Save Money on Oral Surgery

Once upon a time (last summer) I went to the oral surgeon. Ouch.

The good news is I liked the doctor. The bad news is now I have two holes in my head where teeth once grew.

It was really kind of cool. It’s the first time I had a tooth pulled since my wisdom teeth were removed 30 years ago.

I asked him if he could numb me to the gills, which he did. Once I was numb he went to work. Five minutes later, the teeth were out. No pain (except the shots) – just a lot of pressure. Much less traumatic than getting a crown . . . which is what was supposed to happen yesterday but didn’t. Cheaper, too.

Anyway, while I was there I asked the staff about how to save money on oral surgery. The question confounded them.

I hate to say I have no good answer for you. The best they could offer was a 3% discount for same day payment – for payment in cash, not credit card. Not very helpful, when I planned to use my health savings account debit card.

So I paid $345 for maybe 15 minutes of the doctor’s time and a little help from his assistant. I was in and out in 30 minutes. I’ve spent longer than that doing an ear irrigation – for 86 bucks.

As I said yesterday, Medicare and insurance pay a medical doctor about $100 for a half hour of work. But for surgical procedures (as opposed to medical evaluation and treatment) they pay much more. That’s why so many doctors are adding more procedures to their practice.

But back to saving money on oral surgery. Most surgeons are not touchy-feely hand-holding types (though my oral surgeon was very kind). It’s unlikely they’ll be tuned into your financial situation. But at least ask for the billing discount mentioned above. One other thought: if you have a tooth that needs a crown (for $1000) or a root canal plus a crown (for $1500 to $2000) – if it’s a tooth you don’t need much and you’d rather spend the money on your kids’ college tuition, consider getting it pulled for under $200. That’s what they did in the old days.

So here’s my answer for the day. I’m going to send that surgeon an extra $20 to help the next person who has trouble affording their oral surgery. And along with the money I’m going to ask him to match that $20 by discounting his fee the same amount for that needy patient. Someone out there will save at least $20, maybe $40, on their oral surgery bill. And for some people, that’s a day’s income. 

For those of you fortunate enough to have dental/oral surgery coverage, perhaps you could help out someone who doesn’t. And maybe this approach will encourage the dental profession to lower their charges as well.

What do you think of the pay-if-forward approach? Personally, I think it’s a great idea. People do want to help each other – at least a little. If all of us who could afford to paid-it-forward a dollar here, a dollar there, we wouldn’t need government takeover of outpatient medicine. And eliminating the middle man could save 15 to 30% of our healthcare dollars.

Potential savings to America if we eliminated the middle man:
Billions and billions and billions.

© Cynthia J Koelker, MD – All rights reserved

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