Having a root canal is synonymous with something you don’t want to do, i.e., "I’d rather have a root canal than speak in front of an audience." In reality, root canals are no longer the painful procedure they once were. Instead, they offer pain relief from an excruciating abscessed tooth. How much a root canal costs depends on the tooth involved and the follow-up work. If you have good dental insurance, it should pay for a significant portion of the expense, but the actual percentage relates to your plan and deductible.
Root canals are necessary when the pulp of the tooth, which contains blood vessels and nerves, becomes infected. Technically, these areas are the canals of the roots of the teeth. Endodontists perform root canals more often than dentists. While some dentists may perform root canals, others will automatically refer patients to an endodontist for treatment. As a specialist, an endodontist will likely charge more for services, but they have a level of expertise that the typical dentist does not.
The endodontist removes the infected pulp, cleans out the tooth, shapes the interior of the root canal and fills and seals the space. The patient then returns to the dentist for follow-up work, such as putting a crown on the tooth. Without a crown to protect the pulpless tooth, it is likely to break within a few years after the root canal.
Root Canal Cost
Depending on what you need, root canal cost may range from $400 on the low end to $5,000 on the high end. Front teeth don’t contain as many roots as back teeth, so there is not as much time required for the procedure. In general, the further back a tooth is located in the mouth, the more roots it contains and the higher the charge for a root canal. The actual root canal therapy usually ranges between $800 and $1,200. If the damage to the root was not severe, the endodontist may put in a permanent filling, and the work is finished. However, that’s not the case with most root canals.
The majority of patients will need tooth restoration, and that’s pricey. The type of crown placed on the tooth also varies in cost. For front teeth, porcelain crowns are most often used, with the cost averaging between $500 and $1,500. Metal crowns, including those made of gold, range between $600 and $2,500. Another option is the porcelain-fused-to-metal crown, which costs between $800 and $3,000. Because saliva can harm a root canal without a crown, it is wise to have the crown installed as soon as possible.
Insurance and Root Canals
A good dental plan may pay up to 50 percent of the cost of a root canal. The emphasis is on "good," as average plans may pay as little as 35 percent. Many dental plans will pay an annual maximum each year, so if your maximum is $1,500 and you haven’t incurred any other dental insurance expenses, then that’s all you’ll receive for your root canal. If an annual maximum is involved and your initial treatment is close to the end of the year, you may want to postpone having your crown put in until the new year. Check with your insurance company first or have your dentist do so in order to ensure that you can receive the full insurance benefit.
A graduate of New York University, Jane Meggitt's work has appeared in dozens of publications, including PocketSense, Zack's, Financial Advisor, nj.com, LegalZoom and The Nest.