Considerations For the Cost of Wisdom Teeth

In a recent post, I discussed the cost of wisdom teeth management based on an article that appeared earlier this year in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (see Another article discussing wisdom teeth costs also appeared in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in 2012 (see In both articles the authors conclude the costs of non-operative management of asymptomatic, disease-free, wisdom teeth exceeds the cost of operative management.

I take issue with their conclusions as I believe they make too many simplifications in their analysis. I argue that the authors are ignoring the real risks of having wisdom teeth extracted that are not going to likely occur with non-operative management. Removing wisdom teeth has complications that can result. Some of these can be serious, permanent, and lasting, and cause considerable cost to both the patient and society.

For example over at a case from the 1980’s is discussed of a 36 year woman who was given an overdose of anesthesia while having her wisdom teeth removed that left her with permanent brain damage and unable to care for herself. Due to a damage cap in the state of Indiana she only received $500,000 from a settlement. It is not clear how long this women will live for, but clearly if she is unable to work and care for herself that $500,000 settlement will run out quickly and then her bills would be paid by taxpayers.

Other cases can be expected following wisdom teeth removal where the patient suffers a complication that causes them to have to be supported by taxpayers due to their injuries. Other patients may be reduced to less earning potential in their lifetimes due to not being able to feel well enough to work as they normally would have or would be expected to. I considered such a scenario in the latter previous post referred to. This would cause less productivity to society and be more likely to result in able bodied global competitors stepping in.

In my opinion, a proper analysis of the costs should consider the expected risks that can occur with surgery of wisdom teeth and consider the fact that some of these patients can become a burden to society due to injuries and loss of productivity.

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