So, you have just been to the dentist for an appointment. After performing x-rays, reading them, and examining you, the dentist informs you that you are going to need to undergo a root canal. You may be in complete shock and a bit concerned as to what the procedure involves. Even more so, you could be more than a little worried about what a root canal costs and whether this would set you back financially.
There are a number of factors which can affect root canal cost, but there are average ranges and standard elements to consider when preparing for this procedure. If you are gearing up for an upcoming root canal and are not quite sure what to expect in terms of the treatment itself and the costs involved, this comprehensive guide is tailor-made for you.
What Is a Root Canal?
Before we examine the details of root canal cost, it begs the question, as to what exactly a root canal is. Root canals are a standard treatment procedure for patients with a diseased or damaged tooth. A root canal can ease these problems and any pain they are causing as a result.
There exists within your tooth itself, pulp tissue, layered beneath the enamel and a hard section called dentin. The pulp tissue is comprised of nerves, connective tissues, and blood vessels, all of which serve to help your tooth develop during the growth process, which usually takes places early on in life.
Once the tooth has developed completely, it can exist independent of the pulp tissue because of all the other tissues encapsulating it. However, if that pulp becomes infected, a root canal is necessary. During the procedure, the dentist goes into the pulp and removes a nerve within the infection along with the diseased area itself. This serves to soothe and eliminate the pain caused by the diseased area and allows you to save the tooth itself by rooting out infection.
Root canals are generally fairly swift procedures that can be completed in just an appointment or two, not unlike a standard filling. They are efficient and cause relatively little discomfort with a quick recovery time, allowing you to chew, bite, and smile as usual shortly following treatment.
There are a number of key benefits associated with undergoing a root canal. To begin with, the root canal will allow you to return to normal chewing capacity, which would likely have been affected previously by the pain and infection in the specific tooth. As such, your bite and sensory abilities connected to the tooth will resume their function.
Using a root canal to treat infection is also optimal because it treats the area without affecting the appearance of the tooth. It also serves to protect your other teeth from overuse to make up for the impaired use of the infected tooth. As the alternative to a root canal is often extraction, one of the most obvious benefits of this procedure is the ability to save the tooth itself.
If the tooth’s pulp layer is infected, but the tooth still retains its general form and function, a root canal is the best choice to move forward. A root canal is definitely favorable in terms of aesthetics as it will help you keep your smile unimpaired. In addition, root canals hinder deterioration in the jawbone and other side effects resulting from missing teeth caused by further decay or necessary extraction. The good news is, root canals are a common and highly successful procedure.
How Do You Know If You Need One?
Another key question to examine before delving into the details of root canal cost, is how exactly do you know if it is necessary to have this procedure done? To begin with, there are various causes of pain and degeneration in the root canal which require treatment. We touched upon this briefly previously, but the main causes which necessitate the procedure being performed are decomposition, impairment, or infection.
If the tooth begins to decompose or decay through the outer layers and into the root, this is cause for concern, and a root canal is likely the best course of action. Alternatively, teeth can be impaired as a result of cracks or chips that lead to further decay and discomfort in the root canal. Finally, infection in the pulp tissue layer of the tooth is a huge factor and common cause that may lead to your dentist determining whether it is time for a root canal.
Infection can result from wide spreading tooth decay itself, tooth trauma, a recent procedure that garnered bacteria, fillings, and even chips or cracks. Thus, if you are experiencing a significant amount of pain caused by a deep infection in the tooth, your dentist is very likely to recommend that he perform a root canal.
Signs & Symptoms
What symptoms are typically associated with these causes to determine whether a root canal is necessary? A common sign that a root canal needs to be performed is when you experience terrible pain in your tooth as the result of chewing during meals. If you put pressure on the infected area and it hurts badly, this is also a sign.
If you consume hot or cold food and drink, or use a heating pad or ice pack to try to alleviate the pain, and you experience sensitivity because of either of these temperature stimuli, your tooth could be infected. Other signs and symptoms include bumps on the gums near the pain source, tooth darkening, and gum sensitivity and swelling.
How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?
Now that you have a greater understanding as to what a root canal is, and the general signs and symptoms involved, it is time to examine root canal cost. The standard cost of a root canal does tend to vary based on which tooth requires the treatment and your individual dental insurance plan. Most dentist plans will require you to spend about $200 to $500 apart from what is covered. If you do not have dental insurance, you can expect your out-of-pocket expenses to be around $1,000 on average.
The majority of dental insurance plans are incredibly helpful in reducing any out-of-pocket expenses associated with root canal cost. However many of the plans which bring your individual costs down to $300 or $500 could cost anywhere from $100 to $150 in payments monthly to the insurance company. Many standard dental plans will have greatly lessened, or non-existent monthly payments but are unlikely to cover more than routine exams and cleanings. This could leave you responsible for the entirety of the root canal cost.
Medicaid does offer dental benefits for kids, but adult subsidies for dental procedures are state dependent. It is always a good idea to examine your dental plan before scheduling your root canal if possible. However, you should be aware that root canals are often ordered one week and performed the next, so you may simply have to go with what you currently have.
As mentioned prior, without dental insurance you will be required to pay the root canal cost in full. There are dental offices that will allow payment plans or other arrangements and even discuss extraction as an alternative. Be sure and ask your dental provider if you have any questions. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for what is known as a Health Savings Account to help with these out-of-pocket expenses.
While root canal cost does vary per state, there are standard ranges by region associated with the procedure. In the western part of the U.S., for example, root canals typically cost anywhere from $900 to $1,000 per tooth. It is a bit higher in the Midwest, with the root canal cost coming in at around $1,000 to $1,200.
In the southern and northeastern states, root canal cost is the greatest, coming in at $1,200 to $1,400 and $1,500 to $2,000, respectively. On a national average, the root canal cost for a front tooth is $762 and $879 for a bicuspid. Molars are the most expensive to treat, coming in at a national average root canal cost of $1,111.
There are a few extra costs above and beyond the root canal procedure itself, but they are minimal compared to the expenses associated with the treatment itself. These extra costs include antibiotics that may be prescribed for you to take prior to the procedure as well as painkillers prescribed afterward while you heal. If for some reason the infection was not completely removed during the first root canal procedure, more treatments may be necessary. At times, tooth extraction could be required. It is always a good idea to check with the dentist before booking the procedure to see what the costs of any extra prescriptions or procedures could be if any.
If you do not have dental insurance and you need a root canal, but cannot afford the exorbitant expenses that could be associated, there are a number of options available to reduce root canal cost. You can go to a dental school where students can perform the procedure at a far lower cost than a dental office. The students are fully supervised by their instructor.
Strange as it may sound, there could be coupon deals online containing dental offers. Discount membership clubs are another option. Talk with the dental office to see if they will let you pay in installments or even pay cash in return for a discount. Finally, if all else fails, try using a credit card to pay for the procedure. It can increase the root canal cost to you but is better than damaging your credit score or having the bill go into collections. The office may even agree to a discount in return for a same-day credit card payment.
Understanding the factors, variances, and options for root canal cost will help you be able to survey your options effectively if your dentist recommends the procedure. Do not be afraid to ask questions, talk to your insurance company, or seek alternative options if you are not covered. At the end of the day, if your tooth is infected and requires a root canal, the costs involved will be outweighed by far when compared to the essential maintenance and preservation of your oral health.