What Are the Costs of a Root Canal With or Without Insurance?
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If you have dental insurance, a root canal can cost a few hundred dollars. However, if you go without coverage, your out of pocket cost can start as high as $800 and up. Of course, actual costs will consider where you receive treatment and the tooth being treated, among other factors.
In this article, we'll share root canal cost breakdowns, as well as tips to help you manage the sometimes substantial price.
How Much Does a Root Canal Cost With and Without Insurance?
A patient’s insurance status can affect the cost of a root canal, with the potential price difference in the range of hundreds of dollars. According to Nicholas R. Matthews, DDS, owner of Grand Dental Studio LLC in Missouri, a patient with dental insurance can expect to pay between $200 and $500 for a root canal, whereas a patient without insurance may pay between $800 and $1,150.
Why Are Root Canals So Expensive?
Root canals can be particularly expensive due to the specialized knowledge and equipment required to perform the procedure. Endodontists are specialists who received additional education and training to perform complex root canal procedures. As such, endodontists generally command higher fees than general dentists.
Another cost contributor is the extent of the damage or infection in the tooth. A root canal is typically needed when the tooth's pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels, becomes infected or inflamed. In some cases, the infection or inflammation can be severe, requiring more extensive treatment, such as the removal of the tooth or surgical intervention.
Location can also drive up the cost of a root canal. If you choose a dental facility where the cost of living and operating expenses are relatively high, you may face higher prices. That’s why you will typically see that root canals cost more from a dental office in a metropolitan area than a rural area.
Finally, certain teeth are more expensive to treat than others. In an email to SmartFinancial, Dr. Matthews provided price expectations for treating different types of teeth and based on these figures, it can cost more than double to treat a molar than an anterior tooth.
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Since your front, or anterior, teeth are easier to access, they are generally cheaper to treat. Meanwhile, molars at the back of your mouth are hard to access, costing more as a result.
How Can I Get Help With the Costs of a Root Canal?
Root canals can incur a considerable out-of-pocket cost, even with dental insurance. Here are a few ways to help you manage the expense:
- Buy dental insurance. Many health insurance carriers sell separate dental plans. Be sure to review the plan’s coverage because not all plans cover root canals. In some cases, you can get private coverage any time of year and not have to wait for open enrollment.
- Find a provider with a dental discount plan. These plans are not insurance but they can help lower the cost of dental procedures including root canals.
- Look into financing options. Financing companies, like CareCredit, offer loans that can split the high cost of root canal treatments into smaller payments over time.
- Receive discounted treatment at a dental school. If you’re comfortable with a dental student performing a root canal under the supervision of a licensed dentist, this can be a cost-effective alternative.
- Research government programs. A state program like Medicaid can cover root canal treatment and coverage will vary by state. If you have dental care through Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), ask if coverage will include root canals.
- Negotiate with your dentist. It is always worth discussing the cost of the root canal with your dentist. They may be willing to work out a payment plan or offer a discount if you pay out of pocket.
- Get supplemental dental coverage. As stated earlier, not all dental plans will cover a root canal so you need to pay extra for this coverage.
What Type of Insurance Covers Root Canals?
Dental insurance can cover root canals but you should double-check before buying the policy. Depending on how much coverage you buy, your carrier may cover only a portion of or the full cost of the procedure.
Keep in mind that some plans have a three- to 12-month waiting period and root canals will not be covered during this time, although some policies will still cover preventive services like routine cleanings. If your plan has a maximum (usually between $1,000 to $1,500) and you hit it, you won't be covered for any dental services for the rest of the year.
For example, if a root canal is required as part of a treatment for cancer, then your regular health insurance carrier may provide coverage.
What Might Happen if I Skip a Root Canal?
If you skip a root canal, the infection in your tooth can spread to other areas of your body, leading to serious health complications. To start, you may develop painful abscesses, which are pockets of pus that form in the gum tissue near the infected tooth.
If you allow the infection to fester and spread, you may develop osteomyelitis, an infection linked to inflammation or swelling of bone tissue. Left untreated, osteomyelitis can be life-threatening and even lead to bone loss.
At a cosmetic level, your dentist may have to extract the tooth entirely, which can leave an unseemly gap in your smile. If this happens, you may want to pay for a dental implant to bridge the gap.