Dental Procedures: How to Prepare

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Whether it's tooth extraction or a root canal, few people look forward to dental procedures. But it's likely that, at some point, you'll need to have some type of treatment beyond the normal cleaning.

More than 15 million root canals are performed annually, according to the American Association of Endodontists. About five million people have at least one wisdom tooth removed every year, per a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. No matter what the reason is for a dental procedure, there are a few things you can do in advance to get yourself ready for it.

Ask Questions

Asking your dentist or oral surgeon to explain things before certain dental procedures can help put your mind at ease and better prepare you to stay relaxed. One helpful question to ask is "how long will the procedure take?" Knowing the length of surgery, for example, will demistify certain aspects of it while letting you coordinate with the person who is picking you up.

You might also ask about your anesthesia options. During wisdom teeth extraction or a root canal, your dentist may give you the option of receiving a local anesthetic, meaning you'll be awake but unable to feel anything; or general anesthesia, meaning you'll be fully unconscious.

Ask for the details of the procedure, as well. If you're having your wisdom teeth taken out, know how many are being removed, any potential complications and if the procedure is being performed as a preventative measure or due to damage they've caused to other teeth. If you're having a root canal, you might want to ask about the risk for complications and when you'll experience relief.

Follow Your Dentist's Instructions

Along with asking for details about your procedure, it's just as important that you follow your dentist's instructions. Having asked you about any medications you take, he or she is sure to let you know if you need to avoid any of them before the day of your procedure. If you have certain conditions or proneness to infection, however, your dentist may prescribe you antibiotics beforehand. Depending on the type of anesthetic you receive during the procedure, you might need to avoid drinking or eating, as well – usually starting the night before treatment. Unsure about what you're supposed to do on the days or hours leading up to it? Remember you can always call your dentist and ask.

Check with Your Insurance

If you plan on using your dental insurance to cover your procedure, you should contact your provider in advance to make sure they can – and determine how much coverage they provide. Many insurers will give you a pre-treatment estimate to give you have a general idea of what your costs will be. Because there can be confusion about whether oral surgery is medical or dental in nature, contacting your insurance provider in advance is ultimately a good idea so that you know you are using the right policy.

Get Ready to Recover

Preparing for your recovery is just as important as preparing for the surgery itself. You'll be pretty "out of it" after the process, even if you've had only a local anesthetic, so you'll want to arrange to have a relative or friend take you home from the dentist's office. It's also helpful to learn about any medications you'll need to take after the surgery, so that you can stock up before. You might consider asking your dentist for any prescriptions in advance, too.

Although you do want to avoid brushing for about 24 hours after having teeth removed, jumping back into a regular oral care routine after a procedure is generally recommended. Use a brush with soft bristles, such as Colgate® Extra Clean Toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. Ask your dentist for more specific advice on caring for your mouth afterward, and remember that surgery and treatment is a much smaller hassle when you realize its benefits to your mouth and health are worth it.

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