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The words “root canal” often evoke associations with pain—typically, two types of it: physical and financial.
But, this doesn’t have to be the reality.
The procedure, which can treat and save infected teeth, is similar to having a routine filling and patients can expect to be comfortable during and afterward, according to the American Association of Endodontists.
In terms of what a root canal costs, Healthcare Bluebook, a resource that helps consumers search for and compare pricing for various medical and dental procedures, offers the following average prices—note: these prices do not include the final restoration following the root canal (i.e., crowns and fillings):
Again, these are just averages. What you pay for a root canal will vary depending on factors such as which tooth is being treated, the complexity of the problem, what your provider charges and whether or not you have dental insurance that provides benefits for root canals.
The average prices listed above are not trivial for many Americans. And, if you do not have dental insurance or have a dental policy that doesn’t cover root canals, you will have to pay for the procedure out of pocket. You may or may not be able to work out a payment plan with your dentist or endodontist.
Enrolling in a dental plan that includes benefits for major care—major care typically includes dental work such as crowns, bridges, dentures, root canals and oral surgery—can help reduce what you owe the next time you need dental work such as a root canal. You may be able to enroll in a dental plan offered by your employer, or on an individual plan if you do not have access to a plan at work.
It is wise to buy dental insurance before you need it because many individual plans have waiting periods of a year or more on care that is not considered preventive, namely major care. If you expect you may need dental work at some point in the future, choose your dental plan accordingly and, in addition to waiting periods, pay close attention to copay, deductible, and coinsurance amounts for different types of care, and the per-person maximum that the plan pays, also called the calendar-year maximum.
Also look for plans that come with special, added discounts. These extras can help you save more money on dental work. For instance, some dental plans sold through healthedeals.com include network partnerships that offer discounts when you visit a network provider, many times even for services that are not covered, and partnerships with companies such as Dental Departures, which provides dental tourism services to help consumers receive discounted treatment in Mexico and other countries.
Shop around for the best cost, and be sure to ask your dental provider about a cash discount. Some providers will discount their fees in exchange for payment in full the day of service. Remember, while a root canal can seem scary to you, it is a relatively routine procedure so going to a new dentist for treatment could be a good way to save on the cost.
Taking care of your teeth and gums is the simplest way to save money on dental work, so do what you can to avoid needing a root canal in the first place. To prevent dental disease, the American Dental Association recommends the following:
Buying dental coverage for yourself and your family can play an important role in preventive care. For starters, studies show that people with private dental insurance are more likely to visit the dentist. Furthermore, many dental plans cover preventive care such as routine exams, professional cleanings and even sealants, at or near 100 percent.
To explore your dental plan options, click here to get a quick quote or call the number at the top of your screen to speak with a certified advisor (i.e., health insurance producer) who can assist you in finding the right coverage for you and your family.
 American Association of Endodontists. “Root Canals.” http://www.aae.org/patients/treatments-and-procedures/root-canals/root-canals.aspx
 Bloom, Barbara, et al. “Dental Insurance for Persons Under Age 65 Years with Private Health Insurance: United States, 2008.” NCHS Data Brief. No. 40. June 2010. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db40.pdf