The replacement of missing teeth can be divided into two categories—surgical and non-surgical. Surgical options include a single dental implant, or implants used to support a dental bridge (implant-supported dentures). Non-surgical options include a dental bridge (attached to existing natural teeth reinforced with dental crowns), and traditional dentures. Dentures are the best non-surgical option when you're missing many (or all) of your teeth, requiring partial or full dentures. So why have you been told that you'll need oral surgery before you can receive dentures?
Preparation Work for Dentures
There's a fair amount of preparation involved in making dentures. They're customized for each individual patient, so a precise mold of your palate must be created. This allows the denture base (the acrylic plate holding the prosthetic teeth) to be an exact match for your palate. This is necessary both for comfort and functionality. Some patients may not have a palate that's suitable for dentures, hence the need for oral surgery.
Bone Ridges Around Dental Sockets
Needing oral surgery as part of your denture treatment might seem unfortunate, but can be unavoidable. Bone ridge reduction is a minor procedure, but can be a prerequisite for some patients. When a tooth is lost, its socket is empty. The jawbone surrounding this empty socket may have formed a ridge. These ridges create sharp angles across your dental arches and can pose a considerable challenge when making a denture base fit. As such, their removal can be mandatory for a patient who needs dentures.
Bone Ridge Reduction Surgery
The removal process involves surgery, however, the surgery itself is minor. Under a local anesthetic, your dentist will make a small incision in the gingival tissues covering the bone ridge. A small bur is then used to smooth out the ridge. Only a tiny amount of bone is removed, and recovery time is minimal. The site of the surgery will be sutured. These may be absorbable and will dissolve of their own accord, or they might be removed at a subsequent appointment. Some discomfort is to be expected, but it won't be particularly intense and can be managed with over-the-counter pain medication. You'll also need to be careful with your diet, favoring soft foods that don't require much chewing, so as to not disrupt the healing process.
Once you have recovered from your bone ridge reduction surgery, your swelling will have subsided. This allows your dentist or denturist to take an accurate impression of your palate to create your dentures.