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I had three of my four wisdom teeth removed last week.  I had been in discussions with my dentist about my wisdom teeth for years.  Probably 15-18 years ago, he pointed out that my wisdom teeth were in bad locations and were not ideal candidates for ‘automatic' removal, which is the path that many dentists / oral surgeons seem to be leaning towards.  The idea behind that is that getting them out in your late teen's or early 20's is the most ideal time, as your body can adapt and heal the quickest.

The main reason that he recommended holding off is because my bottom wisdom teeth were in very close proximity to a nerve, and he thought the likelihood of damage outweighed the benefit of taking them out without cause.

So, I was fine for years and years, but then a few months ago, the area around one of the teeth started to hurt.  I went to the dentist, and was told that I had an infection and that once a wisdom tooth started getting infections, it should come out.  We gambled on leaving them in, but unfortunately it didn't pay off.

I was referred to an oral surgeon. Upon exam, he actually recommended taking three of my four teeth.  He recommended the one on the bottom that was getting infected as well as the two on the top, which had shown progression that would lead to decay of other teeth within a few years. He actually pointed out that the surgery would not be easy.  The bottom teeth, in addition to being close to the nerve, were embedded in my jaw.  The upper teeth would need to be cut out, cracked, and removed in pieces to avoid damaging the roots of the nearby teeth.

He recommended that I get knocked out during the surgery.  I stopped him and said that I wanted to get knocked out just for hearing any more details about the extraction!

The day of the surgery came and things went well. The knocking out portion was the easiest.  They hooked up an IV, and I asked “Did you guys start the medicine yet?”  The nurse answered, “Yes, we just did.”  I said, “That's what I thought because things started….”

And next thing I know, they were waking me up having extracted all three teeth.

All three of the removals were as complex as could possibly be.  The bottom removal required a bone graft in my jaw.  While they didn't know if any nerve damage occurred, the graft would reduce the chances of any damage being permanent, as well as reduce the time for the bone to heal, which would minimize my chances for future infections.  The upper teeth both were discovered to be extremely close to my sinus walls.  In some cases, the removal actually breaches the sinus wall, in which case secondary surgery is often necessary to close the sinus cavity.  Luckily, mine wasn't breached, but because the hole from the tooth was so close, I have to take extra medicine and additional precautions to minimize the risk of blowing open my sinus cavity during the healing process.  This meant trying to avoid any sinus pressure, so I was on medicine to reduce that, as well as not holding in sneezes.

So far, my recovery has had it's ups and downs.  I am still not eating solid foods.  The fact that they had to do so many cuts and go up so deep into my tissue has made it difficult than a simple yank.  I was also concerned that I was still getting occasional bleeding as late as yesterday (4 days after the surgery) but was told that this is normal given the complexity.

On a positive note, the complications seem to *knock on wood* have been minimal.  If I'd had nerve damage, I would have spots on or around my lips where I would have little or no feeling.  So far, I think I'm in the clear.  I also haven't had any problems with my sinuses, where if I'd have had any bloody noses or undue pressure, there could have been complications.

If I can get away with the short term pain and not being able to eat solids for a week or so, I'll take that as long as I don't have any major complications.

The other fun part will be in dealing with the insurance and financial aspect.  I actually went to a different oral surgeon than my dentist referred me to, for the reason that I wanted to go to an in-network facility.  They were great with working with me, and even had me pre-pay a certain amount knowing my dental coverage.  There will be a little bit extra cost on the dental side because my maximum claim limit for the calendar year was exhausted.  That I'm cool with.  What I also expect to be fun is the bone graft side of it.  That gets billed to my medical insurance.

I had previously called my medical insurance provider to make sure that they covered it, and that the oral surgeon was in network.  Both were confirmed.  The submitted claim price for this was $900, so if everything went according to the way it should work, the most I should have to pay is $90, since my insurance covers 90% of such procedures.  It could be less if they have a ‘negotiated' price on services, which would be nice.

However, things with the insurance company are never easy, so I expect it will not be as easy as just writing a check for $90 to cover that.  It never is.

All in all, I'm on the mend.  Today is the first day that I've felt halfway normal, and I'm hoping to be eating somewhat solid foods by the weekend.  It's so nice to have goals!