There are few experiences that over 85 percent of the American population share, but having wisdom teeth removed is one of them. The procedure has a long and storied history in the U.S., and at this point, it’s almost a coming of age ceremony.
The third set of molars usually start trying to erupt between the ages of 17 and 25. Optimally, they cause a little bit of minor irritation while they’re poking up through the gums, but then they offer no further issues.
Of course, that only occurs less than 15 percent of the time. For the rest of us, our jaws are simply too small to make room for four more large teeth in the far back. As a result, they tend to come in crooked or, even worse, impacted — growing into the side of another tooth. This can sometimes cause tremendous pain over a long period. More often, however, the pain comes and goes in 1-2 day waves as they occasionally make another valiant effort to break free of the gums.
Beyond the discomfort (which some lucky people never experience, even if their wisdom teeth are all impacted), this situation creates four more opportunities for cavities, gum disease, and other dental issues to arise. Since unerupted and impacted wisdom teeth aren’t adding any value and can be a source of pain and other problems, dentists usually recommend their removal.
Unfortunately, wisdom teeth removal can be expensive, and it is not usually covered in full by traditional dental insurance. With the average retail cost of wisdom teeth removal ranging from $300 to $2,300 (depending on where it’s performed, what anesthetic is used, and whether or not the wisdom teeth are impacted), this rite of passage can be daunting for a family on a budget.
So, if you’re in need of wisdom teeth removal, how can you afford it? This article will cover some strategies you can explore to help cover the costs of advanced dental care and make this valuable service more affordable for you and your family.
Traditional dental insurance
Generally speaking, no major medical insurance plan offers coverage toward wisdom tooth extraction. That includes standard Medicare. The only possible exception would be if the extraction was expected to be extremely complex or even dangerous, and if it was deemed medically necessary due to complications or related conditions rising from the situation.
However, if you have a separate policy for dental insurance, the plan most likely offers coverage toward wisdom tooth removal up to a maximum annual payout (usually $1,500 per person, or a higher total for the whole family.) Combined with the lower contracted fees participating providers have agreed to accept for the consultation and follow-up visits, this type of dental insurance coverage can cover a significant portion of the cost of having your wisdom teeth removed.
It probably won’t cover all of it, so there are other options to consider as well.
Dental discount plans
Similar to insurance, dental discount plans will have a panel of participating dentists who have agreed to offer their services at discounted rates to plan members. Assuming the plan you join includes discounts toward extractions and oral surgery, this can be an excellent way to save money.
If you have both insurance and a discount plan available, it’s important to thoroughly research coverage details and discuss the matter in detail with the provider’s office before going ahead with any procedure. This will allow you to determine which option saves you more money while allowing the provider to offer the best services and materials for your situation. It’s unlikely that the provider will allow both insurance AND a discount program to be applied to the same procedure, but that’s generally left up to the provider, so it doesn’t hurt to ask if that’s an option.
One potential advantage of the discount plan over time is the fact that there are no limits to how many times the discount can be applied or how much you’re allowed to save. Having your wisdom teeth removed involves a number of billable services: a consultation, one or more surgeries, anesthetic, and at least one follow-up visit to make sure you’re healing up properly. With all that factored in, your overall out-of-pocket expense may be lower with the discount plan.
Private financing through the office
These days, many dentists and oral surgeons have set up programs to offer financing for expensive procedures, either privately or through a third-party lender. They know most patients can’t afford to pay for these services all at once, and the option to finance wisdom tooth removal can sway a patient who is on the fence. You should discuss this with each office to learn about plan rules, interest rates, payment terms, and other details unique to that location.
While these kinds of private financing options usually end up more expensive than paying cash upfront for the services, the interest rates and terms tend to be better than the average American’s available credit card or personal loan options. Low credit scores tend to be less of a deterrent than in other financing situations, as well. Especially if used in combination with insurance or a discount plan, financing the remaining balance of your wisdom teeth removal through the office can be both convenient and cost-effective.
Conventional credit or savings
A final option to consider is paying for your wisdom tooth extraction using a credit card, personal loan, line of credit, or funds from a savings account or retirement fund.
Since it can be a significant purchase, each person needs to make their own decision on how highly they value the benefits of having their wisdom teeth removed compared to the cost of credit or the limitations it may place on future spending. If you’re going to take a large amount of cash out of a savings account or retirement fund, the wise move is to discuss it with your financial planner first and compare all the details with the other options listed above.
Regardless of your personal financial situation, getting your wisdom teeth removed is a big deal and it deserves time and attention. If you don’t currently have dental insurance or a dental discount plan available, obtaining one or both is a logical first step in the process. Then, follow through with adequate due diligence and enlist your provider’s help in choosing the best options for your situation.