The Cost Of Things: Getting Your Wisdom Teeth Removed at 30

by Arinn Westendorf

In November, I had my wisdom teeth out. Having waited until I was 30 to have this done, I received an unwelcome warning from the surgeon: “At your age, we expect the surgery to be more difficult and the recovery to take longer than if you were younger.” Not exactly a ray of sunshine, after I’d foolishly hoped for something more like, “This will be the easiest surgery of my career,” or “Look how many tattoos you have! Getting your wisdom teeth out will hurt less than they did!”

I avoided getting my wisdom teeth taken out for a long time, partially because I was terrified of getting surgery, and partially because I didn’t want to pay for it. Now that my workplace offers extended benefits (I’m a florist), the bullet could be dodged no longer. I had all four wisdom teeth pulled at once, and booked a week off work because I was told to expect a slow healing process.

The week was spent flopped on the couch, curled over in pain. I watched through two seasons of Vikings and a 21-episode Korean drama, while subsisting on apple sauce, soup, and regret. I also learned that having a high pain tolerance for being tattooed (I’ve sat through 50+ hours, and mostly it was a breeze) meant nothing when it came to getting dental surgery. I was a whimpering mess for the majority of the week, and had so much pain I couldn’t sleep through the night for nearly two weeks.

Extraction: $735
Not super expensive, considering my dental insurance paid $1565 of the $2100 bill. However, $735 is still more than I ever wanted to spend on my teeth at one time, which is perhaps why I avoided getting this procedure done for so long.

I was put under anesthetic for the hour-long procedure and woke up sobbing, but in no pain. I didn’t shop around for surgeons, but went to the one recommended by my dentist. I also had two follow-up appointments with the surgeon at no extra cost — one appointment in which he confirmed I had an infection but declined to prescribe antibiotics, and another a few days later in which he gave me a prescription for said antibiotics.

Missed work: $580

Perhaps lost wages aren’t a true cost, but booking a week off work for a surgery I reluctantly saw the need for, rather than a vacation, caused my pocketbook much sadness. Although I booked so much time off, I could’ve gone back earlier if I felt up to it, and had hoped to be back by day 3 or 4. But it just wasn’t possible.

Drugs: $73

Benefits plan came in handy again here, making the Tylenol 3 and antibiotics basically free.

— Tylenol 3 ($8), ibuprofen ($30) — pain killers!! needed them!! The additional painkillers were recommended by the surgeon, as the Tylenol 3 hardly made an impact. — laxative ($10), suggested by the pharmacist to counteract the effects of the Tylenol 3; did not work at all. — antibiotics ($6), a fourteen-day supply. — yeast infection treatment ($19), because that’s what happens after fourteen days of antibiotics. — muscle relaxants ($10): so much pain kinked up my neck and back something fierce, another thing preventing me from sleeping and causing me some grief after I returned to work.

Food: $60
ALL THE SOUPS. Also, ice cream, strawberry ice bars, plenty of apple sauce, tapioca pudding cups, 4L of orange juice, “healthy” green juice, and even more soup. I wasn’t very hungry in the week after the surgery but apparently eating is something that gives one’s body strength and helps it heal, so I ate all the soft stuff I could tolerate.

Viki Pass: $4
Those Korean dramas I mentioned didn’t come for free! Certainly, I could’ve watched My Love From Another Star streaming free, but having loud, long, frequent commercials interrupt the riveting love story of a 400-year-old alien and a modern day movie star was just too much for me, so four dollars was money well spent.

Magic Bag: $25
Another purchase to try and help my neck pain. Helped a bit, but not as dramatically as I’d hoped. Part of this could be that I don’t have a microwave and had to heat it in the oven for nearly an hour before I could use it.

Mutaflor Probiotics, one month supply: $140 ($87 + tax and delivery)
Recommended by my BFF Rose, who is an immunologist and used this particular strain during the research for her PhD. I was worried about my gut becoming a bacterially-depopulated wasteland after the long course of antibiotics, and went with this rather than a cheaper strain available at Whole Foods because of Rose’s knowledge of it. After all the painkillers and antibiotics and whatever else was in my body during the surgery/recovery period, it felt important to counteract it with something restorative to my body’s systems.

Total: $1,617

Arinn Westendorf is a portrait and lifestyle photographer in Vancouver. Her teeth and her tattoos are excellent.

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