The World According to Renee

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Wisdom Teeth: A Journey

I’m taking a different path today because when I went looking for information, there was little available, so I hope this is beneficial for people about to undergo similar treatment. Usual disclaimers apply: everyone’s different and so are treatment costs. This is just my experience and yours will probably differ, but it’s a guide anyway.

I have private health insurance with Medibank Private: My Options cover. It covers unlimited dental plus costs associated with having wisdom teeth removed (this is the reason I went with this level of cover).

I needed three teeth out; the upper and lower on the right side and the upper on the left. Apparently I didn’t have a fourth one. I was referred to a dental surgeon, Dr Barbara Woodhouse, and had to have full mouth and jaw X-rays before the consultation. The cost of the X-rays was fully covered by Medicare.

Once the appointment with Dr Woodhouse had been made, I was sent some standard medical forms to complete. What my general health was like, what (if any) operations I’ve had previously etc. Sent back with X-rays prior to appointment.

The consultation was $130, of which about $75 was claimable on Medicare. We went through what Dr Woodhouse would be doing and if I wanted the general anaesthetic or a local. I chose the GA- if I’m having three teeth pulled, I don’t want to be awake! (Dr Woodhouse told me later that these surgeries are normally done under local, but she respected my decision to choose a GA).

I chose a convenient date for the surgery: the consultation was mid November and as I work in retail, having it done before Christmas wasn’t an option so the surgery was scheduled for mid January. If I’d had the money and time, I could have been scheduled the following week.

Day of Surgery

I had to fast for 8 hours prior to the surgery as the GA can cause nausea and they really don’t want you to vomit while you’re unconscious (plus a whole bunch of other reasons). I had it done in the local private hospital- my health insurance completely covered the hospital costs (check with your hospital and policy). My hands were prepared with numbing cream so I wouldn’t feel the needles (I have no fear of needles and was told later that they’d mixed me up with the patient who was supposed to be before me; they had a fear of needles). I changed into the hospital gown, lay on a bed and met my anesthetist. She made sure I understood what was going to happen and I gave her the completed consent form. I was wheeled into theatre and my surgeon told me to think happy thoughts. Then, I was asleep.

I woke up about an hour and a half later, in extreme pain on the upper left. The nurses gave me strong painkillers and the pain subsided. Dr Woodhouse came in, the nurses informed her that I’d needed painkillers. The first thing she said to me was, “We had complications. You’re going to be in more pain than the average person.”

The tooth on the upper left had grown into the sinus cavity, which hadn’t shown on the X-rays. So the tooth had been extracted and the sinus repaired, which is why it hurt so frigging much. The nurses called my boyfriend, gave him a list of things to get from the chemist, sent him on his way and gave me a can of lemonade. I had ice packed around my jaw but the painkillers had kicked in so it didn’t actually hurt.

When my boyfriend returned, I was allowed to go home. I was a bit wobbly, but OK. Because of the sinus issue, I wasn’t allowed to sleep lying down so I propped myself up on the lounge and awkwardly slept there for the next two weeks.

The Next Day

I took Nurofen as prescribed but I didn’t actually feel any pain. I also had codeine as a backup but I never needed it. My face was very swollen and I couldn’t open my mouth. I bought some baby food, potatoes, eggs and chocolate custard (no way was I going without chocolate!) For that week, I lived on mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs and chocolate custard (having decided I didn’t like the baby food).

Then the complications started- my nose started bleeding from the sinus surgery. I rang my surgeon, who gave me instructions on how to stop the bleeding. Late that night, another bad bleed and I rang her (she was super nice and didn’t mind at all that I’d called her at 11pm). She told me to come and see her in the morning.

At her surgery, I drank more lemonade (everyone seemed in agreement that lemonade was the best beverage to drink at such a time, and who am I to argue?) and she checked on my every half hour or so. I had stitches which were holding up but there was some “leakage” down my throat from the sinus. Eww.


Due to the problem with my sinus, I wasn’t allowed to:

  • lie down
  • lift anything
  • bend forward
  • eat or drink anything hot
  • stifle a sneeze (and preferably avoid sneezing, but if I had to, let the sneeze happen)
  • blow my nose

One Week After Surgery

I went back to work. I’d had no pain, the swelling had almost subsided, the bruising was now a very attractive yellow and I had begun to eat real food… chopped into very small pieces as I couldn’t open my mouth more than half a centimetre.

I got the bill from the anaethetist. She had already deducted the amount covered by Medicare (nothing was covered by health insurance) and I was able to pay the remainder (about $250) by B-pay. I also got the bill from Dr Woodhouse. The total bill came to $1430, $100 more than quoted due to complications from my sinus. I had to pay the whole amount up front and then claim on insurance. I got about $500 back from insurance.

Two Weeks After Surgery

Swelling and bruising minimal. Still couldn’t open my mouth more than a centimetre. Time for my follow-up visit to Dr Woodhouse. Everything was healing well and she gave me some exercises to help my jaws open. The exercises hurt like hell but I did them… for a while. It was too painful. I devised my own methods instead but found that yawning was the best stretch I could do, and it didn’t hurt (much).

Dr Woodhouse told me she was very glad I’d chosen the GA as I “wouldn’t have been able to handle it” had it been done under local. My case had been “indelibly etched” into her memory.

The stitches had completely dissolved by the end of the second week.

Four Weeks After Surgery

I was still chopping my food into very small pieces, but I was eating real food. Anything I could fit into my mouth, in fact (keep your dirty minds to yourselves!) I could open my mouth enough to fit two fingers in.

Six Weeks After Surgery

Another check up with the surgeon. All these follow up visits were included in the original cost and I didn’t have to pay anything further. I could now open my mouth about three fingers wide and had my first burger since Christmas. I was very excited 🙂 This was my last visit to Dr Woodhouse- she was pleased with the progress and I didn’t need to see her anymore 🙂 She sent the final report to my dentist, and had written in it that my case was the worst she’d ever seen.

The left side of my face, to me, still looks a bit fatter than the right side, but I seem to be the only one who notices. Everyone else thinks I’m back to normal. I have scars on the inside of my cheeks but they don’t interfere with anything. I’ve also lost feeling on the top left gum, and roof of my mouth on the left side. This is normal (obviously, she cut through the nerves to repair the sinus) and feeling will slowly return. As I write this, it’s 11 weeks since the surgery. I don’t have much feeling, can’t feel hot or cold or brushing my teeth, for example. It feels like I have something stuck to the roof of my mouth. It’s weird but I can live with it. My main priority was being able to open my mouth again. It took six weeks, but it happened.


March 27, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] blog is short and sweet. It’s a follow up to the troubles I had with my wisdom teeth surgery. It’s now been exactly a year since I had them […]

    Pingback by Wisdom Teeth: A Year Later « The World According to Renee | January 14, 2014 | Reply

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