I Need My Wisdom Teeth Out

Purpose:

INeedMyWisdomTeethOut.com was created for patients seeking information about their proposed wisdom tooth surgery.

It is based on common questions that patients have asked me over my 15 years of providing this surgery.

It is meant to be used as a resource for those seeking information.

The information found here does not replace the expert exam, opinion, and counsel of a dental professional.

If you would like to ask additional questions, or would like to schedule a consult with Dr. Kirk,  you may do so them by clicking the appropriate button below.

How To Use This Site:

Go to the topic of interest outlined in the blue squares below.  

Click the + sign on the right side.  

A window will open and you can listen to an audio clip or read a text answer to the question. When you are finished click the – sign on the right side and move to the next question.

You can request an appointment by clicking the orange “Meet With Dr. Kirk” button.

If you’re on your phone you can click on the blue “call now” link below.

Why Are They Called Wisdom Teeth?

 

In this short audio clip I wanted to answer a question that I hear quite frequently.

Most of you know about wisdom teeth, you have friends or family that have had wisdom teeth removed, and most people realize that oral surgeons are the specialists who focus on wisdom tooth removal in their offices.

The question is why do we call them wisdom teeth?

The reason we call them wisdom teeth is they are the last molars to erupt in the mouth and they usually happen around age 18.

Some people have them erupt earlier in life, at 16 or 17 years of age, and others have them erupt at 19, 20, or even 21 years. But on average it’s around 18 years of age. Since 18 is thought of as the age of wisdom or adulthood, we refer to them as wisdom teeth because that’s the time they typically come in to the mouth. It’s also when they start to present problems and need to be removed.

In short the reason they’re called wisdom teeth is because they erupt in the mouth around age 18, the age of wisdom. And there’s your answer of the day!

Meet With Dr. Kirk
 

How Much Does It Cost?

 

Many patients call the office and ask my staff about the cost of having wisdom teeth removed. I get asked this question too, sometimes I’m even asked this in social environments!

I think this is a fair question to ask, and I’m always glad to answer it. Personally if I were having this or any other procedure done, I would want to know the cost before committing to it so I understand why so many people ask it. It’s reasonable to want to know how much it will cost so you can plan accordingly.

I want to preface what I’m about to tell you with a couple of concepts: the first of which this is just my range of fees for having wisdom teeth removed with IV sedation in my office here in Tennessee so that means you shouldn’t expect this quote to reflect other quotes you might get. These are my fees and mine alone.

Number one, this is just my fees, or a range of fees for having wisdom teeth removed with IV sedation, or better known as going to sleep, in my office here in Middle, Tennessee.

The second thing to consider is that this quote does not include any potential insurance benefits or discount plans, whether that be medical or dental.

Basically I am saying that if you came into my office and you had no medical/dental insurance and you needed your wisdom teeth out, the price range to have that done would be between $1,500 and $2,500. That fee includes having all four wisdom teeth removed as well as your office visit consultation, x-rays, and any post-operative visits.

That’s my fee schedule and that’s what I charge; you can use this as a bellwether to compare me to others.

The third concept to keep in mind is to make sure what you’re comparing is accurate. The fee I listed includes the removal of four wisdom teeth with IV sedation. When you get another quote make sure it includes the same components so you know you’re comparing apples to apples.

Check out additional segments below where I address specifics on medical and dental insurance.

Meet With Dr. Kirk

Will My Medical Insurance Cover Getting My Wisdom Teeth Out?

 

Many times we get asked by patients if their medical insurance will cover having their wisdom teeth removed, and the answer is that it depends.

I know that’s not a great answer, but it’s an accurate one! Whether or not insurance will cover wisdom teeth removal really does vary from insurance company to insurance company, and even plan to plan.

Because it varies so widely, I recommend getting an estimate or pre-authorization before having your wisdom teeth removed.

This is especially important if you’re depending on medical insurance. Because often medical plans will have an exclusion to having your wisdom teeth removed.  The language will basically be buried in the fine print in your insurance policy and, unfortunately, this is exclusion is becoming more and more frequent so check before having it done.

You should get an estimate or pre-authorization by calling your insurance company. When you do, make sure you keep a log of who you talk to and what your conversation pertains to, when you call your insurance company.

Also make sure you stay in network when you have a procedure done.

If you’re depending only on medical insurance, you have to be careful. We’ve had patients who were told that their medical insurance will cover it, as it is based on medical necessity.

Then we do the procedure and the insurance company denies the claim saying it wasn’t medically necessary. That’s when my office and the patient have to fight with the insurance company. And in the end, my office would prefer your insurance company pay for it, and not you!

Like you, my family has insurance. I want my insurance company to pay when I exercise my coverage. I want them to pay as much as possible, because I pay premiums just like everyone else. That’s why I want the insurance company to carry the load on this, not you.

You also have to understand that with insurance if you haven’t met your deductible, you may be reaching in to your pocket to pay for the entire surgical procedure. Or, depending on how much it is, you may have a portion that you’re responsible for even after your deductible has been met.

Now you understand why this question is a difficult one to answer! There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for whether your insurance will cover wisdom tooth removal.  As I’ve explained, it is dependent on your insurance plan, your policy, what they cover, what they don’t cover, and how they approach wisdom teeth removal in general.

If you are interested in what your insurance should cover, you can call your insurance company and then you can come in to my office for a consultation. My staff is very good about vetting insurances and finding out what they will, and what they won’t cover, and to what extent.

One trend I do know of is if they (the medical insurers) are going to consider covering having your wisdom teeth removed by an oral surgeon, you need to have impacted wisdom teeth. 

That means the wisdom teeth can’t be already through the gums as then they may not necessarily need to be “pulled”. If they’re not surgical in nature, then the medical insurance will not cover them. That’s been my general impression since I started doing this 15 years ago.

Check out some more segments for more information. If you have any questions specific to your situation, call your insurance company or give my office a call and  we’d be glad to help out. Thanks.

Meet With Dr. Kirk

Will It Hurt?

 

A very big question for almost every patient who calls us or visits us is will it hurt? People want to know if getting their wisdom teeth out will hurt, and and I think this is one of the most important questions a patient can ask.

Keep in mind that we are talking about a surgical procedure that involves the head and the neck. Many people think of it as a dental procedure, which is valid, but it’s important to remember that it does involve the head and the neck areas too.

Typically people vary on how they recover from surgery and how they tolerate pain from a head and neck procedure, so I can only say that most people do have some discomfort and some pain after having their wisdom teeth removed.

In my office, we help provide some analgesic coverage, which means we give them pain medicine after surgery. We also encourage them to use over the counter medications in conjunction with what I prescribe. This is not the case for every surgeon out there. Everybody’s different in their recommendations so I’m giving you some idea of what I would do and how I would handle it.

I expect that you’re going to have some discomfort and some pain. Most people do pretty well the day of surgery because I numb up the areas where the wisdom teeth are being removed. You’ll be asleep during the surgery, and you’re not going to feel it when you wake up because you’ll still be numbed. We give you long-acting local anesthetic to keep you numb for the better part of the surgical day.

The second and third day are probably going to be the worst couple of days for post-operative discomfort and pain. I’ll give you a prescription for pain medicine and encourage you to use some over the counter medications to help reduce your pain.

I do this so you can get through the first two or three days after your surgery and then get back to your normal activities in four or five days. That’s our goal and our plan.

I expect that you’re going to have some discomfort and some pain. Most people do pretty well the day of surgery because I numb up the areas where we’re going to take out the wisdom teeth.  You’re going to be asleep, you’re not going to know about it. You’re going to be numbed up, so you’re not going to feel it when you wake up. We give you long acting local anesthetic where we numb you up to keep you numb for the better part of the surgical day. The day of surgery you’re doing okay.

The second and third day is probably going to be the worst couple of days for post-operative discomfort and pain. I’m going to give you a prescription.  I’m going to give you this prescription for pain medicine and I’m going to encourage you to use some over the counter medications in conjunction with that to help reduce your pain where you can get through the first two or three days after surgery and get back to normal activities in four or five days. That’s our goal, that’s our plan.

Yes, you will have discomfort, but my goal and my team’s goal is to minimize it. I think that’s a valid approach for all dentists out there.

I don’t think any dentists that I know are out to hurt you! That’s bad for their practice and for their reputation. We do not want to hurt you. We want to make it as comfortable for you as possible, and we want you to have a great recovery.

Understand that it is a surgical procedure and that means sometimes people have pain, and some people have more pain than others. We do everything we can to help manage that and we are happy to do so.

I hope that answers the question about whether or not the procedure will be painful. Most likely it will probably cause you to have some discomfort, but we will get you through it and will help you manage it. We are here to help you and take care of you.

Meet With Dr. Kirk

How Long Will My Surgery Take?

 

As a patient I would always want to know how long a certain surgery is going to take. In most cases, patients that come to my office are sedated and asleep when we take out their wisdom teeth, so the actual time of the procedure is kind of irrelevant.

At the same time, it’s not irrelevant. You want to know how long the surgery is going to take so you can plan accordingly.

In my office, if you are asleep during the procedure, you need someone who’s going to stay there while we do your procedure and then drive you home; we can’t let you drive home after you’ve been sedated.

For planning purposes I like to tell folks, that the regular surgery time in my office is about 45 minutes on average. And most people are in and out of the office in under 90 minutes.

This can vary from patient to patient of course. Some people wake up much quicker than others from sedation, and others take a little while longer. Occasionally we have a patient that gets a little nauseated so we keep them around until they feel better.

In general, it takes about 45 minutes for the surgery by itself.

Occasionally we have a patient that gets a little nauseated and feels sick so we keep them around until they feel better.

All total it’s about 60 minutes to 90 minutes total time with the office visit, plus your surgery to have your wisdom teeth out. Keep in mind that’s 4 wisdom teeth being removed while you are under sedation.

Hopefully that gives you an answer to how long it takes. Remember this is particular to my office and that’s what I tell patients every time I have a consult with them.

If you have any more specific questions you can give our office a call at 615-453-7800.

Meet With Dr. Kirk

How Much Time Do I Need To Take Off From Work/School?

 

Several people have asked me how much time they will need to take off from school or from work to have their wisdom teeth removed.

This is a great question and I tend to give them a range. Keep in mind, a lot of what I talk about on this site has a range because every surgery’s very specific to an individual. Some people do very well with this surgery and recover quickly; some people take a little longer to get back to normal.

On average, I tell patients that they’re going to need a four to five day recovery window after having their wisdom teeth removed.

I always specify that this range is for removing four wisdom teeth with IV sedation.

Many people use Fridays as their surgery days. I do Friday surgeries because people like to use Saturday and Sunday to recover before they go back to work or school on Monday or Tuesday.

They have surgery on Friday morning, and then have Saturday and Sunday to recover, with the intention of being back to work or school on Monday or Tuesday. Four to five days of recovery is the common recovery time I see among my patients and that is what I tell people so they can plan accordingly for work and school.

Many people have their wisdom teeth removed when they’re on school breaks or they take vacation time from work. We work with your schedule to accommodate your needs.

Bear in mind those four to five days of recovery don’t necessarily mean you’ll be lying in bed or on the couch, it just means you’ll be going slower those days, and you won’t be your usual, normal self.

Of course, we’re always available after doing your surgery for post-op visits to make sure you’re doing well.

Hopefully, that helps you understand the timeline for recovery after having your wisdom teeth removed. Remember these are the general expectations for the recovery period before getting back to school or work.

Meet With Dr. Kirk

What Can I Eat After Surgery?

 

Another common question I am asked is about eating: specifically what you can eat and when you can eat after surgery. I am a fan of allowing you to eat as soon as you get out of my office and get home.

I often suggest the shakes at Wendy’s because I want you to eat your shake with a spoon (and not a straw, I explain why later on this site), and you can eat that right after you leave my office.

Because you’re having an oral surgery procedure when you’re having your wisdom teeth surgically removed, we’re going to manage your pain with local anesthetic and sedation. But you’re still going to have swelling and soreness and some discomfort afterwards, so we’re going to keep you on a soft diet.

If you have a consultation for wisdom teeth removal with me and my staff, you’ll hear us recommend stocking up on certain foods. I recommend foods with the consistency like the following: yogurt, ice cream, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, oatmeal.

We want you to stick with the soft diet for probably four or five days after surgery. Some people can eat a little bit more solid diet earlier than others.

Again that goes with the pain tolerance, but the first couple days you want to stay on a soft diet. Make sure you stock up on those foods prior to having your surgical procedure done, because you don’t want to have to worry about running out after your surgery.

I don’t have a hard, fast rule as to when you can start eating solid foods. I say if you feel like eating something more substantial like a sandwich, a grilled cheese, a hamburger, a piece of pizza, or some shredded beef or chicken, then try it out. You’re the best judge of what you can tolerate two or three days post-surgery so I leave it up to you.

Some patients tell me they are still eating yogurt on day 7 and that’s okay. Some people, some of my male teenage patients are eating pizza on the third day – and probably for breakfast for that matter!

My common piece of advice is eat soft foods for a few days after surgery and then eat normally as soon as you see fit.

Of course, if you have any more questions on that topic (or others) you can give my staff a call.

Meet With Dr. Kirk

Why Go To An Oral Surgeon?

 

Many people want to know why they should have an oral surgeon remove their wisdom teeth. And the short answer is they don’t have to go to the oral surgeon.

As oral surgeons, we are specialists in the dental profession; we specialize in oral surgery procedures. Specifically, I’m a maxillofacial surgeon as well so I can do facial bones. I am trained to do any oral surgeries related to the face, jaws, and teeth.

You may have and probably know of people who have had their teeth removed by their general dentist, and that’s okay. There are a lot of general dentists that remove wisdom teeth. It varies based on the difficulty of the surgery, and whether or not most people want to be asleep.

Many general dentists provide “sedation dentistry”: they give you medication to take before you come in which makes you sleepy for the procedure.

This is a little different than what I do.

Some general dentists are even doing IV sedation; they actually start an IV and give IV medication which is shorter and cleaner in my opinion than the medication used in sedation dentistry.

But the reason a lot of people come to oral surgeons is we are known for doing wisdom teeth removal.

I know that’s not a great answer, but this procedure is something that I do almost every day, Monday through Friday. I’m not limited to doing just that, but it’s pretty much the lion’s share of what I do and I do it every day.

Many dentists out there may not do it every day.

I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I’m just stating the facts that I know. Oral surgeons do it every day, and many general dentists do it occasionally. Some general dentists do it all the time too, and they have practices focused on oral surgery alone.

So investigate your options. Ask questions like: “Can I be asleep with IV sedation?” “How many of these do you do?” “Do you do these frequently?” Get answers to these and any other questions you have ahead of time.

I’m glad to tell you I’ve been doing this for 15 years in private practice. I do wisdom teeth removal pretty much every day, with IV sedation most of those times.

Like I said in the previous segment here on this site, 99% percent of the people have sedation my office, and we’re fine to do that.

In my office, we are fine with supporting your general dentist too, if they choose to do that as well. Ask your questions of your general dentist and find out how they do it, or ask your questions of an oral surgeon too.

That’s the question we get, so that’s one of the things I just wanted to hit on, and let you know kind of where I come from.

As always if you have any specific questions, give us a shout.

Thanks.

Meet With Dr. Kirk

What Is A Dry Socket?

 

If you’ve known people to have their wisdom teeth out, and most of us have known family or friends who have, there’s always going to be someone out there that talks about the infamous “dry socket”.

That begs the question: What are dry sockets, and will you have one?

Dry sockets are pretty rare. Based on the literature, there’s a lot of variable numbers on what percentage of people have dry sockets after surgery but I do know that dry sockets are very rare. And if you should incur one, we can help treat it.

Most of the time when dry sockets happen they are from the bottom wisdom teeth, not necessarily the top wisdom teeth.

Here is what happens: a blood clot forms after your wisdom teeth are removed and it comes out a few days or a few hours after the extraction of your teeth, and you are sore in the spot where it has come out.

We take care of that pain with medication, and any issues with healing you may have. Most frequently people come back in thinking they have a dry socket, when in fact they have food or debris in the extraction sites.

Again, this is more typical of the extracted bottom wisdom teeth rather than the top. When we see that, we irrigate the debris out, put medication in it, and we get you treated. We support you after surgery as well, as many or most dentists do.

If you’re concerned with dry sockets it’s a valid point to consider. Although it’s rare there are a couple of factors that could increase your chances of having one.

If you smoke, your chances are increased. When you take a drag off a cigarette or a cigar, you can potentially create a negative environment in the oral cavity that pulls the clot loose. The clot comes out where that extraction was, and you have some exposed bone, which is very uncomfortable.

This can also happen if you use straws too aggressively immediately after surgery; the same thing happens as when you smoke: you create a negative environment that pulls the clot loose, and then you have a “dry socket.”

I know that’s difficult for some folks, but that’s the reason we do it. Same principle if you drink a milkshake with a straw after surgery, and you create a negative environment, it pulls the clot loose, and then you have that “dry socket.”

So we ask you not to smoke or drink through a straw for a week after surgery. I know that’s difficult for some folks, but there is a reason for this request.

Regardless of whether you have food in the extraction sites, or a dry socket, we can treat both of those. You may have to have one or two treatments, but usually we can get you through your treatments in short order.

If you have any specific questions regarding that, then you can give my office a call and ask for one of my surgical staff. They can talk to you about it in more detail.

Meet With Dr. Kirk

Will I Need Prescriptions After My Surgery?

 

Many people want to know what kind of prescriptions they’re going to get once they have their wisdom teeth out.

I’m kind of unique on this topic. As an oral surgeon, over the years, I’ve adjusted what I prescribe for surgery when people get their wisdom teeth out. Typically with many of my wisdom teeth surgery patients, I usually prescribe four different prescriptions.

First off we’ve talked about whether or not wisdom teeth removal hurts. I’ve addressed that question in another segment on the site so we already know you’re going to have some discomfort and some pain. I prescribe post-operative pain medicines, like analgesics which are narcotics.

I encourage people to use over-the-counter (OTC) medications if they can in lieu of the narcotic medication..

I also prescribe antibiotics after surgery to help prevent infection, which is controversial and some of my colleagues do not do so.

And I prescribe a medicated mouth rinse. This medicated mouth rinse is something we have you rinsing with for about a week after surgery. It helps to reduce the post-surgery swelling and soreness.

In addition, flossing and brushing are not going to be as easy for you after surgery. Both are going to be uncomfortable so I prescribe this mouth rinse to help keep those surgical sites clean, and lower the risk of infection. Usually I will have you use the medicated mouth rinse two or three times a day, typically after meals.

Then a fourth medication I prescribe is steroids, unless you have an allergy or have had an adverse reaction to them. Steroids help reduce swelling and inflammation in the surgical site. Many people have “chipmunk cheeks” after having their wisdom teeth removed, so I prescribe the steroid medication to reduce the swelling, and help you recover quicker.

Sometimes people don’t elect to do the steroids and I’m fine with that choice. If you come to see me as a patient, we can discuss it together.

Those are the four prescriptions I prescribe after surgery.

We adjust all of those accordingly based on your specific health history and whether or not we can prescribe those particulars for you.

If you have specific questions about the medications, we can talk about it at your consultation if you choose to come to see us, or you can give my office a call to talk more.

Thanks.

Meet With Dr. Kirk

Will I Have Stitches?

 

A question that I get asked many times when I’m discussing removing someone’s wisdom teeth is about stitches. They want to know how many they will have and if they have to come back into the office to have them removed.

My answer is always this: if I don’t have to put a stitch in after you have your wisdom teeth out, I won’t put one in.

Many times, we don’t need stitches. Personally I think they provide you with potential problems.

The first problem is that the stitch hangs out in your mouth and you wiggle it with your tongue. It’s irritating to your surgical wound.

The second issue is that stitches also collect food which, in turn, collects bacteria and bacteria impedes the healing process.

For those two reasons I don’t typically place stitches.

However if I do need to use one, I use the type that dissolve on their own (unless you’ve had some kind of adverse reaction to those in the past).

Most of the time, we don’t have to place stitches and people do very well. I’ve been doing this for years and have adjusted how I use stitches over time. I have better results by not putting in stitches because of the two reasons I just gave: we don’t have irritants on the surgical wound itself, and you won’t have something wiggling that will bother you.

So the short answer is I won’t put stitches in unless absolute necessary. And if I do have to put stitches in, it will be ones that dissolve and my staff would let you know.

Hopefully, this answers your questions about stitches after surgery.

Meet With Dr. Kirk

My Wisdom Teeth Are Not Bothering Me - Do I Still Need Them Out?

 

As a result of creating this web site one of the questions I’ve gotten is: “What if I don’t have any problems with my wisdom teeth, why would I need them out?”

That’s a great question and I think it’s valid to ask your dentist, whoever that may be, why you would need to remove your wisdom teeth if they aren’t bothering you.

I’m going to give you three basic reasons as to why most people need their wisdom teeth out.

These are in general terms, and may not be specific to your case so you’ll have to go see a dental professional to get a more detailed answer.

The first reason is if you have pathology (decay, cysts, tumors) around your wisdom teeth.

We take x-rays when we do wisdom teeth consultations and if you’ve got a cyst or something forming around a wisdom tooth, which can occur, you would need to have that wisdom tooth removed.

Second is if they do not have room to come in and they’re malposed, meaning they are in an improper position. If are malposed they can cause crowding in your front teeth, and it can shift around your teeth after you’ve had braces placed.

I see this often with referrals. Many orthodontists will send their patients to me for consultations regarding wisdom tooth removal after having braces because they don’t want all that work shifted around.

You don’t want the time, money and effort to get your teeth straight to be wasted! If your wisdom teeth don’t have enough space, they will come in wrong and may wreck your orthodontic work.

The third reason is actually you’re having pain with them. They are bothering you. You have an infection because you can’t get back there and clean them properly. You can also have an infection in the gums.

People will say they their wisdom teeth are not hurting today but they have hurt in the past, and there’s a reason for that. They hurt because they’ve got decay or they’re getting improper hygiene and there is some kind of infection or some inflammation around the wisdom teeth.

The plan forward would be to get the wisdom teeth out and prevent pain, inflammation and infection from occurring in the future because it’s likely to happen again. I see that routinely: symptoms that become problematic one day and then settle down only to come back and be more and more problematic.

Each time the problem returns it becomes more severe, and the problem returns more and more frequently until you’re forced to see someone like me. These things are going to give you fits and you’re going to have to have them out.

As a quick recap, here are the three reasons for having your wisdom teeth out even if they aren’t bothering you right now: you have pathology like a cyst around the teeth or decay on them. You have inflammation, and pain with them. Or you can have crowding and malpositioned, shifting teeth.

Talk to your dental professional about your specific situation or come see us. Let us know if we can help you out and give you our opinion on your wisdom teeth.

Thanks.

Meet With Dr. Kirk

Don’t see your question answered here…hit the button below to ask Dr. Kirk

Or, hit the “Meet With Dr. Kirk” button to request a consultation with Dr. Kirk and his team.