The High Cost of Getting My Son’s Wisdom Teeth Removed

Nobody likes a big mouth.

At least that’s what I used to think.

My teenage son, Matthew doesn’t have a big mouth — although I wish he did.

That’s because most big mouths have one particular virtue that makes the rest of us extremely envious: they usually get to keep their wisdom teeth. As a result, they — or their parents — also end up avoiding those dreaded dentist bills for their removal.

My son was cursed with his dad’s pie hole; my fly trap is so tiny it can barely accommodate 24 teeth.

Although Matthew’s mouth isn’t that small, last week the dentist removed all four of his wisdom teeth — plus a fifth molar that was almost hopelessly impacted, somehow pointed at a nearly 90 degree angle to his other teeth.

Unfortunately, the removal of that fifth molar left an unacceptable gap in my son’s not-so-big mouth that threatened to undo thousands of dollars worth of orthodontia work that we previously paid for. So to prevent that, Matthew also needed a bone graft to support a future dental abutment for a fake tooth.

Believe it or not, by the time this orthodontic odyssey is finally over, it looks like the wisdom tooth gig is going to cost me even more.

Check out this itemized bill:

  • Impacted tooth removal ($370)
  • Impacted tooth removal ($370)
  • Impacted tooth removal ($370)
  • Impacted tooth removal ($370)
  • Impacted tooth removal ($370)
  • Bone replacement graft ($275)
  • General anesthesia ($590)
  • Surgical placement of implant ($1,950)
  • Prefabricated abutment ($300)

For those of you who aren’t human calculators, the total bill comes to a grand total of $4965.

Unfortunately, my dental insurance is only picking up one-third of that ($1633), so I’m stuck shelling out $3332.

And I thought my son’s dental braces were expensive.

It’s enough to make me pine for the days when a lost molar or bicuspid required nothing more than a buck or two to cover the obligatory tooth fairy visit.

Don’t get me wrong. Money is not the issue here — I would do it all over again if I had to for my son. But I did want to highlight yet another example of how kids can be a very expensive proposition in the grand scheme of life.

Looking back, now I know what my dad meant when he assured me right before I had my wisdom teeth removed that the procedure I was about to have was going to hurt him a lot more than it was ever going to hurt me.

Photo Credit: Wonderlane

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    This is when you need to research less expensive locations that have US equivalent health and dental care.

    All of our family dentists are practicing in San José Costa Rica and were trained both there and in the USA.

    Bottom line is a savings of about two thirds off US prices for US equivalent services.

    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      Interesting! That is a creative approach to be sure. I think after including the price of the plane tickets, hotel, and time and hassle of flying, the opportunity cost of traveling to Costa Rica would be too much for me.

  2. 3

    says

    I had my wisdom teeth out in 2009 and had a lot of the same story. In my case, the bone graft qualified it for a surgical procedure, so a claim was filed against my health insurance provider for the anesthesia and the bone graft. In my case, I don’t have the EOB as it’s been a couple of years, but I kept the summary info, and the oral suregon filed a claim of $2,460 with my health insurance company (in addition to whatever it was they filed with the dental company) and all I had to pay was $102. Now in my case, I made sure that the provider was in-network to both insurance plans. I will say that it took a few months for the health insurance company to approve the claim (and a lot of back and forth with regards to procedure codes and stuff) but it did help a lot.

  3. 5

    tracee says

    gahhhhhhhh i need to start saving now!! i’m going to remind my parents how lucky they are that i was born with only 2 wisdom teeth.

    • 6

      Len Penzo says

      I know I had no idea how expensive it was, tracee. You never know; maybe your kids will only be born with two wisdom teeth too. ;-)

  4. 7

    says

    Next time, fly to Bangkok and have it done there.

    Round-trip airfare for two: $1400 ($700 per person)
    Hotel: $15 per night for a pretty nice place.
    Wisdom teeth removal: $100
    Food: 25 cents for Pad Thai from a street cart. Or $5 if you really want to splurge at a nice restaurant.

    • 8

      Mindimoo says

      True but a bit risky. I know a few people who have had overseas dental work only to come home and have to have it corrected within a couple of years. If you can find someone, as Ed Reames has, who has equivalent training to a local dentist then perhaps it is worth consideration.

    • 10

      Todd says

      International travel with a bloody, swollen mouth sounds like a recipe for misery. I would gladly pay the going rate in the US for the luxury of moping around my own house for the few days after the operation.

    • 13

      Len Penzo says

      A hundred bucks, Paula? I bet I can cross the border into Tijuana and get it done for that too. No anesthetic though. ;-)

  5. 14

    says

    Ouch! That’s a lot of money. Hmm, maybe if I show this to Mrs. YFS she will reconsider having kids until a few more years pass.

  6. 16

    Marie says

    Definitely see if your health insurance will cover oral surgery. Ours did when I had my wisdom teeth pulled.

    But I feel your pain. I have a son with diabetes AND braces! (And when I find diabetes supplies and insulin in the wash machine, I go crazy)

    I just keep thanking my lucky stars that it isn’t worse than it is!

    • 17

      Len Penzo says

      I’ll look into seeing if my health insurance will cover oral surgery, Marie, but somehow I doubt it. No matter the cost, though, I know you agree with me that our kids are still worth the expense.

  7. 18

    says

    Dental costs can be so incredibly expensive. We went through the same thing last year. Our 14 year old son had to have his wisdom teeth removed so that it would mess up the wonderfully straightened-by-braces teeth. So far, three out of our four kids have had braces and one has had wisdom teeth removed. I am like you — I would do anything for my kids. It is just one of those expenses that can sneak up on you. When they are babies, you just worry about when they are going to get that first tooth, not how much it will cost in 15 years!

  8. 20

    Thomas says

    I had a similar estimate by my dentist in 2008. The answer? Went to an oral surgeon and the cost was substantially cheaper plus the dental insurance picked almost all of that up.

  9. 21

    says

    Ouch! For you and him.

    I paid for my own wisdom teeth to be removed because I procrastinated getting them out until I was 32. Dang, now I’m wishing I would have made my parents pay for them. :)

    I should also mention that since I waited so long, the wisdom teeth damaged another molar and I had to pay an extra $1500 and two more procedures to fix that too. So the lesson here is DON’T PROCRASTINATE.

    • 22

      Len Penzo says

      Yikes! It makes you wonder why we even HAVE wisdom teeth, since they cause most of us so much trouble. Doesn’t it? What happened to evolution making them virtually disappear — like with our appendix.

    • 24

      Len Penzo says

      The jury is still out on whether or not I am going to help him pay for his vehicle insurance, Greg. Right now, the official position is: if you can’t pay for all aspects of owning a car, then you won’t be driving one.

  10. 25

    Freya says

    This is making me feel quite lucky to live in the UK, where I had all four wisdom teeth removed under general anaesthetic with a 24 hour hospital stay, courtesy of the NHS (National Health Service), ie. free at the point of delivery.

    My daughter’s orthodontic treatment was also on the NHS, since her teeth were sufficiently wonky to qualify as essential.

    If you want fancy stuff like veneers or purely cosmetic orthodontics you obviously have to pay for it yourself, but at least the essentials are covered.

    • 26

      Len Penzo says

      I’m truly happy that no additional money came out of your pocket for those expenses, Freya! However, I think you’re being too kind to the NHS. It’s really courtesy of yourself and other British taxpayers — and only after getting the approval of a few government bureaucrats. I’m happy with the American system that keeps all the decision making in my hands, without the additional gov’t bureaucracy and taxation that comes with it. (Well, the old American system … it looks like in a few more years we may be tipping more toward the British model.)

      • 27

        Guy says

        It isn’t in your hands but in your insurance’s hands. And if they refuse to pay (which, they apparently are for some things) then you have to pay out of pocket. No different in UK where if the government says no you can still pay out of pocket…

        And your costs wouldn’t be much more than the premiums you are paying for insurance + the other 2/3 of the costs that they don’t cover.

        It is silly that we make poor, seniors, children, small businesses foot the bills for healthcare when we can centralize it and save a bunch of money. I have seen first hand poor people go into the ER to get checked for something (because they don’t have a doctor), and then when the bill comes not pay it! And what do they care? They already have terrible credit scores what is one more collection agency coming after them?

  11. 28

    Gina says

    For the love of God.. you shop around for everything else, why not shop around for dental procedures? Afraid of hurting your dentists feelings? Well boo dang who!!
    Tough tough tough!
    Go get some more estimates, drive to the next town if you have to, ask around from friends and family for some Dentists names. Just don’t pay that overinflated bill cause your dentist said so. Times are tough SHOP AROUND!

    • 30

      Guy says

      Not all insurances allow shopping around. I know my brother’s mandates that he picks a primary dentist and that anything done by another dentist is not covered. He would have to switch to the new dentist for everything and then stay there for an entire year.

  12. 31

    says

    Poor little guy. How did his recovery go?

    We have paid for two sets of braces, one set of wisdom teeth removal, and a third set of braces is about to be put on this month. Teeth are so expensive, and insurance covers so darn little.

  13. 33

    says

    Len,

    You left out the cost of the porcelain crown that goes on top of the prefabricated abutment as well as the cost of the sedation to place the implant…..so you are likely to spend about $1,800.00 more than your original estimate. Plus, I would recommend a cutom abutment, because they are much better than the stock (pre-fabricated) ones.

  14. 36

    Shannon says

    Ahem, I beg to differ on the big mouth. I have been told several times what a small mouth I have by dental hygienists (“Wow, you sure have a lot of teeth for such a small mouth!”) but still have all 4 wisdom teeth. Despite needing braces because of crazy teeth, my widsom teeth grew in stick straight and all my dentists have recommended leaving them alone since they’re not doing any harm.

  15. 39

    Jean Slayton says

    Upon seeing the result of my dental x-ray, my cosmetic dentist found out that I had two wisdom teeth that need to be extracted. It is because I am planning to have dental braces.

  16. 40

    Maxwell Hsing says

    Proper aligned wisdom teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth but its misalignment requires removal. Wisdom teeth belongs to final set of molar which people witnesses at their late teens and at early twenties but usually it causes discomfort and pain in the mouth for being positioned forcibly in lesser space. Misalignment causes damaging of the jaw bones, adjacent teeth and nerves.;

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