Save Money on Dental Care: How Much Pain Can You Handle?

Dental Pain

How much is avoiding dental pain worth to you?

The cost of dental work can be quite high for many people. For those who do not have insurance, it can be outrageously costly. Even if you do have insurance, dental care can be expensive anyway.

Regardless, it’s something that’s important and we need to take care of our teeth for many reasons. Dental health has been shown to impact our overall health in numerous ways.

With that in mind, I’m facing a dental procedure that needs to get done. I need to get a wisdom tooth removed, which is not something anyone would look forward to. However, it has to happen, so I might as well get the time scheduled and get it over with. The only thing I thought I had to decide was when to make the actual appointment, but I found out that I have a new decision to make: how much to spend on pain relief for wisdom tooth removal!

Frankly, I haven’t really considered this type of decision before. Usually I’ll just deal with the medical care that I have to get, and will put my health above money – within reason of course. If things are truly optional, that’s obviously different. But if I absolutely need medical care or medicine, I’ve just gone ahead with it in the past. What’s the point of saving money if it impacts your health?

As I noted, this procedure must be done, so of course I won’t try to save by avoiding it. However, there are different prices for pain relief for this dental procedure. After getting an initial consultation, the office got back to me with the following 3 options for removing the wisdom tooth.

Local Injection

This apparently involves a shot (or shots) to the mouth and areas near the tooth. The idea would be to numb the area so I don’t feel as much pain as the tooth gets extracted.

Pain Relief: 3rd best out of the 3 options

Cost: $76 – least expensive of the 3 options

Gas (Nitrous Oxide)

This option, from what I understand, is intended to relieve your anxiety so that you really aren’t too bothered during the procedure. Thus, you may not notice the pain quite as much while the tooth is being extracted.

Pain Relief: 2nd best out of the 3 options

Cost: $115 – 2nd most expensive of the 3 options

IV Sedation

In this case, you are actually sedated. You’ll be out of it, and won’t be noticing what’s going on. Essentially, its like you’re asleep.

Pain Relief: best out of the 3 options

Cost: $338 – most expensive out of the 3 options

With all this information provided to me, the first thought that came to mind was this: “give me a shot, get that sucker out of there, and let me save some money!”  Then, I paused and thought about it for a moment.  Do I really want to do that?

The difference between a local injection and the gas is $39. That’s not much, all things considered, for something like this. So, I’m eliminating local injection as an option. The difference between gas and IV sedation, however, is $223.  That’s a little bit more noteworthy. I’m probably going to go with either nitrous oxide, or IV sedation for this treatment.

The decision: is $223 worth spending for a little more pain relief?

It’s money vs. pain? I wonder how many people even think of money in a case like this? I’m guessing there are people on both sides of the spectrum. Some might want pain relief no matter what, and there might be some tough characters that will save a buck at any cost. The things people will do to save money!

This also serves as a reminder of how important it is to have insurance and some financial resources. Some folks have no options.

But for those that do, I wonder how many would tough it out and go with the cheapest options. For some, losing money can be quite painful! :)

My Questions for You:

Which choice of the 3 would you go for?

Do you think of money in cases like this, or do you just want comfort at any reasonable price?

Have you ever faced a decision on any health care decision that was impacted by cost?




  1. says

    If the procedure was pretty painful and major, I’d get gassed. I probably wouldn’t go all out, because I can handle a little pain, but a local injection for something like a root canal would suck!

    I had gum surgery a few years ago and just had a local injection. I still felt the surgery .. it was horrible.

    • Squirrelers says

      Daisy – I had a local injection for a root canal, and interestingly it wasn’t bad. Not a walk in the park, but not too bad. That’s why I wonder about how bad this will be, though removal of a tooth seems worse! Sorry you had a bad experience w/gum surgery, must not have been good at all to feel the surgery!

    • Squirrelers says

      MoneyCone – yeah, great question about our ancestors! Well, maybe they didn’t live long enough to worry about them, who knows?

  2. says

    Have you ever had any surgery? If so, do you know how your body heals? When I had my wisdom teeth out about 25 years ago, I was completely anesthetized. That wasn’t necessarily because I made that choice directly, but because there was some confusion in the instructions given to me for preparing. I showed up that morning having fasted so they decided that they would just knock me out.

    I think full sedation worked out really well for me and helped me heal faster and better. I didn’t have to take the pain killers beyond the first day and I was eating real food (carefully and gingerly) the very next day.

    Last year I had three separate periodontal procedures. I was given local anesthetic for each one and I noticed quite a difference in the way my body reacted. Being concious I was more tense and anxious. I didn’t feel pain, but I could hear what was going on (lots of soft tissues being cut and sewn).

    I suppose that being older could have also contributed to my body being less resilient, but I was wiped out for a couple days after each procedure. It was a very different experience than the full sedation, and if I had been given a choice I likely would have gone for full sedation for at least two of those periodontal procedures last year.

    So keep in mind that this is not just a financial decision. You should also take into consideration your personal experience with how your body reacts to planned trauma (which is what surgery is) and how it heals.

    • Squirrelers says

      Linda – oh, I totally agree that it’s not just a financial decision. Of course. Health comes first, it’s just matter of figuring out how much pain can be tolerated. For me, the dental experience has involved a recent root canal that wasn’t bad at all. I’ve had conversations with some people that were literally worse that a root canal :) Anyway, that ability to handle pain is what makes me think about this in terms of how much I can handle. The dilemma is that I perceive a wisdom tooth removal to be worse than a root canal, so there’s some uncertainty involved along those lines.

  3. says

    Well, now here’s a situation I can fully understand. I’ve got three teeth that should come out. The problem, $300 per tooth. Every dentist I’ve seen tries to get me to go for all three at once. And I just don’t have that money. So, I have just learned to live with it over the really cold damp months and drink lots of cold water during the time it gets really bad. Basically it only bothers me once a year now. But eventually I will get this taken care of.

    • Squirrelers says

      Bill – yeah, Dental pain isn’t fun. I had a root canal last year that caused me pain before, but once I went in to get it done the pain was gone. It’s really worth it for quality of life to get these things done, even if one tooth at time. Hope you can get a start on getting these done so you can be pain free.

  4. says

    What about hypnosis? Just kidding – I wouldn’t risk that one.

    It probably depends on how nervous you get at the office. Dentists don’t really bother me, so I’d probably go with the first or the second. Some people have massive phobias, however, so they’d probably opt for the third. I don’t think this answers your question, but you can probably classify yourself better than I can.

    Good luck with the removal!

    • Squirrelers says

      PK – thanks for the best wishes. Personally, I don’t mind the needles at all – it’s the idea of going under that I’m not excited about believe it or not.

  5. says

    I guess it really depends on the person. For myself I could easily say that I would choose the cheapest cost. I have been dealing with these choices since a kid when we couldnt afford alternatives. However if this is for my wife we just going to have to get the less painful and probably the most expensive. Her pain tolerance it not high and I just dont take chances with her or my child.

  6. says

    When I got my wisdom teeth out (three of them), I went under IV sedation. There is a risk any time you get put completely under, but after having root canal work done with local anesthesia, I think I would go for complete sedation again.
    My choice has nothing to do with pain levels. It has nothing to do with a fear of the dentist (though the first day trying to deal with the root canal actually made me a little afraid of the dentist. The pain was so bad I sat in my car shaking for about 10 minutes before I could drive home- and that was after multiple shots to numb the area).
    It has to do with my overall comfort level. Being awake and having to hold your mouth open while people stand over you and use instruments that sound like they belong in your garage is not comfortable or fun. I get that nitrous makes you less anxious, but you’re still conscious. The dentist or their assistent still has to tell you to open your mouth wider, you still have to fight the urge to swallow. I am willing to pay not to have to go through that.
    As an overall experience, I much preferred the “I’m going to close my eyes now” and when I open them again it’s done.

    • Squirrelers says

      shanendoah – thanks for sharing your own story, it’s helpful. Sorry your root canal experience was unpleasant. For me, the root canal experience was surprisingly easy. Truly, I heard so many bad things about it but it was more of a nuisance than painful. I took advil immediately after and had no other issues – maybe I’m the anamoly here. Anyway, this ability to tolerate pain with the root canal is what I’m factoring into this decision. The thing is, while it wasn’t bad in the case of a root canal, I perceive a wisdom tooth removal as being a bigger deal and potentially much more unpleasant. We’ll see what I do…maybe it should be a follow-up post.

  7. says

    I had my wisdom teeth out a few years ago, and while I’m not really afraid of going to the dentist – I had heard horror stories of wisdom teeth removals gone wrong. Because of that, and because it was mostly covered by insurance – I opted to be put under. I’m glad I did. Man was my face swollen!

  8. says

    If the tooth is already down and you just need a standard tooth pull, I would just get the injection. If they have to dig into the gum and chip out an impacted tooth, then I would go with IV sedation, no need to listen to all of that!

  9. Anon says

    I had two wisdom teeth out in my late teens…my dad chose the local injection as that was the cheapest (which is how he almost always chooses everything that comes at a cost).

    I was so traumatized w/the first tooth removal (the oral surgeon had to practically put his foot on my jaw to finally extract that tooth; he said it had extraordinarily large/long roots) that I cried and cried and tried to leave his office before he could even think about trying to get the 2nd one out! Needless to say, I let him finish the procedure since I would have had to pay for it myself if I wimped out. And I might not have gone back!

    I was mighty angry w/my dad that day and (truthfully) I think I still hold that against him a bit. I do know that he felt sorry for what I had to go through, though.

  10. says

    I’ve had the wisdom teeth removed: go with as much as you can afford… you’re possibly talking multiple teeth here – right?

    If it was just one tooth, the truth is that as soon as it’s removed, the pain level diminished very rapidly, in my case. Great comparisons to consider – thoughtful insights, too.

  11. says

    I just had dental surgery this past week so I would say it depends. If the tooth isn’t impacted, I would do the gas. If it’s impacted, I would choose IV sedation.

    My dentist didn’t give me a choice for the surgery and I had IV sedation. Which was a good thing, but expensive.


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