Patient Instructions for Care After Oral Surgery

Post –Surgery instructions:

  • Take all medications as recommended.
  • Drink a lot of fluids and eat soft, lukewarm food the first day.
  • Apply ice packs to the face throughout the first day (20 minutes on, 20 minutes off and chilling the pack when not in use).  This should be done whether or not you have swelling or bruising.
  • Avoid spitting or sucking on a straw during your first day following surgery.  It is important for smokers to refrain from smoking during the first 24 hours after surgery.
  • Do not rinse your mouth on the day of surgery. On the second day, rinse every four to six hours with a cup of warm to hot water mixed with ½ teaspoon of salt. Continue this for approximately one week.
  • Avoid excessive physical activity and alcohol for the rest of the day following surgery.
  • Start tooth brushing carefully the day after surgery.
  • If you are taking birth control medication and antibiotics are prescribed for your surgery, be sure to use an additional means of contraception for the duration of your cycle.
  • Call your dentist if you have any questions or concerns about your healing process.

Information for Dental Management Prior to Cancer Therapy 

Basic Oral Care

This note provides information on oral/dental changes that may be of importance before, during and after your cancer treatment. Although these guidelines are standardized, it is important to remember that your individual needs may differ from this strategy. Having a discussion with your dental team is important to develop a daily routine to suit your individual needs. For any questions on pretreatment care, and care following cancer therapy and to integrate with the oncology plan, please contact the treating oncologist or local expert who is affiliated with cancer center. This is particularly important for dental conditions that may require surgical management and for best preventive strategies.

Oral Care prior to cancer treatment:

  • Treat conditions causing pain and swelling and at risk for infection during treatment
  • Treat dental conditions that may require dental surgery in the future if to receive head and neck radiation therapy


  • Caring for your oral health during therapy is critical as side effects of treatment (listed below) concern more than just your mouth. They may cause pain, affect your nutrition, and in turn your overall well-being

Basic Guidelines

  • Tooth brushing: twice per day with an ultra soft toothbrush
  • Flossing: once per day, gentle to avoid floss cuts
  • Rinsing: see footnote for at home mouth rinse recipe, avoid alcohol containing rinses
  • Supplements: Xylitol products, mouth wetting products and fluoride. Ask your dental team

Hygiene Recall

  • Recommended to have teeth cleaned BEFORE cancer therapy
  • Once therapy is completed and cleared to return for dental treatment, patients may be recommended to be some more frequently than prior to cancer treatment

Common oral side-effects surrounding my treatment.

Xerostomia Dry Mouth: decreased saliva flow

  • Effects: ropey saliva, sticky sensation, less saliva, dry mouth, chapped lips, etc.
  • Managing Side Effects: Try sipping water, Xylitol products (available as mints, lozenges, gums, and rinses), mouthwetting agents. Avoid alcohol containing mouth rinses, coarse, spicy and acidic foods. Sugar substitutes should be used instead of sugar, as your teeth are more susceptible to decay as long as your mouth is dry. Prescription treatments may be indicated.

Mucositis Oral Pain

  • Effects: ulcerative sores, which can occur in any location in your mouth and throat
  • Managing Side Effects: Use at home mouth rinse recipe to calm oral tissues, Chlorhexidine (available by Rx only), regular brushing and flossing. Avoid the same things as with xerostomia. Review with experienced professional for local methods and pain medications as needed.

Fungal Infections Yeast

  • Effects: White coating or red changes on tongue or oral tissues, cracking and sensitivity at the corners of the mouth; taste change and mouth odor
  • Managing Side effects: Adequate at home oral self care for prevention, which should include brushing tongue, antifungal medication (available by Rx only), daily denture cleaning and avoid overnight use

Dysgeusia Taste Alteration

  • Effects: lack or altered taste sensation
  • Managing side effects: Ensure you are maintaining a balanced diet regardless of taste alteration which could increase or decrease your appetite
  • Review with experienced professional for diet instructions and treatments as needed.

Dental cavity prevention: oral hygiene, treating dry mouth, fluoride, diet, chlorhexidine

Dietary recommendations:

  • Soft diet (atraumatic food), supplements if needed

Trismus: Limited jaw opening:

  • Severely impact food intake, speech, and compromise oral hygiene
  • Managing and preventing by daily exercise therapy

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Resources Care After Oral Surgery