On average, a root canal procedure will cost roughly between $200 to $1,500. Those estimates depend on many factors, such as whether or not you have dental insurance, the tooth in question, the complexity of the procedure, who performs the root canal treatment, and where you live.
No one likes going to the dentist’s office. Even for routine dental procedures, it’s not pleasant to have someone working on your teeth. However, it is an important part of life because your oral health has a large impact on your overall health. That’s why preventive care is so critical.
The earlier the dentist can find an issue and treat it, the better off you’ll be. Read on to learn more about what a root canal is, who might require root canal therapy, and the average root canal treatment cost.
What is a root canal procedure?
A root canal is a type of endodontic treatment. (Endodontic means treating the inside of the tooth.) The pulp of your tooth is the soft tissue at the core of your teeth that sometimes get inflamed or infected for a variety of reasons. For example, you may need a root canal treatment if you have:
- A deep cavity
- Repeated dental procedures that disturb the tissue
- A cracked or fractured tooth
- Injury to the tooth, even if there’s no visible crack or chip
- Pain, particularly when chewing
- Discoloring of the tooth
- Swelling in the gums
- Sensitivity to heat and cold
The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue, which help grow the root of your tooth during its development. A fully developed tooth can survive without the pulp because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.
The purpose of root canal treatment is to eliminate bacteria from the infected tooth by removing the pulp and thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the inside of the tooth. After cleaning, the tooth is then filled and sealed.
Usually, the general dentist or specialist that performs the root canal treatment will insert a temporary filler. Once the tooth heals from the initial procedure, you’ll need to go back to have permanent restoration on the tooth. This may just be as simple as a filling or, in some cases, you may need to get a dental crown to fully protect the tooth.
How do you know if you need a root canal?
In some cases, you may have a cracked or damaged tooth, or maybe you have some tooth pain or swelling that has driven you to the dentist’s office. Or, it’s also possible that you aren’t exhibiting any symptoms at all, but your dentist makes a diagnosis based on a routine X-ray of your teeth.
Either way, if your dentist has determined that there is damage to the root canal, you’ll need to undergo root canal treatment to avoid infection that can easily spread to other parts of the body. The only other alternative is tooth extraction, but the point of a root canal is to try and save the natural tooth for both practical and cosmetic reasons. It’s also less expensive than the alternative.
What to expect from the procedure
The following are the steps your dentist will take to complete the root canal procedure.
- Take X-rays to get a clear view of your tooth and the surrounding bone.
- Numb the area around and including your tooth so you’re comfortable.
- Drill an opening in the top of your tooth.
- Remove the tooth’s nerve from inside the tooth and the areas in the root, known as the root canals.
- Clean inside the tooth and each canal. Your dentist may treat the tooth with medication to kill bacteria.
- Fill the root canals with a material to seal them against future infections.
- Place a temporary filling on the tooth to protect it until a final restoration like a permanent filling or crown can be fitted.
- Your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics to treat any infections.
How much does a root canal cost?
As mentioned, root canal costs vary quite a bit and much of the depends on the type of dental insurance you have. Some dental insurance plans, for example, only cover preventive care such as routine cleanings and X-rays.
Many dental insurance plans, however, will cover at least a portion of the procedure — typically anywhere from 50% to 80% of the root canal costs after the deductible has been met. If you haven’t met your deductible already, paying for root canal costs may meet or exceed the deductible. But the good news is, if you need more dental work done you may be able to get your insurance policy to cover the additional costs.
Average root canal cost without insurance coverage
The average root canal cost will vary based on which tooth is infected and the extent of the damage. The price may also shift depending on whether you can have the procedure done at one of the local dental offices or if you need to visit a specialty practice.
That being said, these are the costs you can expect to pay for each tooth.
- Front tooth — $600 – $1,100
- Bicuspid (premolar) — $770 – $1,300
- Molar teeth — $900 – $1,500
Average root canal costs with insurance coverage
If the root canal is covered under your dental insurance, you could pay as little as $200 per tooth for a front tooth or $300 for a molar in out-of-pocket costs. In general, molars are going to be more expensive because they have more root canals (passageways) and thus may require more extensive work.
It’s important to note that tooth restoration is not typically covered under the initial cost of root canal dental care so that will incur additional costs to the original procedure. A crown, for example, could set you back another $1,300 on top of the total bill for root canal treatment. Dental insurance may or may not cover that, so be sure to check your policy.
How to pay for root canal treatment cost
Even if you have dental insurance, it may not cover all of the expenses associated with the procedure, so you may incur some out-of-pocket costs. For example, if your regular licensed dentist can perform the root canal, that will typically be less expensive than if you have to go to an endodontic treatment specialty clinic.
Here are a few other ways to save money or otherwise mitigate root canal dental fees.
- Dental schools. You could receive significantly discounted rates on the cost of a root canal if you get treatment at a dental school or residency program. In fact, you could pay up to 50% less for this treatment category than you would with general dentists or specialists.
- Payment plans. Talk to your dental office or specialty clinic about setting up a payment plan to help spread out the total cost of a root canal procedure over time. Many dentists and clinics will even offer very low or even zero-interest financing.
- Health savings account. If you have a health savings account (HSA) or flexible savings account (FSA) you may be able to use the funds in one of those accounts to help pay for any out-of-pocket costs incurred by the procedure.
- Personal loan. With good credit, you could apply for and receive a personal loan with a low interest rate. This will give you more time to pay off your dental debt without the exorbitant interest rates of many credit cards.
- Credit card. If you’ve exhausted your available options and your insurance plan doesn’t cover enough of the procedure, you might look into getting a credit card with a 0% introductory rate. You might be able to pay off your dental expenses before you get hit with steep interest charges.
Fortunately, if you sign up for a credit card with an introductory 0% APR offer, you’ll often have more than a year of 0% interest. That gives you plenty of time to chip away at any dental debt you’ve accumulated. Take a look at the credit cards below to compare post-offer interest rates and other credit card perks.
Do root canals hurt?
The treatment should not be painful because your dentist will administer anesthesia before performing the dental work to numb the tooth and surrounding area. It shouldn’t be any more uncomfortable than getting a cavity filled.
However, a root canal is generally a bit sore right after the procedure (when the anesthesia wears off) and can cause some mild discomfort for a few days afterward.
How many years do root canals last?
While a root canal procedure is meant to be a permanent fix, and could last a lifetime, occasionally you might suffer new damage, a new infection, or a reinfection. In that case, you will need to undergo re-treatment to resolve the issue. It’s also possible you might require endodontic surgery if the root canals aren’t easily accessible for proper cleaning and filling.
Is there an alternative to root canal procedures?
The only other option to root canal treatment is to have the tooth extracted. In the long run, this can be more painful and expensive and ultimately takes longer than root canal treatments. This is because once you have the tooth extracted, it needs to be replaced with a dental implant or bridge to restore chewing function and avoid shifting of the surrounding teeth.
- The cost of a root canal varies based on several factors. This includes whether or not you have insurance and if the affected tooth is a front, mid-mouth, or molar tooth.
- Having an in-network dentist will be less expensive than having to go through an out-of-network specialty clinic that doesn’t offer your insurance company a discount.
- It’s important to have the root canal procedure done as soon as possible. If left untreated, an untreated root canal problem can lead to infection, gum disease, and other issues that could affect the entire body.
- Payment plans, HSAs, and dental schools are a few ways to lessen dental fees or help pay for the cost of a root canal.
View Article Sources
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- What is a Root Canal? — American Association of Endodontists
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