This is one of the most intimidating dental procedures out there. And that’s before learning about root canal therapy costs.
However, saving money on a root canal procedure can take some of the anxiety out of it. Luckily, you found this post.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about root canal treatment costs. Then, we’ll give you an in-depth look at the best ways to find discounts or otherwise make root canal surgery more affordable.
Let’s start with a detailed breakdown of how much root canals cost.Creative Commons
Average Cost of Root Canal
How much is a root canal and a crown?
Well, it’s easiest to start with “hard costs”.
Root canal therapy costs $300-2000. Crowns cost $500-3000. If you’re one of those lucky ones who don’t quite need a crown, dental fillings cost $90-300. That leaves a wide range of totals costs for root canal treatment: about $400-$5000.
These costs do not take into account dental insurance, dental plans, or any of the other money-saving strategies we will get to later. But understanding the components and total costs is the first step in pushing the price down.
The answer is simple: Use a dental discount plan. You can save hundreds of dollars on root canal and every other dental procedure.
Whatever the cost, you need to find a way to pay it. Root canals only get more expensive as time goes on. If you wait, you may have to replace the tooth altogether. It is best to try and retain the use of your real teeth as long as possible.
Root canal therapy may allow you to keep your tooth for a lifetime.
Root canal treatment is required when the innermost layer of your tooth becomes inflamed or infected (or even in the case of dead tooth). This layer, called the pulp, contains your tooth’s nerves and blood vessels. A fully developed tooth can actually function without it.
During root canal therapy, your dentist or endodontist will remove the pulp and disinfect the canals of your tooth roots.
(“Root canals” are technically just that: the canals in the roots of teeth that nerves and blood vessels pass through. However, most people refer to root canal treatment or therapy simply by saying “root canal”.)
First, an opening is made in the tooth. Next, the inside is flushed with water or other fluid. Then the pulp is removed and the canals are cleaned and shaped. In some cases, a dental implant may be added for stability.
Crown usually come next, but not always.
You may receive either a temporary or permanent filling. You’ll receive a temporary filling if you’re getting your crown at a later date. A filling may suffice in the long term if your procedure was extremely mild. This is rare, but it does happen. (A great reason not to wait if you need a root canal)
There are a number of things that help determine the total cost of root canal therapy. That includes factors like severity of the root’s damage and where you live.
But there are a number of things that can help you narrow your costs down further. For instance, the type of tooth plays a major role.
Root Canal Costs Based on Tooth Type
Different tooth types present different problems and therefore require different levels of treatment.
Root canal costs can be broken down into anterior teeth, premolars, and molars. Anterior teeth include all of your front teeth, called incisors and cuspids (commonly called canine teeth).
Root canal therapy may cost $300-1500 for anterior teeth, $400-1800 for premolars, and $500-2000 for molars.
You’ll notice that each still falls into a large range. Complexity of the root systems and the level of damage play huge roles. The further back a tooth is, the more likely it will land higher within the range for its grouping. But that is not necessarily the case.
At the end of the day, the average root canal procedure costs about $1,000-1,200.
That however, does not include tooth restoration costs.
Crown Costs Based on Material
The type of crown you get is the other major factor determining your total bill. It also requires at least one additional appointment.
There are several different types of crowns. The most common are porcelain (or ceramic), metal, and porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM).
Porcelain crowns cost $500-1500 or more per tooth, and are most often used for front teeth. Expect to pay $600-2500 for metal crowns, which might be made of gold, platinum, or other metals. PFM crowns cost $800-3000.
Porcelain crowns look the most like regular teeth. But they are prone to chipping and can damage your natural teeth. Metal crowns are hard, bond to teeth well, and last the longest. They don’t damage your other teeth either. PFM are durable and bond to teeth well. However, they can still harm natural teeth.
Again, if you’re lucky enough to only need a filling after your root canal treatment, you can expect to save big, paying only $90-300 for your minor tooth restoration.
Associated Costs of Root Canal Therapy
Like most dental procedures, root canal therapy has a variety of associated costs.
Understanding these costs is one of the key ways to tell whether you’re getting good value when receiving root canal quotes. These fees may be separate or included. It’s important to know. No one likes unexpected charges. Plus, knowledge gives you a basis for comparison and negotiation.
Most major dental procedures—root canal treatment included—require any number of miscellaneous services.
The initial consultation may cost $50-200. X-rays may add $25-250. Anesthesia can cost anywhere from $50 flat to $500 per hour. You may also incur “emergency” fees of $50 (or more, depending on the schedule of your dental professional).
These additional services may or may not be included in quotes, depending on how your dentist or endodontist handles billing.
The initial consultation may become free if you choose that provider. You might also be able to talk your way out of emergency fees. In fact, you should consider just about every item on the bill up for negotiation. (Just be sure to have a strategic approach.)
Root Canal Retreatment Costs
You may not like it, but you should know:
Root canal treatment does NOT have a 100% success rate.
There are many situations that could contribute to the return of infection and/or inflammation.
You should expect to pay 20-30% more for root canal retreatment because it is more involved. Also referred to as endodontic retreatment, it entails more than just a crown replacement.
It is vital to prevent salivary contamination after root canal treatment. The most important thing you can do is complete your restoration procedure as quickly as possible. Dental hygiene is also crucial, as further decay can lead to symptoms returning. Decay on nearby teeth can have the same effect.
And even with prompt restoration and great care on your part, other factors could make retreatment necessary.
Natural wear from use over time is always a factor. A tooth may lose its crown or sustain a fracture. Act quickly in either case.
There is also the possibility that unique or intricate root systems went undetected or were mishandled during the original procedure. This is likely the case if there are no obvious reasons why symptoms have returned.
Retreatment is much more involved. Oftentimes, the issue can be hard to find until all of the filling has been removed. The filling itself can present problems as it was intended to be permanent. It could also be made of multiple materials.
Root canal treatment is estimated to have a 90% success rate. Root canal retreatment is estimated to have a 77% success rate.
The goal should be to push those chances as high as possible while saving as much as possible.
Dentist vs. Endodontist
Before we jump headfirst into all the best ways to lower the cost of root canal treatment, let’s talk about a justifiable reason to pay more.
Endodontists receive at least two years of additional education beyond that of a general dentist. A large portion of that time is spent specializing in root canals. Endodontic therapies concern the pulp and issues regarding tooth pain.
Your dentist may even refer you to an endodontist if the work is outside their capacity. Or, they may not. You might want to take the initiative to see one yourself.
Endodontists regularly charge 30-40% more for their services.
For context, your general dentist may perform two root canals per week. An endodontist may perform twenty five or more in the same timeframe. There is something to be said for experience and expertise. They are also more likely to have the latest technologies.
In the end, that 30-40% may save you the cost of retreatment. Paying for a procedure twice is always going to be the most expensive option. Plus, you’ll probably have to hire an endodontist the second time anyway.
Sure, look to save money. But you don’t want a “cheap root canal”. Be especially wary if the tooth in question is a molar or you already know you have a unique root system.
If you have a dentist you have faith in, trust their recommendation.
How to Save Money on Root Canal Treatment
There are a variety of strategies that can help to reduce root canal costs.
Most of them require a bit of leg work. Research, phone calls, office visits: do what you must to trim the costs. You may end up saving hundreds (or even thousands) or dollars.
You’ll want to look at both the public and the private sectors. Let’s look at the least useful side first.
Government Help with Root Canal Treatment
American health care costs are generally overpriced.
Dental care is no different. The government tries to help out where it can, but dental health just isn’t a high level priority—to individuals or out institutions.
Still, it’s worth asking:
Will Medicare or Medicaid help pay for my root canal?
Do not expect Medicare to help pay for a root canal.
From their website:
Medicare really only chips in on dental expenses when they are related to an emergency that requires hospitalization.
However, you can find Medicare Advantage plans offered through private insurance companies. They are available to those who qualify for
Medicare and may just help with a root canal. You’ll need to do research on the insurance companies in your state.
These plans are intended to help fill in some of the gaps in Medicare. Medicaid though, might just do a better job in your state.
Medicaid may help pay for root canals in your state.
Unlike Medicare, Medicaid is jointly funded by the federal government and the states. That means coverage varies from state to state.
Again, you’ll need to do your own research to find out what is available in your state.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) works through both through Medicaid and independently to help provide health services to children. If your family qualifies for Medicaid, this may be an important option to look into.
In fact, all persons under 21 are granted coverage under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit. The most direct way to determine what your state offers is to call the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at 1-800-MEDICARE.
Eligibility is income-based, so not everyone will qualify.
Dental insurance will always be one of the best ways to reduce dental costs. Many plans will cover up to 80% of the total cost of root canal therapy and accompanying restoration.
It’s important that you understand all of your plan’s details. Most dental insurance plans have an annual maximum of $1,000 or $1,500. Total root canal costs can far exceed these limits.
One strategy is to break up root canal therapy and restoration up into two separate calendar years. You’d obviously want the root canal work done as close to the end of year as possible and the restoration as close to the beginning of the next year as possible to reduce potential exposure time.
This strategy can be useful, but a bit risky when it comes to root canal treatment.
Luckily there are other options with great potential.
Dental Discount Plans
Discount dental plans are an excellent way to lower the cost of root canal therapy—or any dental service.
Instead of paying premiums, you pay a membership fee. For that fee, you usually get a discounted rate on an unlimited number of procedures. Depending on your plan, discounts may be as high as 60%.
There are a wide range of plans that you can customize to help with specific procedures. As one of the most commonly needed dental services, plans that include discounts on root canals should be easy to find.
Volunteer yourself as practice for aspiring dentists.
We recommend this solution wholeheartedly for other procedures. Here, not so much.
Again, expertise and experience are extremely valuable when it comes to potentially complicated procedures like a root canal. If you’re willing to risk it, dental schools are actually a great source of discount dental services.
However, we only suggest this option if you require a root canal on an anterior tooth. Acting as a lab rat for a dentist-in-training doesn’t necessarily sound like the best idea; you don’t want to be their greatest challenge to date.
Of course, you can always count on the supervision of a licensed professional. But it just sounds like trouble.
You may however, find faculty or postgraduate clinics where you can find more reassurance (though less of a discount). If you’re really lucky, you might even have an endodontic school nearby.
The Cost of Root Canals Overseas
This may seem even more risky than being an undergraduate’s training dummy.
Yet “dental tourism” is gaining more and more legitimacy. In fact, you can find more than just quality dental care overseas. The entire medical community is experiencing a shift in supply.
You know health care costs are high when people actually pay for round trips to Europe and Asia and still save money on medical bills.
The price of root canal treatment overseas will probably astound you. According to Dental Departures: root canal costs start at $363 in the United Kingdom, $119 in Mexico, $88 in Spain, and $33 in Poland.
Obviously, you’ll need to apply the same principles you would otherwise: get as much information as you can. Check out reviews, call the clinics, and read blog posts about dental tourism. Do your due diligence to understand your quotes.
You’ll also need to factor in travel costs. But with the potential to literally save 90% on the procedure itself, it might be time to start planning an unexpected vacation.
Other Organizations That Might Help
If you’re still having trouble finding ways to find an inexpensive root canal, don’t give up!
We have a few more good options.
They require more phone calls and research. At this point though, you’ve read over 2,500 words. Bet you can handle it.
You should exhaust all of your local resources. Local health departments can show you what is available in your city or state. You may find little-known programs that help with dental expenses. This directory by the ASTDD also contains state oral health programs.
Lastly, you never know what sort of trials might be coming up at ClinicalTrials.gov.
Beyond these organizations, there isn’t much on a national scale worth mentioning. Yet, that’s still not the end. From here, things get a little personal.
Even More Ways to Save Money on Root Canals
Savvy consumers still have a few things they can do to bring root canal costs down even more.
We always harp on doing the research when trying to save money on dental procedures. In our opinion, it is unfortunate that marketing campaigns often determine a dentist’s popularity much more than their actual quality of work.
At least the Internet has made the important information easier to find.
Still, nothing replaces hard work or cleverness, as these final tips employ:
Get it done early. Don’t hesitate if you need root canal therapy. Waiting on tooth decay or damage always makes things worse. And once you set the process in motion, don’t allow delays. Try to schedule the treatment itself and whatever restoration is necessary right after each other. Speed minimizes damage, pain, and price.
Prioritize quality. Always think of a root canal as a long term solution. So by paying more up front, you are probably saving money down the road. Now, don’t go out of your way to pay more than you should. Just make sure that you don’t choose a less expensive option while losing durability and longevity in the process.
Go metal. It might not be the prettiest solution, but it is the most reliable. Metal lasts the longest, protects your tooth the best, and doesn’t damage your natural teeth. No longer as common for anterior teeth because of how they stand out, metal crowns are economical in the short and long term. Throw out vanity and they are the best choice.
Learn your location. Location affects the price of dental work to an astonishing level. We like to suggest that you make calls in all directions, up to one or two hours away. You will often find huge discrepancies in pricing over relatively short distances. Try different areas of your city, the suburbs, and even a rural practice or two.
Shoot for multiple consultations. You want to talk to more than one or two dental professionals. Ideally, you’d talk to 5-10, maybe more. If you live in a large city with many competing businesses, it makes a lot of sense to shop yourself around. Gather quotes and do your best to get a feel for both the people and their business.
Try your hand at negotiation. Dentists get paid a nice hourly rate. If you have done a thorough job gathering research, you are in a position of power. Let them know you understand the associated costs and details of the procedure. But more importantly, make sure they know that you know the local market and competition.
Offer to pay in cash. This is one of the best tricks in a dental client’s playbook. By paying your dentist directly, you save them in fees that otherwise go to credit card and insurance companies. You want them to know it is an offer though. Don’t allow it to seem like your preference. To leverage cash, they have to know it’s a favor to them.
Choose a dentist, intelligently. This is the first option. A general dentist will save you from the higher rates of an endodontist. Just be sure they are fully capable. Ask about their experience with root canals. Look at reviews and find references. Ask obscure questions about the details of root canal therapy and don’t let the price blind you.
Find an endodontist with weak marketing. Specialists are always the more expensive option in the short term, though hiring one usually pays off in the long term here. You may be able to save some money by finding a new practice or one that still relies on newspaper or yellow pages over online marketing. (They won’t be busy.)
If you have it in you to read this post until the end, you have what it takes to find root canal therapy at an affordable price: patience and willingness to research.
Equipped with estimates of the total cost of root canal treatment, you can go out and get honest quotes. Armed with those quotes, you can find the lowest root canal price and push it even lower.
In the end, knowledge gives you the path. Walking that path gives you the rewards. In this case: saving money on a root canal.