There is a lot of debate regarding removing asymptomatic third molars (wisdom teeth). Those who argue against removing asymptomatic wisdom teeth (retaining) are often accused of trying to save the insurance industry money (See for example Rogue Dentist’s Crusade), while those who argue for extracting asymptomatic wisdom teeth for preventative purposes are often accused of being interested in making more money due to the commonly used fee for service health care system. Somehow in the hoopla the patient’s health seems to take a back seat to some party making (or saving) money.
Recently an article came out in London in the Times titled “Health insurer’s chief takes the knife to ‘unnecessary surgery” by Nic Fildes and Andrew Clark, March 13, 2013. The article opens by saying
“Want to get your wisdom teeth extracted? Don’t ask Bupa, which is cutting back on what it deems unnecessary surgery in an attempt to improve profits in its ailing British business.”
The article states that the CEO of Bupa says that it won’t pay for wisdom teeth extractions for patient’s who aren’t in pain. The CEO is quoted as essentially saying that there is no reliable research that suggests that removing healthy teeth have health benefits (of course one could argue the opposite). (For those who don’t know Bupa is a large private health insurance company in the United Kingdom).
The article describes how Bupa lost some of it’s customers in 2011, in Britain, and how Bupa is trying to keep prices down of hospitals and doctors so customers (patients) can afford to buy their insurance.
The article ends by saying
“Bupa … plans to increase the size of its fledgeling dentistry business in Britain but has focused most of its efforts on overseas markets, where profits are easier to come by. It expects to push into markets in the Far East and Latin America over the coming years.”
So this article certainly seems to give credibility to the argument that some individuals may argue against removing asymptomatic wisdom teeth (retaining) for the explicit purpose of saving the insurance industry money.