating if you don’t know what to expect.  We get asked all kinds of questions about oral surgery, so we thought we’d compile a list of the top 10 most frequently asked questions to help prepare you for your oral surgery.

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

What is oral and maxillofacial surgery?

Oral and maxillofacial surgery is a specialized branch of dentistry focused on diagnosing and treating diseases, injuries, and defects in the head, neck, face, jaws, and the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons complete dental school followed by a residency program in oral and maxillofacial surgery, which typically takes 4–6 years. This includes extensive training in surgery, anesthesia, and pathology.  

They are skilled in performing a wide range of surgical procedures, including jaw reconstruction, dental implant placement, corrective jaw surgery, and removal of impacted teeth. They also work closely with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care for patients.

Our oral surgeons are:

Dr. R. Brinks Austin

Dr. Bradley Porter

Dr. Brent Boyse

Dr. Gregory Romney

Dr. DJ Lemieux

Dr. Jason Fluckiger

Dr. Trevor Allen

What is considered oral surgery?

Oral surgery includes a wide range of procedures including tooth extractions, dental implants, corrective jaw surgery, treatment of facial trauma, cleft lip and palate repair, and diagnosis and removal of tumors in the mouth.

We provide the following services at our locations in Mesa, North Mesa, Queen Creek, Show Low and Tempe:

How can I reduce swelling after oral surgery?

Swelling is a normal part of the healing process after oral surgery. To reduce swelling, we recommend applying an ice pack to the affected area for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off for the first 24-48 hours following surgery.

After 24-48 hours, you can switch to using a warm compress to promote blood flow and help with healing and clearing the swelling that did occur. It’s also important to keep your head elevated while resting to further reduce swelling.

If the swelling gets worse or does not improve after a few days, contact your oral surgeon for further guidance.

How to stop bleeding after oral surgery?

If you had a tooth extraction or a dental implant placed, you can expect a small amount of bleeding after the surgery. To stop bleeding, bite down on a piece of gauze applied directly to the surgical site for 30–45 minutes.

Avoid spitting or rinsing vigorously as this can dislodge the blood clot and prolong bleeding. If bleeding continues or becomes excessive, contact your oral surgeon for further instructions.

🦷A note about tooth extractions. The blood clot in the tooth socket is an important part of the healing process, so it’s important not to disturb or remove it. If the blood clot is dislodged, it can lead to a painful condition called dry socket. To prevent dry socket, avoid smoking or vaping, using a straw, and eating hard or crunchy foods.

How long does it take for gums to heal after oral surgery?

The healing time for gums after oral surgery depends on several factors, including the type of surgery performed, the patient’s overall health, and how well they follow post-operative care instructions. Generally, the initial healing phase takes about 1 to 2 weeks, during which time the soft tissues begin to repair themselves.

  1. First 24–48 Hours: Blood clot formation is the first step in the healing process. This clot is crucial as it protects the wound and provides a foundation for new tissue growth. Swelling and minor bleeding are common during this period.
  2. 3-5 Days Post-Surgery: The inflammation starts to subside, and white blood cells begin to remove bacteria and debris from the surgical site. During this phase, it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene while being gentle around the surgical area.
  3. 1 Week Post-Surgery: Most swelling should significantly decrease, and the gums begin producing granulation tissue, a new, delicate tissue that helps in wound healing.
  4. 2 Weeks Post-Surgery: The granulation tissue gradually matures, turning into new gum tissue. While pain and discomfort should be minimal by this point, following the post-surgery care instructions we provide is still important.
  5. 1 Month and Beyond: Full soft tissue healing can take several weeks to a few months, depending on the complexity of the procedure.

Key Factors for Optimal Healing:

  • Follow Post-Operative Instructions: Adhere strictly to your surgeon’s guidelines, including medication and activity restrictions.
  • Oral Hygiene: This is probably the most important factor in promoting healing. Your mouth is full of bacteria, so keeping it clean is key to preventing infection. If you had a tooth or teeth removed, brush your teeth as usual but avoid the extraction site. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and be thorough but gentle when brushing. Rinse with salt water several times a day, especially after eating. DO NOT rinse vigorously as this can disrupt the blood blot.  If you had a dental implant procedure, do not brush around the surgical site for 7 days. If an antibiotic rinse was prescribed, use it as prescribed.
  • Smoking: We can’t stress enough how important it is not to smoke during this time.  Smoking tobacco or marijuana will delay the healing process and increase your risk of complications. The same goes for vaping. The sucking action can loosen the blood clot and increase your risk of dry socket.

Read The Impact of Smoking on Dental Implants: Why It’s Crucial to Quit and The Impact of Smoking After Wisdom Tooth Removal: How to Ensure a Healthy Recovery. 

What should I cook for someone who had oral surgery?

This is a great question! Soft, easy-to-eat foods are great for someone who has had oral surgery. Prepare foods like mashed potatoes, smoothies, yogurt, scrambled eggs, and broth-based soups to minimize discomfort and avoid disturbing the surgical site.

Incorporate protein wherever possible. For example, add protein powder to smoothies and yogurt, add boiled chicken cut up in small pieces to soups and pasta.

Check out these blogs for soft food ideas: What can I eat after dental implant surgery? and What to eat after wisdom tooth extraction.

How long do you have to eat soft foods after oral surgery?

It depends on what type of surgery you had. If you had a wisdom tooth or multiple teeth removed, it’s best to stick with soft foods for about 3–5 days while the surgical site heals and the blood clot stabilizes.

If you had dental implant surgery, stick to soft foods for 10–14 days. Once the surgery site heals, you can slowly incorporate other foods. Keep in mind that the implant is still healing under the soft tissue, so avoid hard or crunchy foods that may put pressure on the implant. 

When can I smoke after oral surgery?

If you had a tooth or multiple teeth extracted, you should wait at least 14 days before smoking. However, we encourage you to take this opportunity to quit smoking altogether as smoking increases your risk of oral cancer and many other health complications.

If you had dental implant surgery, it’s best to wait at least 4 weeks before smoking. Soft tissue healing is only one part of the healing process for dental implants. The implant itself needs time to integrate with the jawbone, and smoking can hinder this process. 

We highly recommend quitting smoking altogether for optimal healing and the long-term success of your implant, as well as your overall health.

How long after oral surgery can you drink alcohol?

If you have been prescribed pain medication, do not drink alcohol until you are finished with the medication. You should never mix pain medication and alcohol.

We recommend abstaining from alcohol until the surgical site has completely healed. Alcohol can irritate the surgical site and increase inflammation, which can prolong the healing process. It’s best to stick with water and other hydrating fluids during this time.

How long after oral surgery can you use a straw?

Using a straw can create suction in the mouth, which can potentially dislodge the blood clot and cause dry socket. We recommend avoiding straws for at least 3–5 days after oral surgery to allow the surgical site to heal properly. If you had dental implant surgery, avoid using straws for at least 10–14 days. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and wait until the surgical site has fully healed before using a straw.

We hope we have answered your questions so you feel prepared for your oral surgery! If you have any other questions, feel free to ask your oral surgeon before your surgery. We are here for you from start to finish! 

💡Did you know? We serve the following areas: Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert and Phoenix, AZ. 

If you are searching for an oral surgeon in the East Valley, call or text (480) 830-5866 to book an appointment at our Mesa, North Mesa, Queen Creek, Tempe or Show Low locations.