If an infection in a tooth or decay threatens to compromise a tooth, a root canal treatment may be the next course of action. However, many patients struggle with the fear of what a procedure like this might feel like and what a root canal could cost.
Learn more about what a root canal costs, what it is, when you might need it, and what steps to take to make sure your dental insurance can cover it.
What is a root canal?
Root canal treatment is a procedure where a dental specialist called an endodontist operates on the tooth’s nerve or pulp.¹ The process involves more than one appointment and follow-ups.
After an opening in the crown of the tooth is made, the nerve or pulp is removed. Then, the inside is often filled with a rubber-like material to seal it before a temporary filling is added. Depending on the severity of the infection, medicine may also be administered at this stage to remove bacteria and prevent it from spreading.
The next part of the treatment involves the endodontist or a general dentist removing the temporary filling. Then, they put a crown or filling on the tooth to restore and strengthen it.²
A tooth restored with a root canal treatment can last many years. However, like with other procedures, it is important to keep the treated tooth clean and have regular checkups to ensure the tooth is still healthy.
History and importance of root canal treatments
Before root canal procedures were a common practice, dentists would pull a tooth if an infection was present and not replace it with an artificial one. Practices like this are likely why many people have anxiety about dentist appointments. Today, however, a root canal treatment often saves the tooth rather than risk it being pulled.
If someone experiences infection at the tooth root or pulp, or the area is inflamed, a root canal can often be the solution. However, if left untreated, the infection can spread. In addition to losing a tooth, the patient can even damage the bone connecting the tooth to the jaw, which is why removing a tooth is no longer a common practice.³
Some problems that might result from losing a tooth that is then not replaced include:
Difficulty chewing or biting
Teeth may shift around
Gum disease may develop if the area is not cleaned properly
Pain or swelling may increase if they are not already present
How a root canal can help your dental health
A root canal can help your dental health because it saves your natural tooth. While the infection and swelling in the moment may hurt, a tooth extraction can hurt more. A root canal treatment prevents you from enduring a tooth extraction.
Although dentures, bridges, and implants may be options for patients who lose a tooth, they will not fully replace its functionality. They may keep teeth from shifting, but chewing and biting will not be the same.⁴
What does a root canal cost?
The cost of a root canal can depend on the location of the tooth, from $762 for a front tooth, $879 for a premolar, and $1,111 for a molar.⁵
How dental insurance helps with the cost of a root canal
If you have concerns about your current dental insurance coverage for procedures like a root canal treatment, it is important to review your policy. When looking it over, find out if there is a waiting period following your coverage start date, what the deductibles are, and the maximum amount covered.
With Guardian Dental Advantage Gold, Silver, and Bronze Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans, savings of 35% off dentists’ typical charges is possible for in-network services. With a procedure like a root canal treatment, that savings can be useful. Plus, Guardian Direct®️ PPO plans provide access to cleanings, x-rays, and exams from the time your coverage starts, so there are no waiting periods for preventive care.
Guardian Managed DentalGuard plans are Dental Health Maintenance Organization plans available in some areas. Guardian Managed DentalGuard plans have benefits like no waiting periods, no deductibles, and no maximum dollar payout for each benefit year. If you have access to both PPO and DHMO plans, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of PPO versus DHMO plans before deciding which works best for you.
The purpose of insurance is not to look for it when the worst happens, but have coverage in case it does. If a root canal treatment could be in your future, then planning for it now will save you a lot of hassle later. Plans like those from Guardian Direct®️ can help.
Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed reliable, please note that individual situations can vary, therefore the information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.
Guardian Direct plans are underwritten and issued by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America or its subsidiaries, New York, NY. Products are not available in all states. Policy limitations and exclusions apply. In the event of a conflict between this document and the language stated in your Guardian insurance policy, the language of the policy shall control.
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https://www.aae.org/patients/root-canal-treatment/ (Last accessed 2019)
https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/ADA\_PatientSmart\_Root\_Canal.pdf?la=en (Last accessed 2019)
http://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/ADA\_PatientSmart\_Tooth\_Replacement.ashx (Last accessed 2019)
https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/procedures/root-canals/what-root-canals-cost-why-cost-varies-0217 (Last accessed 2019)
Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.(exp.09/21)