How Much is a Root Canal? Average Out-of-Pocket Costs

by Nick Versaw Updated December 23rd, 2021

How much is a root canal: dentist talking to a patient

How much does a root canal cost? A few factors determine how much a root canal is: whether you have insurance, which tooth, and the extent of the decay. It’s not that difficult to figure out, but it helps to know a little dental anatomy and understand the root canal procedure.

The goal of dental care is to help you keep your natural teeth. Healthy teeth make a beautiful smile and allow you to eat your favorite foods while maintaining your overall health. Nothing looks, feels, or functions like your natural tooth!

Let’s go over what a root canal is, who performs the procedure, and how much it costs with and without insurance.

Basic Dental Anatomy

Most people hear the term “root canal” and think of a procedure. However, the root canal is a structure inside your tooth. The outermost layer of your tooth is the enamel. It’s naturally porous and translucent, meaning you can see through it. 

People with naturally white teeth usually have the thickest enamel. The next layer is dentin. Healthy dentin is naturally yellowish. So, if you have thinner enamel, your teeth may appear more yellow. 

The next layer is the pulp chamber. It is a hollow area that usually splits into two compartments. Each contains the root canals, blood vessels, nerve fibers, and an opening called the accessory canal that allows drainage. 

What is Tooth Decay?

Kids studying the structure of a tooth

Tooth decay may begin in areas of the enamel that have become thin and weak. Or, it may start at or slightly below the gumline. This is how it happens:

Substances like sugar cling to the surface of your teeth and feed bacteria that live in your mouth. The more food there is, the more bacteria there are. The bacteria secrete acid and the acid weakens your enamel, causing a cavity or tooth decay.

Once the decay breaches the hard protective layer of enamel, it spreads into the softer layer of dentin. If not detected, decay can spread quickly into the soft pulp that surrounds the root canal. If your dentist discovers a cavity at this stage, you may only need a cavity removal and filling. 

Once the bacteria infects the pulp canal, the only way the dentist can save your tooth is through a root canal procedure.  

The best way to avoid having tooth decay is through practicing good oral hygiene. That means brushing and flossing your teeth daily, as well as seeing a dentist for checkups and cleanings twice a year. 

Tooth Fractures and Trauma

Tooth decay isn’t the only reason for a root canal. Tooth fractures commonly occur when there is an injury or trauma to the teeth, mouth, or gums. The symptoms of a tooth fracture are sensitivity to heat or cold, and pain when chewing. 

Treatment costs for tooth fractures involving the pulp may include root canal therapy or tooth extraction.

Dentist vs. Endodontist

If the decay has reached the pulp but not infected the canal, your dentist may be able to perform a root canal in their office. Once the infection reaches the canal where there is a blood supply, your body naturally tries to fight it by sending white blood cells to the area. This causes inflammation and may lead to a tooth abscess

In this case, you may require treatment from a dental specialist called an endodontist. Since endodontics is a dental specialty, they may charge more for root canal therapy

How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?

How much is a root canal: dentist showing a dental X-ray

The cost of a root canal depends on how severe the infection is, the location of the tooth, and how large the tooth is — back teeth like your molars have more roots than a front tooth. According to data from Humana, the average cost of a root canal treatment is between $500 and $1,500. There are additional costs to consider as well

Before root canal therapy, your dentist or endodontist will conduct a dental exam to evaluate the infected tooth. A dental technician will take X-rays of your teeth and mouth to determine the extent of tooth disease. If you have an infection, you may need antibiotics. Sometimes a tooth treated with a dental treatment like this requires a prosthetic dental crown to cover the damaged tooth

Like dentures or bridges, the cost of the dental crown depends on the materials used to make it. According to Humana, a dental crown made of metal may cost between $500 and $1,500 each. Porcelain crowns that are fused to metal (PFM) cost between $600 and $1,800 per tooth. The cost of a fully ceramic crown may cost between $800 and $2,000 per tooth.

Another issue that may affect the final cost of a root canal is whether it’s a dental emergency. A general dentist may not be available at night or on the weekends. If you have a minor toothache, you may be able to wait to have dental work. If you have a true dental emergency like a tooth fracture with severe pain, you may need to see a dentist who specializes in trauma right away.

Finally, the exact amount you will pay for a root canal depends on if you have insurance, the type of anesthetic, the location of the affected tooth, if there is an abscess, and other factors like where you live and the type of doctor you see. 

How Much is a Root Canal Out-of-Pocket With Insurance?

If you have dental insurance, the amount you will have to pay out-of-pocket depends on your plan. If you’ve already met your deductible, you may only owe your copay or coinsurance share. (Don’t know the difference? Learn all about deductible vs. out-of-pocket costs.)

Similar to health insurance, a dental copay is a fixed amount — usually $25-$50 that you need to pay at the time you receive dental services. Coinsurance is a percentage of the final bill — usually around 20-50%. 

Many dental insurance plans have a yearly maximum, meaning they will only pay their share up to a certain amount. This makes shopping around for the best prices on dental procedures important, whether or not you have insurance. 

Paying for a Root Canal Without Insurance

If you’re unemployed, self-employed, or otherwise don’t have dental insurance you may have to pay 100% of the root canal cost which, as mentioned earlier, can be as much as $1,500. 

The good news is that lower cost options may be available to you. 

If you live near a teaching hospital or university with a dental school, you may consider booking an appointment at a clinic where dental students learn and practice dentistry. Also, there are a number of dental clinics across the United States that are either free or low-cost based on your income.

The United Way is another resource that may be able to connect you with a dentist who offers free or low-cost dental procedures like root canals or extractions. 

And you can always save money by shopping around for the best prices. As with health care, it is possible to prevent medical debt by negotiating a lower price for dental services. 

Comparison Shop for the Lowest Root Canal Prices

For decades now, consumers have realized the power of the internet when shopping for the best prices on clothing, repairs, homes, and cars. It’s easy to forget that, as a consumer, you have the same power to price shop for health care and dental services too. 

We’ve answered the question, “How much is a root canal on average?” Now, you can shop for the best prices for root canal therapy offered by dentists in your area. Using the Compare.com pricing tool, it’s easy to see what dentists near you charge for their services. 

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