The Costs of Third Molar (Wisdom Teeth) Management

I have previously commented on the costs associated with wisdom teeth in a 2013 blog post that was based on a 2012 article appearing in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (see More recently, another article discussing the costs of wisdom teeth has appeared in the 2014 Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery titled “The Cost of Third Molar Management” written by Gino Inverso, Ronald Heard, and Bonnie L. Padwa (issue 72, pp. 1038-1039).

This article takes the position that most previous studies focused on discussing wisdom teeth costs when taking the position from the cost of billing to private insurance companies. Their article attempts to use the true cost which they feel should help promote discussion of the topic of retaining or removing healthy disease free wisdom teeth and possibly increase access to care.

In their analysis they determine the approximate time spent with an oral surgeon and their staff for a patient for a consultation, an operative visit, and a post-operative visit. They then determine the estimate annual cost associated with an oral surgeon, a surgery assistant, and a receptionist in a private oral and maxillofacial surgeon office in 2013. This total cost for all 3 comes in at just under 1 million dollars (by about $16,500 under.) To come to this conclusion they observe patient interactions with oral and maxillofacial surgeons and they extrapolate assuming a 3% annual increase to data obtained from prior years.

The authors find that the total estimated cost for all 3 visits to a private oral and maxillofacial surgeon’s office to have 4 wisdom teeth extracted is $359.84. They further estimate that the cost of 1 active surveillance visit for monitoring 4 healthy disease free wisdom teeth is $87.92. They then state that management of healthy disease free wisdom teeth should result in a new office visit every 2 years and estimate that the cumulative cost after 30 years is $2,060.57. The authors state that by the 7th year the active surveillance strategy becomes more costly than the immediate extraction of the 4 wisdom teeth.

Reviewing this article, I am not quite sure how they arrive at their 7th year conclusion. This is because it is not clear to me how they arrive at the costs presented for both scenarios. They refer to a table in the article that states a consultation visit is expected to cost $74.18 but then in the article they present the active surveillance cost of $87.92. It would be nice if anyone could shed some light on these numbers.

As I have pointed out in the previous blog post, their are additional possible costs that can result from having 4 wisdom teeth immediately extracted. Complications are known to occur in some cases and these can increase costs significantly. It would be nice to see some additional discussion adding this in to the discussion and calculating some average expected costs beyond just 1 post-operative visit.

In my case, I had 1 post-operative visit as expected, but because I suffered a chronic 24/7 headache that has not stopped since 2 days after having 4 wisdom teeth extracted I had numerous additional follow-ups with physicians, dentists, oral surgeons, and others in the medical community which adds extreme expense and costs not considered in this article.

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