How much does root canal treatment cost?

- Treatment prices by tooth type (molars, bicuspids, canines & incisors). | Specialist and retreatment fees. | Details about insurance coverage and benefits (with example calculations).

Links to graphics.
Link to Why Fees Vary section.
Link to image of root canal tooth that needs retreatment.

This page provides estimates for how much root canal therapy can cost for different types of teeth (incisors, canines, bicuspids, molars).

It also explains details about dental insurance coverage, including both policy benefits and limitations. (Example cost calculations are given.)

We also discuss how treatment prices (and success rates) tend to vary with retreatment cases, or cases where an endodontist (root canal specialist) performs the work.

Other expenses.

It's important to keep in mind that the fees we show are estimates of the price of performing a tooth's root canal procedure only.

As discussed below, your tooth will also require some type of final (permanent) restoration after its treatment has been completed.

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A) Root canal fees - General dentists (Initial treatment).

Cost / Insurance

How many
root canals
do you need?

  • Root canal treatment for an anterior tooth (incisor, canine/cuspid)
            $585.00 - $1000.00
        Low fee = Small rural city or town.
        High fee = Large metropolitan area.
  • Root canal treatment for a premolar (bicuspid/premolar).
            $630.00 - $1200.00
  • Root canal treatment for a posterior tooth (molar).
            $780.00 - $1400.00

How did we come up with these estimates?

What does this fee include?

The prices shown above are for the cost of a tooth's root canal therapy only (treating the tooth's interior "nerve" space). This process may require one or more appointments but only a single fee is charged. (Use this link for details about the steps of this procedure.)

The fee should also include whatever dental x-rays and local anesthetic (dental "shots") are needed as your procedure is being performed, and the placement of an interim (temporary) restoration at the completion of each visit. Additionally, whatever post-treatment assistance you and your tooth require should be included too.

An x-ray showing completed treatment, post and core, and dental crown.

The final restoration for this tooth was a crown with post & core.

What's not included.

The price does not include the placement of the final restoration that your tooth will require once its treatment has been completed.

The type of restoration needed will vary on a case-by-case basis. It may range from a simple filling to a dental post & core with crown, and for that reason is quoted as a separate fee.

It's possible that a delay in the placement of your tooth's final restoration may negatively impact the success of your tooth's treatment. For this reason, it's wise to follow your dentist's recommendation in regard to its timing.

B) Root canal fees - Retreatment cases.

An x-ray showing a tooth that needs retreatment.

Dentists usually charge more for retreatment cases.

The cost for retreating a tooth will usually be more than that charged for its original therapy, probably on the order of 20% to 25%.

  • The steps involved with retreatment are essentially the same as when the tooth was first treated, with the exception that the previously placed filling material must first be removed.
  • The time and skill needed to perform this task, as well as overcoming the deficiencies associated with the tooth's initial treatment, justify the higher price.

What's the success rate of retreatment cases?

The success rate of retreatment is generally lower than initial treatment. A review of dental literature by Ng (2008) concluded that retreatment was successful 77% of the time. Original treatment can be expected to have a success rate of over 90% (see below).

  • If your dentist feels that the chance of a successful outcome for your tooth is low, they may recommend some type of alternative treatment approach (tooth extraction and replacement) instead.

C) Root canal prices charged by endodontists.

You can expect that the fee charged by an endodontist will be greater than that charged by a general dentist (for treating the same type of tooth).

Endodontists generally treat the most difficult cases, and the fee that they charge reflects a premium based on the high level of skill and expertise they have to offer.

An endodontist's fee can easily be 30% to 40% more than the average fee charged by general dentists in the same area.


Should a specialist perform your work? - Endodontists vs. General Dentists.

The answer to this question simply depends on how much expertise is needed for the successful treatment of your tooth.

Different teeth can pose different challenges. And aspects of treatment that might be fairly routine for an endodontist may be quite difficult for a general dentist.

  • While all dentists receive training in performing root canal treatment, some dentists, called "endodontists," limit their practice to just providing this type of service.
  • To become an endodontist, a dentist must complete an advanced training program and meet certification criteria.

a) Success rates.

Specialty training does influence treatment outcome. As an example, Alley (2004) found a success rate of 98% for routine root canal treatment when it was performed by endodontists. This number fell to 90% for cases treated by general practitioners.

b) Diagnostic services.

There can be situations where your dentist feels that the services of an endodontist are required, simply to determine what type of treatment it is that you need. Some problems can be difficult to diagnose, and it may take an endodontist's experience to figure them out.

c) Fees.

There's usually a financial premium attached to an endodontist's care. Their fee will usually be higher than your regular dentist's. But when the extra skill they can provide is required, it is well worth the expense. In some parts of the country, you may find that an endodontist is relatively hard to find, and seeking the services of one requires a trip to a nearby metropolitan area.

Let your dentist decide who should perform your work.

With many and possibly most cases your dentist may feel that they are more than capable of providing the treatment that your tooth requires. If not, then they can refer you to an endodontist.

Having your own dentist perform your work has advantages. Your treatment will be performed in an office you're already familiar with, by a person you already know. And since they know you too, they might be more accommodating with scheduling, billing, and insurance issues than an endodontist's office would be.

Does dental insurance cover root canals?

It's very common that a dental plan will provide benefits for this procedure. It's typically categorized as a "Basic" dental service (although some plans may have it listed as a "Major" one).

As a Basic service, root canals are often covered at a rate of 80% of the procedure's UCR fee (or with HMO's, only a comparatively modest co-pay required). If categorized as a Major service, you can expect coverage levels to be less (frequently only 50%).

Common dental plan restrictions.

  • You'll probably need to have met your policy's deductible in order to receive full benefits. There may also be limitations in regard to the policy's maximum yearly benefits allowance.
  • New policy holders may find that this procedure involves a waiting period. For example, there may be a stipulation that root canal treatment is not covered during the plan's first 12 months.
  • In the case where previous treatment has failed, you may find restrictions are triggered. For example, some plans limit each tooth to one root canal per lifetime.

    Other plans may not cover the retreatment of teeth previously covered within a certain time frame. (Two years is not uncommon.)

  • Some plans may not provide a different level of benefits for work performed by an endodontist vs. a general dentist. This can present a problem because treatment performed by specialists typically costs more (see above).

Cost calculations for root canals.

Examples, with and without dental insurance coverage.

There are several different issues that will factor into how much your tooth that requires root canal treatment will wind up costing you. Here are some sample calculations that explain possible outcomes, both when dental insurance is and isn't involved.

In this section, we also give suggestions about how the obstacle of policy maximum yearly benefits can sometimes be worked around.

As you know from reading above, the cost for endodontic therapy varies according to the type of tooth being treated. But for the sake of simplification, in the calculations below we've arbitrarily set it at $1000.

If only one tooth needs treatment -
  • Total charges by your dentist for your work: $1000 X 1 (tooth) = $1000.
  • If insurance is involved: As a "Basic" dental service, it's common for insurance plans to cover 80% of the cost of this procedure, after the policy's deductible has been met. But only up to the amount of its maximum annual benefits. (See above for a description of these terms.)

    For our examples, we'll set the deductible at $100 and the policy's maximum benefits at $1000. Both of these numbers are fairly common.

    Insurance benefits: [$1000 (total charges) - $100 (policy deductible)] X 80% = $720. Note, this number is smaller than the maximum yearly benefit.

    Amount you pay: $1000 (total charges) - $720 (insurance benefits) = $280.

  • Additional expenses that will be required for your tooth.
If two teeth need treatment -
  • Total charges by your dentist for your work: $1000 X 2 (teeth) = $2000.
  • Insurance benefits: Using the policy values given above, the calculation for treating two teeth would be [$2000 (total charges) - $100 (the policy deductible)] X 80% = $1520. However, this number is greater than the policy's maximum benefits, so the amount paid by insurance would be limited to $1000 (see solutions for this dilemma below).

    Amount you pay: $2000 (total charges) - $1000 (insurance benefits) = $1000.

  • Additional expenses that will be required for your tooth.
If three teeth need treatment -
  • Total charges by your dentist for your work: $1000 X 3 (teeth) = $3000.
  • Insurance benefits: Using the same policy values stated previously, the calculation for treating three teeth would be [$3000 (total charges) - $100 (the policy deductible)] X 80% = $2320. Note however, this number is greater than the policy's maximum yearly benefits (in fact its more than two years of benefits), so the amount paid would be limited to $1000 (see solutions for this dilemma below).

    Amount you pay: $3000 (total charges) - $1000 (insurance benefits) = $2000.

  • Additional expenses that will be required for your tooth.

Working around the maximum yearly benefits limitation.

As you can see, when root canal treatment is involved a policy's maximum benefits limitation can be reached very quickly. Adding in the fact that every tooth will also require some type of permanent restoration (crown or filling) only adds to this problem.

An example.

The following calculation will give you an idea of how much the full treatment some teeth require (root canal, post & core and dental crown) can be.

Notes: For this calculation, we'll use all of the same values as above. We'll also arbitrarily set the fee for crowns and post & cores at $1000 and $350 respectively (these procedures are typically categorized as "Major" services, and as such are frequently only covered at 50%). (Links to more information about costs for crowns and post & cores.)

  • Total charges by your dentist for your work: $1000 (root canal) + $350 (post & core) + $1000 (crown) = $2350.
  • If insurance is involved:

    Insurance benefits -

    For the root canal: [$1000 (total charges) - $100 (policy deductible)] X 80% = $720.

    For the post & core and crown: [$1350 (total charges)] X 50% = $675.

    Total benefits: $720 + $675 = $1395. But since this number is greater than the maximum yearly benefit allowed, the actual amount paid will be limited to $1000.

    Amount you pay: $2350 (total charges) - $1000 (insurance benefits) = $1350.

A possible work around.

As a solution, you might ask your dentist about the timing of your dental insurance policy year and how your treatment can be planned with it in mind.

For example, if your plan runs on a calendar year and December is winding up and you've just had root canal treatment completed, having your tooth crowned in early January of the next year (assuming your dentist concurs with this decision) could save you some money.

Dealing with insurance limitations when a large number of teeth require treatment.

In cases where a relatively large number of teeth must be treated and receive final restorations, the benefits paid by your insurance company can become comparatively minor.

An example.

Extrapolating on our example above, if just two teeth will receive root canal treatment, a post & core and have a dental crown placed:

  • Total charges by your dentist for your work: $2000 (2 root canals) + $700 (2 post & cores) + $2000 (2 crowns) = $4700.
  • If insurance is involved:

    Insurance benefits -

    For the 1st root canal: [$1000 (total charges) - $100 (policy deductible)] X 80% = $720.

    For the 2nd root canal: [$1000 (total charges)] X 80% = $800.

    For 2 post & cores and crowns: [$2700 (total charges)] X 50% = $1350.

    Total benefits: $720 + $800 + 1350 = $2870. But since this number is greater than the maximum yearly benefit allowed, the actual amount paid will be limited to $1000.

    Amount you pay: $4700 (total charges) - $1000 (insurance benefits) = $3700.

A possible work around.

As a solution, and only after consulting with your dentist, you may find that some of your teeth can be stabilized and treated at a later time frame.

  • This can be a risky approach to use with teeth that require endodontic therapy, since the possibility of an acute tooth flare up always exists until treatment has been completed.
  • It's more likely that the placement of the final restoration might reasonably be delayed, although there are definite risks associated with this approach too (root canal failure, tooth fracture).

If a decision to delay is chosen, it must be on the advice of your dentist. Only they have the needed knowledge to make an informed decision about what constitutes a reasonable approach for your situation.

Why do fees vary by tooth type?

An x-ray showing a molar root that has two root canals.

Dentists charge more for treating teeth with multiple canals.

When a dentist figures out their fee schedule, one of the primary factors involved is the amount of time that it takes for them to perform that procedure. Root canal therapy is a prime example of this.

In most cases:

  • Anterior teeth have one root canal.
  • Bicuspids one or two.
  • Molars at least three.
  • (This link explains this issue in greater depth.)

That means each type of tooth will, comparatively, take a different amount of time to treat. And, as shown in our list of fees above, this difference is reflected in their relative cost of treatment.


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