Having a root canal procedure done is a scary prospect in more ways than one. Asides the usual dread (since childhood) associated with a visit to the dentist, there’s the anxiety over how much a root canal cost procedure would be.
I remember having mine done about fourteen years ago. The anxiety was there, but I was not really scared. I always believed that I had the strongest teeth in the world and that I’ve had a couple of previous sinus surgeries. Hey, a root canal procedure should be nothing.
I was wrong!
It started just like regular teeth cleaning process but when the dentist started drilling through my tooth, I thought I was going to pass out. It felt like the dentist was drilling at my tooth for what seemed like forever and my jaws felt so hard and stiff.
Two hours later, I was out of the dental clinic and felt proud of what I’d call a minor challenge.
How much did the procedure cost me? Well, luckily for me, I had good dental insurance as a Federal employee and did not have to pay a penny. But for other people, it can be costly.
Before we get our teeth into the matter and answer your most pressing questions, let’s find out what a root canal procedure looks like.
A root canal is done to remove infected or inflamed tissue from the inside of a tooth. Just underneath the dentin and enamel of a tooth, lies soft tissue which consists of nerves, blood vessel, and connective tissue. This soft tissue is known as the tooth pulp.
The pulp provides nourishment for the growth and development of a tooth. However, in the absence of the pulp, the tooth can still remain healthy. This is because it obtains nourishment from surrounding tissue.
How, you may probably wonder, does a tooth pulp become infected?
Infection, irritation or inflammation of the pulp can happen because of tooth decay, a crack or chip in the tooth, too many dental procedures on the tooth or large fillings.
In a typical root canal procedure, a hole is drilled through the embattled tooth and from this opening, infected contents of the pulp chamber and root canal are evacuated. The hollow is thoroughly cleaned and refilled with appropriate materials to protect the tooth from further harm.
Also, a crown can be placed on the tooth after the procedure for added protection. A dental crown also helps the affected tooth to look and function normally. A correctly done procedure will restore your tooth to normal- you’ll eat your favorite food as before and keep your natural smile. And if cared for properly, the treated tooth will last your lifetime!
Ok. Now that the worst has happened. A tooth had become infected, and the dentists recommend a root canal. Through the pain and increasing fear, you start to wonder the financial implications.
How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?
Will cleaning out your root canal also clean out your savings? How will you pay for it if by chance you don’t have dental insurance?
The cost of the treatment depends on your location, and also on the location of the rogue tooth.
As a rule, molars are the costliest tooth to perform a root canal on. And it’s not just that molars are more difficult to access, they also have up to three canals compared to the front teeth with only one canal. Thus, the cost of the procedure on molars are actually discounted. The bicuspids or premolars and the front teeth are significantly cheaper.
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Here’s the breakdown of the root canal cost by tooth type/location:
- Front teeth: A procedure on the front teeth can cost you $300 to $1,500. But most commonly, $900 to $1,100.
- Bicuspids: A bicuspid root canal can cost from $400 to $1,800. A more typical cost will be in the $900 to$1,100 range.
- Molars: When the molars are involved, you may just as well leave the infected pulp in there. Ok. Just kidding. But this is where it gets a bit pricey. Most procedures of these types on the molars cost from $1,000 to $2,000. Although you may possibly get one done for $500.
Other associated extra costs may include:
- Follow-up visits: The dentist will need to check up on your tooth days after. This visits could cost from $50 to $100 per appointment.
- Fillings: To keep the teeth safe, the space left after evacuating your pulp needs to be filled in. This could cost between $50 and $300
- Dental crown: What if your tooth requires a dental crown to restore it completely? The cost of a dental crown varies wildly depending on your location and the type of crown you want. For instance, porcelain crowns (very durable and looks the most like normal teeth) are costlier than gold crowns. Gold crowns, in turn, are more expensive than porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns. Fortunately, a part of the cost of the crown is covered by insurance. You may have to confirm with your dental insurance company to be sure.
Your Dental Insurance Coverage
According to the National Association of Dental Plans, about 64% of Americans currently enjoy dental insurance. However, what your insurance can cover depends on your policy.
For routine costs like dental cleaning, the insurance will usually cover 100%. But for major procedures such as root canals, dental insurance will probably cover just half of the total costs. Then again, you may have a waiting period embedded into your insurance policy. Which means you have to carry the policy for some time before you qualify to get more expensive and extensive dental procedures such as a root canal.
If you have an infected tooth, waiting to get full coverage because you don’t have enough money is often a huge mistake.
Never put it off
Well at least for me, there’s no way I could have postponed the procedure for another week. As far as I could remember, I tried taking pain meds for a week and it just wasn’t working for me. The pain keeps coming back after five hours of taking my pain medication.
When you put off a root canal procedure, for whatever reasons, you’ll only make things worse. Even when the pain subsides (which means the nerves are all dead) the infection could spread and cause more harm. It never gets better if left alone.
Apart from the excruciating pain, an infected tooth pulp could, in turn, result in an abscessed tooth and life-threatening complications. The infections could spread into your jaws, and even beyond: into your neck and from there, the rest of your body. A full-body infection could lead to stroke, heart attack or death.
I was very thankful that none of these complications happened to me.
On the other hand, once the procedure is carried out, you’ll get immediate relief from the pain. And while it may not sound like it, the procedure isn’t painful.
Another compelling reason to have it done ASAP has to do with your wallet.
Once your dentist has checked out your toothache or sensitivity, and come to the conclusion that a root canal procedure is a way to go, dragging your feet will only make the infection spread more extensively.
When the infection becomes more serious, it will cost more to fix.
A simple root canal treatment that could have just needed filling to complete may now require a crown. A crown, of course, will significantly add to your final bill. And when you procrastinate to the extent that the only way out is tooth extraction, the cost hits the roof.
Because you won’t just be dealing with extraction alone, but also the cost of an implant or bridge.
How to get the best deal
This type of procedure is best done by qualified professionals, just like any medical procedure. So, going bargain hunting is not an advisable money-saving strategy. However, dental colleges are your best bet to save money on a root canal while getting expert care. This is because they are looking for people their students will practice on.
And no, you won’t be turned into a human guinea pig.
There will be an endodontist (a fancy name for a specialist dentist) present to make sure the procedure goes on smoothly.
Another way to save some money is to ask your dentist directly for a discount for settling your bill in cash. You may also find deals on Groupon or other social shopping sites. For a costly procedure like a root canal, even a 10%discount can be significant savings.
Talk to your dentist, they can always submit the said procedure application for pre-approval to your insurance company. It’s always good to know how much a root canal will cost you ahead of time.
Emergency dental care like a root canal can be painful. Not the actual procedure (according to dentists) since you’ll be under anesthesia but the pain of parting with your hard-earned cash. Observing good dental hygiene is an excellent way to save money by staving off the need for such expensive treatments.
Do you now see why you need to drop that sweet tooth habit?
However, if you’re already in need of a root canal procedure, knowing how much it will cost you and why the prices may vary will go a long way to help go through the procedure smoothly.