Most people develop wisdom teeth around age 10, but the teeth themselves can surface anywhere from two to 15 years later. This unpredictability makes them tricky—you never how the tooth will grow, and there’s always a chance that it will grow the wrong way. The most common problem is impacting, where the molar grows into adjacent teeth and keeps them from emerging. In this case, the tooth must be removed; otherwise they can get very painful and even affect neighboring organs, such as the sinus.
Wisdom teeth extraction is considered minor surgery. It is performed with strong local anesthesia and usually a local sedative to help keep the patient still. While it’s a fairly safe procedure, not all people are good candidates for wisdom teeth extraction. For instance, older people are usually more prone to complications, which is why dentists recommend having wisdom teeth removed by age 18. As you get older, your teeth become fused to your facial bone, and removing them becomes increasingly risky.
Some side effects can occur both as a result of the medication and the extraction itself. If you were given a strong sedative, you may feel lightheaded for a while after the procedure. After the operation, you may feel some pain and swelling on the side of your face, and your lower lip may be a little sensitive. Depending on how long the extraction took, you may also feel some stiffness in your jaw. These are often no cause for concern, but if the pain lasts more than two weeks, call your dentist for a follow-up.
Extraction costs $150 to $350 per tooth, but this doesn’t include related services such as X-rays, anesthesia, sedation, and medications. The total price can be anywhere between $500 and $1,000, or more for complicated procedures. Factors affecting wisdom teeth removal cost include your location (dentists in some areas charge more than others), your dentist (more experienced dentists charge more), and the scope of the procedure (complicated cases take more of the dentist’s time and thus cost more).
Dental insurance usually covers part or all of the cost of extraction. The coverage ranges from 15% to 50%. You can cut costs by opting out of some services; for example, you can ask to be sedated instead of asleep during the procedure. If you’re not covered by insurance, you can look into financing, or ask your clinic if they have alternative payment plans. Most will accept deferred payment for costly extractions. The terms may be based on your credit history, so be ready to provide any necessary information.