Questions To Ask Your Surgeon

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons undergo extensive education and surgical training to ensure they will be well-prepared to answer your questions on conditions affecting your face, mouth and jaws.

It’s normal for patients to feel nervous about health care, especially if surgery is involved. We understand it may feel a little intimidating to ask a surgeon questions, but your surgeon is there to answer them. Here are some essential questions that we recommend you begin with – and the types of answers to expect.

Diagnosis and treatment questions

What is my diagnosis?

This may sound obvious, but it’s a great way to start. Ask your surgeon to explain what the diagnosis means, and ask them to explain if you don’t understand any of the points that they raise.

How will my condition impact my daily life?

Many health issues related to the face, mouth and jaw impact a patient’s daily life and many will require surgery to alleviate. But all surgery carries some risks. It’s important to weigh the benefits against the risks before having surgery. Your surgeon will outline the possible complications and possible side effects with you. It’s important to discuss what impact a procedure can have on your life and weigh that up compared to leaving your condition untreated.

Are there any non-surgical treatment options? Should I consider surgery now?

Some common oral and maxillofacial procedures, such as removing impacted wisdom teeth and placing dental implants, are often conducted in the doctor’s clinic – meaning in an outpatient setting rather than in a hospital or another in-patient setting. Yet surgery is not always the first step for conditions such as jaw joint (TMJ) disorders or obstructive sleep apnoea. Everyone is different, so it’s essential to ask your surgeon whether surgery may be the right treatment for you.

Will I need surgery later in life?

While you may not require surgery now, conditions such as impacted wisdom teeth can lead to significant problems later on. If you are considering non-invasive options or are simply avoiding surgery for now, you should ask whether surgery is likely months or years down the track. There may also be different risks if surgery is delayed, and this may also affect your decision-making.

What benefits will I enjoy after surgery? And how long will they last?

It’s very important to know how you’ll benefit from surgery and if the surgery will be a permanent solution or whether future surgery may be necessary.

What are the costs of treatment?

Health and dental insurance are often complicated. Always speak to your surgeon and insurance provider at the beginning of the process about the costs of treatment and then check with your health provider about what types of treatments you are covered for.

Questions relating to surgery

What kind of anaesthesia will be used?

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are trained in the use of delivering anaesthetics and can inform you of the risks and any potential side-effects. Anaesthesia may be administered as a local anaesthetic, moderate or deep sedation, and each comes with its own risks and benefits. If a general anaesthetic is required then a specialist anaesthetist will be involved in your care.

What do I need to do to prepare?

Depending on the procedure, patients may need to skip a meal or avoid eating and drinking entirely for a specified number of hours beforehand. You may also need to have blood samples taken and could be asked to avoid specific medications. Some patients may need to consult with their regular GP as well.

Is this an outpatient surgery? Will I be able to drive home afterwards?

Your surgeon can advise you beforehand. It’s obviously important to know in advance, particularly if you will need to arrange for transportation and care after your surgery.

How will the surgery be performed?

Some people love to know all the details about what exactly will be done during surgery. Others would definitely prefer to avoid the specifics. When you ask, let your surgeon know if you’d like to find out as much as possible about the surgery or if a general summary of the procedure will suffice.

Recovery-related questions

Will I need to fill any prescriptions?

Although you may not need any prescriptions until after your surgery, it’s often easier to have them waiting for you, if that is an option. Discuss this with your surgeon and whoever will be caring for you after surgery.

What should I expect within 24 hours of surgery? What symptoms should I be looking out for?

It’s important to know what to expect immediately after surgery and even routine surgery can require special care. Some potential warning signs that you may need additional care include fever, bleeding, unexpected swelling, or pain that exceeds expected levels or goes on for longer than your surgeon indicated.

How long will it be before I can resume normal activities?

After many surgeries, it’s recommended to have a tapered return to everyday life – with limitations on eating, drinking and physical exercise. Even the most commonplace surgery can have special requirements. Be sure to ask your surgeon about your recovery timelines.

What can I do to help with, and hopefully speed up, my recovery?

It’s vital to follow the guidelines for recovery given to you by your surgeon. However, it doesn’t hurt to ask if there is anything else you can do to accelerate your recovery time. Some patients may be able to take extra time off work to reduce stress and promote healing, for example.

Should I schedule a follow-up appointment?

Depending on the surgery that you have, you may need one or more follow-up appointments to ensure that you are healing well.

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Is Oral Surgery right for me?

Is oral and maxillofacial surgery right for you?

We’ve put together a handy list of questions for you to discuss with your surgeon.

What is ANZAOMS?

The Australian and New Zealand Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (ANZAOMS) is the professional representative organisation for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMS).

Our focus is on the advancement, advocacy for, and continuing education of OMS, through engagement with all levels of government, regulators, key public and private stakeholders and the general public.

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