With advances in technology, many oral surgery procedures are easier to perform, and carry fewer risks. The healing process, however, remains largely the same, and some pain and discomfort is to be expected. In order to minimize this unpleasantness, promote proper healing and reduce the risk of complications, it is important you take the proper steps in the recovery period. Don’t disregard any of your doctor’s instructions—there is a good reason for every do and don’t he gives you. Here are just a few of the most important points of which to be aware.
Take it Easy
Take it easy for the first few days after your procedure; you may think just because it’s your mouth, you can just ease right back into your routine so long as the pain is manageable. But, this is not the case. For at least three days after, do not exercise vigorously, lift anything heavy or do a lot of bending. Sufficient rest is crucial to the healing process, no matter what part of the body in question.
Keep Your Mouth Clean
Preventing infection is always a primary concern after any surgical procedure, and your mouth is no exception. This is a particularly tender area, and an infection is definitely unwelcome. In most cases, you are not to rinse your mouth for the first 24 hours after your procedure, but from that point on, it is important you cleanse your mouth four times a day. Your doctor may prescribe a special rinse, but in most cases, a warm saltwater rinse will do the trick. A rinse should always be performed after eating to ensure food particles do not irritate the surgical area. Swish gently and do not spit it out hard—this can disturb the blood clot or your stitches. Be gentle and don’t rush.
You will likely experience swelling, which is unsightly and uncomfortable. There are a few ways to handle this. One of the most effective is applying a cold compress to your cheeks for 15 minutes, wait another 15, and repeat for as long as you want. Keep your head elevated as much as possible. Eating pineapples may also help as they are rich in the enzyme bromelain, which is a prized natural treatment for swelling. The homeopathic treatment arnica, either taken orally, or applied as a cream, may also help.
The importance of diet is two-fold. First, certain foods may be inappropriate because they will aggravate the wound and/or cause pain and discomfort, while others will produce the opposite effect. Second, diet is an important part of optimal healing because your body relies on certain nutrients to support the healing process.
While your mouth is still numb, avoid hot drinks and food—you run the risk of burning your mouth because you can’t feel if something is too hot. For at least the first couple of days, stick to soft foods or liquids. When it comes to hard or crunchy foods, you should avoid keep them away from the surgical site for at least six to eight weeks—probably longer than you anticipated, but full healing can take up to a few months.
As for optimizing surgical wound healing, you want to eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin A and C; supplementing with vitamin C may speed the healing process even more. Limit or avoid alcohol—it can slow the healing process. While on the subject of vices, same goes for smoking—it has been shown to significantly delay healing after surgery.
If you follow these tips, you are a well on your way to a successful oral surgery recovery.