Your guide to wisdom teeth removal

By HBF

5 minutes

25 June 2021

Young woman with a toothache clutching her jaw in pain 

Wisdom teeth causing you trouble? Here are a few things you need to know about getting them out – and how private health insurance might be able to help.

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are an extra set of molars that grow in last, usually in your late teens or early adulthood (when you’re getting wiser, in theory).1

Most people have four wisdom teeth – two upper and two lower – but some people have fewer, or none at all. 2

Wisdom teeth don’t always need to be removed, experts say.1 However, they can create a number of problems, particularly if there’s not enough space for them in your mouth.2 In these cases, dentists often recommend taking them out.

What problems can wisdom teeth cause?

Your dentist might recommend taking one or more of your wisdom teeth out if:1                

  • Your mouth is crowded already. There may not enough room for your wisdom teeth to grow in properly.
  • Your wisdom teeth are ‘impacted’. This means they’re trapped in your gums, often because they’re growing in at an angle and pushing against nearby teeth or bone.
  • They’re causing tooth decay. It can be hard to brush and floss between a wisdom tooth and its neighbour, so food and bacteria can get stuck easily.
  • They’re causing gum infections. Signs of wisdom tooth infection include painful, red and inflamed gum near the tooth.
  • They’re causing cysts. Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to painful cysts near or around the tooth.
  • You’re getting ulcers or chewing problems. Crowded wisdom teeth can rub against your inner cheek, causing difficulties.
  • You’re experiencing pain. If your wisdom teeth are putting painful pressure on other teeth or gums, it might be better for them to come out.

If wisdom teeth removal is recommended, dentists usually advise doing it sooner rather than later.2

How are wisdom teeth removed?

In many simple cases, wisdom teeth can be removed in the dentist’s chair or an oral surgeon’s private rooms.3

You’ll be awake, but given a local anaesthetic to numb the tooth and surrounding area – similar to when you’re having a tooth filling – so you shouldn’t feel any pain during the procedure.4

For more complex cases, or if you prefer, your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon to do the extraction in hospital as a day procedure.3

In hospital, you will be given a general anaesthetic – meaning you will be unconscious and not respond to pain during the operation.5

Recovery after wisdom teeth removal

After your wisdom teeth removal, dentists say you can expect your jaw and gums to feel sore and be swollen for a few days.2

Your dentist or surgeon will give you instructions on how to best care for your mouth during this healing process. Some general tips experts suggest include:

  • Eating soft, nutritious foods (avoiding anything hard and crunchy, especially around the extraction site)
  • Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water after eating
  • Brushing your teeth gently
  • Avoiding drinking from straws (the sucking action can increase bleeding)
  • Not smoking.2

Your recovery time can vary depending on the complexity of your wisdom tooth removal. In most cases, dentists say you should be able to return to normal activities within a week.1

How can you fund the costs of wisdom teeth removal?

The costs of wisdom teeth removal in a dentist’s chair or oral surgeon’s rooms will usually include your initial consultation, X-rays and an extraction cost per tooth.

In the hospital, costs can include your hospital accommodation, the surgeon’s fees, the anaesthetist’s fees, the operating theatre fees, and other medical fees.3

Here are a few options you might have for funding the extraction – and how public and private compare.

Public dental services

If you are eligible for public dental services, the cost of wisdom teeth removal may be fully or partially subsidised at a public dental clinic or hospital.6

Public dental service eligibility varies state by state, but it usually focuses on young children, people who hold Australian Government concession cards, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. (You can check services state by state here.)

While this may be a good option for you, keep in mind that even if you are eligible for a publicly funded procedure, public dental waiting lists can be long and may vary depending on where you live, the severity of your condition and other factors.7

In the public system, you also won’t be able to choose your dentist or surgeon, the way you can with private health insurance.

Private health insurance

Private health insurance can pay benefits towards wisdom teeth removal, helping you reduce your out-of-pocket costs – which can be high if you’re not eligible for public dental care.

It also gives you the advantage of choosing your dentist or surgeon and avoiding public waiting lists, potentially allowing you to have treatment sooner.

For removal in the dentist’s chair or oral surgeon’s rooms

Like any tooth extraction, wisdom teeth removal in the dentist’s chair is considered ‘General Restorative Dental’ under extras insurance. At HBF, this is included on all extras covers available for sale.

Depending on your cover, you could claim up to 70% back, up to your annual limit, if you have served your two-month waiting period.

Keep in mind that there may also be additional out-of-pocket costs – for example, if you require additional sedation (other than the dentist or oral surgeon’s usual local anaesthetic).

For removal in hospital

At HBF, Dental surgery is included on all levels of hospital cover available for sale. This can help with some of the costs of a hospital extraction.

Hospital cover may pay benefits towards costs like hospital accommodation, operating theatre costs, and other medical costs like the anaesthetist’s fees.

If you’re covered for General Restorative Dental on your extras cover, you can claim for the surgeon’s fees on your extras cover.

It’s important to know that on hospital cover, dental surgery has a waiting period of two months, and if your condition is deemed to be pre-existing, the waiting period is 12 months.

Some out-of-pocket costs that may apply if you get your wisdom teeth extracted in hospital include your hospital excess and pharmacy co-payments.

Before you have your wisdom teeth removed, make sure you contact us to understand what out-of-pocket costs will apply and any benefits you may be able to receive with your hospital or extras covers.

Now what?

The idea of wisdom teeth removal can be stressful, but a little planning and preparation can be a big help. Talk to your dentist, consider private health insurance, and contact HBF if you have any questions about what your cover includes.

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Disclaimer

This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.