Sorting out the different types of anesthesia, and knowing which one is best for you, can be confusing. This is especially true with in-patient oral surgery procedures, where patients are sometimes given several options, and need to choose which type of anesthesia they feel most comfortable with.
- Local Anesthesia - Topical anesthetics, such as novocaine and lidocaine, numb a small area of the mouth. They are commonly used by the oral surgeon for simple extractions. They can also be used in combination with other forms of anesthesia.
- Nitrous Oxide – Commonly known as “laughing gas,” this anesthetic is inhaled through a mask that rests over the patient's nose, and can be given in small or larger doses. With nitrous oxide, the patient will feel relaxed, but will still be aware of what is happening. Nitrous Oxide, when used in combination with a local anesthetic, can provide a pain free and relaxed experience for patients having oral surgery.
- Conscious Sedation - With this method, the patient is given a sedative, but is still alert and awake for the procedure. Conscious Sedation can be administered orally by a liquid medication or pill, or given intravenously. Patients usually have some memory of the procedure, but feel comfortable and relaxed.
- General Anesthesia - Deep sedation or general anesthesia involves administering a medication that places the patient in a state of monitored and controlled unconsciousness. It is most often administered intravenously and the office will evaluate the patient continually while they are asleep. Specialized training and equipment is required to administer general anesthesia in a surgical office, so be sure to ask your doctor for credentials and find out how the office is set up for sedation.
The anesthetic plan that is most appropriate depends on the patient’s current medical condition, the type of surgical procedure, and the patient’s level of comfort with the procedure.
Your oral surgeon should offer a consultation prior to the surgical appointment. At this visit the doctor will obtain a comprehensive medical history, conduct an examination, and make recommendations about the procedure, anesthesia and recovery. Make sure to come with a list of questions, and don’t schedule your procedure until you feel comfortable that you have the answers you need.
For your convenience, we have compiled this Oral Surgery Preparedness Checklist. It is intended to guide you through the process, but is not a substitute for any specific instructions you receive from your doctor. Hope you find it helpful!
For Your First Office Visit
- Bring a referral form from your dentist or medical doctor (if you were referred)
- Bring in your medical and dental insurance cards
- If you don't have insurance coverage, remember to ask about financing your procedure
- Contact your doctor or insurance company for an insurance referrals (if required)
- Bring copies of any X-rays or photos from your dentist or medical doctor
- Make a list of medications you are taking to show the oral surgeon (and be sure to keep a copy for yourself)
Preparing for Your Procedure
- Do not eat or drink for six hours prior to having general anesthesia – children should also not eat or drink for six hours before having nitrous oxide (laughing gas)
- Take off jewelry and nail polish and remove contact lenses
- Wear lose comfortable clothes and stable footwear – no flip flops
- Make sure you have soft food ready at home – remember you cannot eat anything hotter than room temperature for the first two days, and will need to avoid spicy, crunchy, chewy foods or anything with small pieces like rice or seeds
- A responsible adult must accompany you to our office, wait with you during your procedure and stay with you for the rest of the day if you expect to have general anesthesia
- Minors will need to bring along a legal guardian or parent to sign consents and accompany them to consults and their procedure
- If you take medications at home, note whether you are approved to take them before surgery
- Make sure you have a photo ID on hand for when you pick up medication at the pharmacy
- To be safe, don’t make any big plans for the few days afterwards – if you’re feeling okay you can always plan something later
- Review pre-op instructions carefully, and contact the office if there are any concerns
After Your Procedure
- Make sure you have a follow up appointment scheduled if necessary
- Use ice for 48 hours and heat after that to reduce swelling (have soft ice packs ready at home) – and remember that reduced swelling equals reduced pain
- The second day is often when swelling increases, so use ice on day 1 even if you’re not swollen
- Have the office number handy for questions, and know that evenings and weekends you will need to leave a message with the answering service, but someone will return your call promptly
- If you’re doing well, that’s great, but follow all instructions and take all prescribed medication, for the full time recommended
- Follow all post-op instructions carefully, and contact the office if there are any concerns
Follow up Care
- Make note of any long-term follow up required
- Be alert to any symptoms of a problem for several weeks after your procedure
- Use pain meds as long as you need them and then dispose of the remainder of your prescription
- Schedule a follow-up with your dentist or medical doctor if needed
Insurance and financing can be tricky roads to navigate, and ...
there’s no easy answer to the question “Is my treatment or procedure covered?” However, you can arm yourself with information to make the road a little smoother.
Follow the guidelines here to ensure you get the most out of your insurance coverage, or help you determine the financing options that best meets your needs. An informed patient understands that your treatment plan and your financial plan go hand in hand.
For Patients with Insurance
If you have insurance, and you need to visit an oral surgeon, the first step is to contact your insurance company, and/or speak to the person responsible for benefits at your company. Here’s a list of questions you should ask before seeking treatment:
- Has your insurance coverage changed since the last time you submitted a claim (or will it change at the start of the year) and how do those changes impact you?
- If you are a new employee, when does your insurance become active and what, if any, waiting periods apply for specific procedures?
- Which practices and doctors accept your insurance?
- Does your plan allow you to go out-of-network so you can be treated by the provider of your choice?
- Are there restrictions or exclusions to your coverage that you need to be aware of?
- If you are seeking treatment for a condition diagnosed in the past, will the insurance company still cover your treatment plan?
- What out-of-pocket expenses can you expect to incur, or will you need to pay up front and wait to be reimbursed by your insurance carrier?
- Since some oral surgery procedures may be covered under medical and dental insurance, how and under which plan will your claims be billed?
Remember that the insurance contract is between the patient and the carrier, and while the doctor or practice will work with the insurance company to maximize the insurance benefits, your actual coverage will be defined and limited by the insurance carrier.
Insurance companies will never guarantee coverage for any procedure until they have processed the claim for the actual services performed. Even if the treatment plan hasn’t changed, the estimate of benefits is just that – an estimate. Your doctor recommends treatment based on the needs of the patient, but medical necessity may be defined differently by your insurance company. They make the final determination whether the treatment is covered under your policy at the time the claim is filed.
For Patients Without Insurance
If you don’t have insurance, there are other options, such as a third party financing plans or pre-tax savings plans, which can be used to cover out of pocket medical expenses.
- Third party companies, such as CareCredit, allow you to finance your medical expenses for a low or deferred interest rate, and can be used for most medical and dental expenses. Again, while your provider may work with a third party payer, the contract and payment arrangements are between the patient and the finance company.
- Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA) allow you to put a certain amount of pretax dollars aside to cover deductibles and other expenses not covered by insurance. FSA plans are administered through your employer, and HSA plans may possibly be offered through your employer. Before setting up one of these plans, make sure you understand the rules and restrictions so you know exactly how they can benefit you.
The key to ensuring you know what to expect is to be an informed consumer and patient. Asking questions, and understanding your insurance or financing plan, are the best ways to avoid unexpected out-of-pocket expenses.
The Treatment Coordinator in your oral surgery office will assist you with navigating insurance information, as well as the pre-approval and prior authorization processes; but the more you understand before you come into the office, the fewer surprises you are likely to encounter.
Oral Surgeons are specialists in the care and treatment of the teeth, mouth, face and jaw. They often work as part of a team with a patient’s dentist, orthodontist, pediatrician or other medical provider, managing issues that require specialized training or surgical care.
Many providers have one or two oral surgery practices they work with regularly, and they will refer you to one of those practices if you need specialized care. If you trust your doctor or dentist, you can probably trust that they are sending you to the best place. However, in this day of the internet and social media, many patients like to do their own research even if they have a referral, and learn more about the oral surgeon before they make an appointment.
The problem is, how can a patient tell if an oral surgeon is the one most qualified to treat them? Does a flashy website or dozens of positive reviews equal the best choice? Here is a checklist to help patients choose the best oral surgeon:
- First, see if the provider accepts your insurance, or if they can help you set up good financing to help you pay for your procedure. Remember that insurance plans change every year, so start each new year by verifying what coverage you have, and what other payment options are available through your employer. (See our blog post on Insurance and financing for more information).
- Look at the training and credentials of the oral surgeon. All oral surgeons should have completed 4-6 years of training and be Board Certified in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Some oral surgeons earn a duel degree in medicine and dentistry, and spend a full year studying General Surgery. This additional training can be valuable for some complex procedures, although is not as important for patients seeking tooth extractions or dental implants.
- In addition to the provider, it is good to know what the oral surgery facility has to offer. These days, oral surgeons should have digital dental and panoramic x-ray equipment. In addition, many modern offices feature cone beam CT scanners and specialized digital scanners that enable them to get a clearer picture of the mouth or other area needing treatment. All this technology can reduce the time and increase the accuracy of your treatment.
- If you require general anesthesia for your surgery, find out if the office staff is qualified to administer anesthesia, and to monitor you safely in their office. For some providers or procedures, you may be need to be treated in a hospital, so find that out in advance.
- If you feel comfortable with social media, look for reviews, testimonials, awards and honors. While social media can be an unpredictable source of information, you can use information you find on the internet as part of your decision making process.
Sometimes the best way to make a decision is to meet the provider face to face. Schedule a consultation, and bring a long list of questions. In addition, see if the facility appears clean, comfortable and well-equipped, and the staff seem to be knowledgeable, friendly and caring. If you feel confident about the provider you’ve chosen, you’re more likely to have a positive attitude and outcome.
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