How much does root canal treatment cost?

- Treatment costs by tooth type. / Specialist's fees. / Retreatment. / Dental insurance coverage.

Links to page: Graphics
Why fees vary.

This page shows estimates for how much root canal therapy can cost for various types of teeth and details dental insurance issues and limitations often associated with this procedure.

It also explains how fees and success rates typically vary with retreatment cases or cases where an endodontist (root canal specialist) performs the work.

It's important to keep in mind that the fees shown estimate the price of performing a tooth's root canal treatment only.

Related links: Root canal alternatives.


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

  • 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 fees 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. (We outline the steps of this procedure here.)

The fee includes whatever dental x-rays and local anesthetic (dental "shots") are needed during your procedure and the placement of an interim (temporary) restoration at the completion of each visit. Additionally, whatever post-treatment assistance you and your tooth require is typically 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 fee 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.

Related links:    Dental crown costs.    Dental filling costs.


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 fee increase.

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 fees 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).


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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