You know, our mouths are pretty good about reminding us when something is wrong when our teeth need a little help when it’s time to visit the dentist. One of the most common oral surgery procedures in the United States is wisdom tooth extraction. However, in spite of that, many of us don’t have to deal with many consideration surrounding that procedure until it’s time to have it done. How much does it cost? How do you find a good oral surgeon? How do you plan for a wisdom tooth extraction? We tend to assume that oral surgery procedures are a great deal different from other types of surgery, but in the following brief guide, we’ll hit you with some of the facts.
Whether you’re just curious, or if you have to start planning to have your own wisdom teeth removed, read on for details!
Many people who’ve never had to worry about their own wisdom teeth have no idea why they’d have to be removed. In spite of that, wisdom teeth have always been somewhat problematic, and among the many recurring dental issues that people face, wisdom teeth are an extremely common one.
Everyone has wisdom teeth. Not all wisdom teeth cause problems as they grow, however; that’s going to change from person to person, which is why the procedure that involves removing them isn’t as well-known as it should be. We’re accustomed to the old adage of pulling teeth; heading into the dentist’s office, getting hit with novocaine, and leaving ten minutes later with a sore gum line, a numb cheek, and an ice pack held against your face.
It’s understandable, then, when people are surprised and disappointed to find out that the removal of wisdom teeth involves a whole other type of specialist, and oftentimes, an entirely different clinic. A wisdom tooth extraction is very, very rarely performed by a dentist. Most of the time, a dedicated oral surgeon is going to be the one responsible for the process. It won’t be done in a dentist’s office, but in a surgery room. And you won’t get a shot of novocaine; you’ll get general anesthetic, to put you out entirely.
What we’ll cover in the following guide should help you to prepare yourself for everything that a wisdom tooth extraction will entail. We’ll talk about the reasons that a person usually has it done, as well as the preparation you’ll go through before the surgical procedure. Then, we’ll talk about some of the follow-up care that’s necessary after the surgery is complete; there are some very careful rules to follow that will be important for your mouth’s healing. Lastly, we’ll talk cost. It’s very difficult to know how much a wisdom tooth extraction is going to cost from person to person (primarily because the procedure can differ quite a lot), but we’ll toss around a few ballpark estimates so that you have a better idea of what to expect.
Why are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
The easy answer to this question–because wisdom teeth can cause problems. As stated above, this isn’t a set-in-stone rule for our mouths. For many people, wisdom teeth will simply be another set of chompers that erupt from the gumline behind the molars, and remain there for the duration of a person’s life. Wisdom teeth aren’t abnormal in any sense of the word; we’re meant to have them, but we can also live just fine without them.
Problems arise, however, when wisdom teeth can’t grow in as they’re meant to. For some people, there isn’t enough room on their jaw for wisdom teeth to fit behind the molars. When this happens, those growing teeth tend to “impact” the jawline, which can lead not only to quite a lot of pain but other trouble as well. See, when teeth grow and rise up from the gum line, they also shift in orientation. They’re meant to turn as they grow so that the crown eventually faces up. When wisdom teeth are too impacted to do this, they can abrade against your molars (ouch!) and eventually even cause infections and other serious problems along the jaw.
Hence, those little buggers sometimes need to come out.
How are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Contrary to popular belief, not all teeth can be remedied with some fishing line, a doorknob, and irresponsibility. As is often the case when particular teeth are causing problems, specific procedures are necessary to remove them in a healthy way.
Since wisdom teeth are in a notably precarious place in our mouths (stuffed way back behind our molars), they require the work of an oral surgeon to remove, much of the time. When you visualize this, it tends to make sense. Impacting wisdom teeth often haven’t even breached the gum line; they’re not even visible for a dentist to interact with. Even when they’re partially or entirely visible, they’re still in about the most difficult place within our mouths that they could possibly be.
Hence, your dentist will often recommend you to an oral surgery specialist, with whom you’ll consult and plan for the removal of the teeth.
The best practices for extracting wisdom teeth are going to come down to an individual’s needs. The most common way it’s done is to put the patient under with anesthetic, and then remove the wisdom teeth once they’re unconscious. In most cases, this is the safest way to handle the procedure.
However, if a patient can’t use a general anesthetic, other means–such as a local anesthetic–might be necessary. In even rarer cases, a wisdom tooth might have presented itself enough on the gum line for a dentist to do the removal themselves. If more than two wisdom teeth need to be removed, however, you may yet be recommended to an oral surgeon.
Finding an Oral Surgeon
As I mentioned, most dentists will have one or more specialists that they can recommend you to, be they oral surgeons or maxillofacial surgeons. This is usually the best way to find someone to extract your wisdom teeth, but if you need to find someone to perform the surgery, there are ways to search for a specialist and clinic.
More often than not, the first place that your search should begin is online! Almost every operating clinic has some form of web presence, and the site will tell you which surgeons are working within the clinic and also how you might get in touch with them. Simply head to Google and search for oral surgeons in your city. “Oral surgeons in San Francisco,” is a good example!
If you want to do things a bit old-fashioned, that’s an option as well! Flip through your local phone book and search for oral and maxillofacial surgeons local to you!
Before & After the Surgery
Before we start telling you what should be done before and after your surgery, you should know that your doctor and surgeon’s advice is far, far more prudent to follow than anything you read here, or elsewhere online. The medical professional in charge of extracting your wisdom teeth is going to know what’s best for you throughout the entire procedure and the recovery that follows it, so stick to their advice!
As is typical with surgery involving anesthesia, you’re going to want to keep a close watch on your eating and drinking the day before your surgery. More than that, you’re going to want to prepare for your recovery before you have your teeth removed.
That means stocking up on plenty of soft foods and drinks. Chewing is going to be off limits for a short while after (and your mouth is going to be too uncomfortable to do it, anyway) so this is important! Also arrange for a friend to bring you to and from the operation. Because you’ll be coming off anesthesia once the procedure has finished, you’ll be in no shape to transport yourself anywhere.
How Much Does Wisdom Tooth Extraction Cost?
Here’s the kicker, and this is usually what happens when we start talking about the cost of any medical procedure–the cost is going to differ wildly from person to person. Thankfully, in spite it being a surgical procedure, wisdom tooth extraction might not be expensive as you’d expect.
Citing oral surgeons as a resource, we can at least provide some approximate numbers so that you can budget accordingly. A clinic in Florida claims that recent costs per tooth removed are between $200 and $500. This includes the cost of anesthesia, which usually requires the presence of an anesthesiologist. Of course, your own experience might easily differ from this claim, but it’s a good baseline to begin from.
We must also remember that insurance companies that feature any form of dental coverage will often pay for partial or complete costs of wisdom tooth extraction. However, even if you’re without insurance, there’s a good chance that this process (which will only have to occur once in a person’s life, of course) won’t break a budget.
If you have any further questions about wisdom tooth extraction or the cost of the process, let us know in the comments below! Meanwhile, we’d love it if you’d consider sharing this brief article on Facebook and Twitter!