Team of dental surgeons working on a patient

Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing Patients for Surgery

Learn the procedures, steps, risks, and requirements for preparing patients for surgery.

Team of dental surgeons working on a patient

Oral surgeon’s assistants, or Dental Assistants, work with patients and assist during dental procedures. One of their primary duties is to help prepare patients for surgery. This ensures that the oral surgeon receives support before, during, and after each procedure. It’s also vital to provide patients with the care and comfort they need to feel safe.

Prepping patients for surgery increases the overall efficiency of a dental practice. Among other traits, the ideal Dental Assistant is highly organized, attentive to their patients, maintains exceptional hand-eye coordination, and possesses knowledge of oral surgery procedures. They must follow the proper procedure when prepping patients for dental surgery.

This article focuses on the basics of preparing patients for surgery, one of the most important dental procedures for medical staff.

(See our list of Dental Assisting duties and responsibilities)

Prepping Patients for Surgery Definition

What Does It Mean To Prepare Patients for Surgery?

Patient surgery prep is the process of preparing patients both mentally and physically to receive dental care. Dental assistants must carefully explain procedural risks so patients can provide informed consent. Some dental professionals use brochures or other written materials to help prepare patients. They may also perform follow-up phone calls and allocate extra time for questions or concerns.

What is the Purpose of Prepping Patients for Surgery?

Preparing patients for surgery is a standard procedure that’s performed for the following reasons:

  1. To heighten the practice’s efficiency
  2. To allow the dentist to see more patients in less time
  3. To support the patient as well as the oral surgeon
  4. To help ensure the safety and health of the patient
  5. To help ensure that procedures are followed and a sterile environment is maintained

How Long Does it Take To Prepare Patients for Surgery?

Although it depends on various factors, this procedure may take about 10-20 minutes to complete. Since some patients may become nervous or afraid, you must explain the procedure so that they understand its scope and duration.

Who Can Prepare Patients for Surgery?

Oral surgeons’ assistants are sometimes referred to as Dental Assistants. They may also be called oral and maxillofacial surgical assistants. They offer pre, peri, and postoperative support to dentists or oral surgeons. Their tasks may include sterilizing instruments, taking X-rays, monitoring the patient’s vital signs during surgery, and educating others on oral health.

Although the rules can vary by state, Dental Assistants may be allowed to help prepare patients for surgery. They help patients feel comfortable, provide follow-up instructions, educate on oral hygiene, document dental care services, assist patients with paperwork, and perform other related tasks under a dentist’s supervision.

(Go here to learn how to become a Dental Assistant)

Asian nurse helping an elderly woman

Training Requirements for Patient Surgery Prep

The requirements for surgery prep vary and depend on your location and profession. For instance, Dental Assistants usually need to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam. However, some may learn through on-the-job training.

Dental Assistant programs typically take about one year or less to complete. They include both clinical and classroom instruction. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredits over 250 Dental Assisting programs in the United States. These programs provide knowledge and practical experience.

According to one job description for an oral surgeon’s assistant, the ideal candidate must meet the following qualifications:

  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery assistant certification
  • Radiography certification
  • At least six months of dental assisting experience
  • Sound knowledge of how to use surgical equipment, instruments, and materials
  • A good understanding of surgical techniques, chairside responsibilities, and health and safety protocols
  • An excellent understanding of dental records, charts, and documentation
  • Outstanding organizational and time management skills
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • The ability to provide excellent patient care, even under stressful circumstances
  • Professional appearance and attitude

Patient Surgery Prep

Like any other skill, preparing patients for surgery requires time and practice to get it right.

Steps for Patient Surgery Prep

Here are the general guidelines you should follow:

  1. Prepare the workstation. This process includes sterilizing instruments, procuring a patient’s dental records, and donning protective clothing like masks, gloves, or eyeglasses.
  2. Prepare the patient. You will likely guide the patient to their chair. Try to make them feel comfortable while you prepare them for examination or treatment. Remember to explain the procedure and how long it may take.
  3. Assist during the exam, surgery, or procedure. During this step, your duties may include the preparation of topical anesthetics, the use of suction hoses, and the handling of instruments for the dentist.
  4. Provide the patient with post-procedure instructions. Instruct your patient on what to expect after the procedure, such as proper care, required medications, how to clean the treated area, and required follow-up appointments.
  5. Ensure the area is clean and sterilized. Once the workstation is empty, remove any contaminated equipment for sterilization. The site must be cleaned and prepared for the next patient. In addition, the patient’s records should be updated and filed as soon as possible.

Necessary Equipment for Patient Surgery Prep

Securing proper tools and preparing the workstation is part of surgery prep. Supplies used during a procedure may include the following items:

  • Mouth Mirror
  • Dental Explorers
  • Cotton Forceps
  • Extracting Forceps
  • Periodontal Probe
  • Ultrasonic Scaler
  • Dental Elevators
  • Air Water Syringe
  • Saliva ejector

Potential Risks or Complications of Dental Surgery for Patients

Although rare, there are some possible complications of any dental surgery. These risks can include infection, injury, dry socket, numbness, sinus complications, root fragments, jaw fracture, or TMJ issues. Remember that a dentist or oral surgeon would only recommend surgery if the need outweighed the risks. Proper surgery prep is vital to the procedure and health of the patient.

The word tips in wooden letter blocks

Pro Tips for Mastering the Art of Patient Surgery Prep

Patient surgery prep tips often revolve around organizational skills, a team-player mindset, and a willingness to learn. Here are some pro tips that may assist you in the future:

  • Improve your organization skills –As a Dental Assistant, one of your primary responsibilities is maintaining organization around the office. This can include sanitizing and managing dental tools or various tasks related to patient scheduling and appointments. Try to improve your organizational skills by finding different ways to manage your time. For instance, maybe you’ve thought of a way to simplify the sign-in process for patients or the storage of surgical supplies. Of course, always ensure you comply with your employer’s policies and procedures and get approval before making any changes.
  • Work well with others Most of your job requires teamwork and interaction with other people. Your goal should be to assist the patient as well as your colleagues. Hone your communication skills, practice active listening, and support your team.
  • Champion your patients  Your patients should always be a top priority. Explain procedures to them, answer questions, and treat them with compassion. In addition, privately meet with the oral surgeon and discuss ways you can help your patients relax. For instance, some patients may want to listen to music during a procedure.
  • Consider professional liability insurance – According to these helpful tips, the American Dental Assistants Association has stated that standard employer policies don’t always protect employees if they’re individually sued. To ensure you have adequate coverage, you may want to consider a professional liability insurance policy for yourself.
  • Leave room to grow and learn Continuing your education will protect you and your patients in several ways. For one, it will ensure that you are up to date on the latest technologies, procedures, laws, and regulations. Continuing education classes may also teach new skills or sharpen old ones. Look to a professional organization for help or recommendations, such as the American Dental Assistants Association.

Why Should Dental Assistants Learn How To Prepare Patients for Surgery?

Without proper patient surgery prep, the patient and the dentist could suffer from various complications. Although patient surgery prep may sound simple, it’s a crucial and highly effective step vital to overall health.

Thankfully, Dental Assistants can significantly increase the efficiency of the dental care team. For example, when they assist dentists and oral surgeons, they help them deliver the highest quality oral healthcare.

While patient-surgery prep isn’t always a job requirement, it is a task that Dental Assistants can sometimes perform. It’s also a valuable skill that could lead to more opportunities. Therefore, it would be advantageous for DAs or aspiring Dental Assistants to pursue training in this area. Once experienced, a DA would likely become more helpful to their employer and earn better career prospects.

Female medical receptionist using a tablet

Start Your Career in Dental Assisting

Patient surgery prep is a crucial skill aspiring Dental Assistants should consider learning for their careers. It’s also an essential practice for the safety of the patient and the entire oral health team.

Regular dental appointments in a safe, supported, and sterile environment can prevent potential issues and manage your health. Remember: Your oral health is linked to your overall health.

If you’re inspired and want to pursue a career in medicine, Unitek College offers various healthcare programs, such as our Dental Assisting program.

Contact us today to learn more about our programs and tuition assistance options. Take the first step toward a rewarding future in healthcare!