What is root canal treatment? How much does a root canal cost?

Root canal treatment is a dental procedure that aims to remove contaminated material from the tooth. What’s more, it can help prevent the tooth from becoming infected in the future. It is often the last solution before an extraction.

Read the article below to find out whether you might need a root canal. You’ll also learn about the procedure, recovery, aftercare, and possible complications.

Creative Commons

When do you need a root canal?

Root canal treatment is often necessary if the tooth pulp becomes infected. The most common causes include traumatic injury resulting in a crack, neglected cavities, failed previous treatment, or disease.

Symptoms that are should concern you include:

  • pulsating pain, especially when chewing or biting,
  • sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks,
  • swelling,
  • bleeding, or
  • darkening of the tooth.

Root canal procedure step-by-step


Root canal treatment has a bad rep in the dental world. But it doesn’t have to be as scary as you think. Being aware of what each step entails can make the procedure more bearable.

Before your appointment

There are a few things to remember about before your procedure:

  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco for at least 24 hours.
  • Eat before leaving for the office.
  • Take an OTC painkiller.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the process.

Alcohol and tobacco may have a bad effect on anesthesia your dentist will likely use to manage pain during the procedure. Taking a painkiller prior to your root canal treatment means less discomfort. This goes for both the procedure and application of the anesthetic.

Your body will take less of a hit if you have a full meal beforehand. Your anxiety will also be lower if you know what is going to happen each step of the way. Ask your dentist any questions you may have.

Preparatory procedures

Your dentist or endodontist may want you to come in for an initial dental exam to perform tests on the tooth as well as X-rays. Radiographs may show the extent of the damage. This is sometimes included in the cost.

You’ll also discuss medical history, any medication you are taking, and what type of anesthetic would be best.

Anesthesia

Typically a local injection is enough to manage pain during a root canal procedure. Patients who are extremely sensitive to pain or have dental anxiety may have to be sedated. The options are an oral anesthetic or IV.

If you are set on a deeper kind, you may have to prepare differently for your treatment.

Cleaning out the pulp

The tooth is opened up with a small drill. The dentist will then remove bacteria and infected matter with tiny instruments. Once he or she is satisfied that all contaminated materials are out, the tooth will be sealed.

Application of the sealant

This stage is similar to a regular filling. Most often, composite is used to close off the hole and the tooth is polished.

The other option is a dental crown. That is appropriate if a lot of the tooth was destroyed by the infection or if it had to be removed for a proper cleaning. Dental crowns give great cosmetic results.

Root canal pain and recovery

Mild pain after a successful procedure is normal during root canal treatment recovery. You can manage it with OTC painkillers. This, however, should not last longer than 3 days. If you experience any bleeding, swelling, or pain for longer, contact your dentist, as you may have to return for a checkup.

Aftercare is mostly about good oral hygiene. Brush and floss at least twice a day. You can also use non-alcoholic mouthwash or a saltwater rinse. The latter can help bring down any swelling that appears on the gums around the affected tooth.

When is root canal retreatment needed


If the root canal was done correctly and the patient adheres to the dentist’s instructions, there shouldn’t be any complications. In the case of failed treatment, however, retreatment might be necessary.

Dr. Jack Lawrence

Retreatments are usually done by the endodontist. If they are redone by a regular dentist the price is most often the same or a little higher than the initial procedure.

The procedure can be deemed unsuccessful if the infection was not eliminated completely. This means the bacteria continue to spread and attack the dental pulp. Such a situation is accompanied by erratic pain and swelling around the area for longer than 3 days.

Another reason for retreatment arises if the seal is incomplete or becomes worn. The canals should be closed off very thoroughly. Patients who suffer from bruxism are at particular risk of the filling coming loose. The infection then continues to spread. You may notice pain and swelling.

And lastly, it sometimes happens that cracks in the roots are not detected before the procedure. This is extremely rare, especially now, when radiographs such as CT scans are so accurate. Continuous pain and major swelling are symptoms to look for. The tooth will have to be opened up and the root canal will have to be redone.

Contact your dentist if you notice these signs, but he or she should be able to pick up on any problems during your post-op checkup.

Cost of root canal examined

Root canal treatment costs from $700 up to $2,100. The biggest factor that regulates the price is the category of the tooth involved. This could be a front one, a bicuspid, or a molar. The further back the tooth the more complicated the procedure.

The number of canals is also important. If there are more canals to treat the cost will be higher too.

First root canal treatmentAverage costCost range
Anterior tooth$1,000$700-$1,700
Bicuspid tooth$1,100$800-$1,800
Molar tooth$1,300$850-$2,100

There are many procedures related to root canal treatment. The most popular are:

  • root canal obstruction treatment,
  • core build-up,
  • post and core,
  • internal root repair, and
  • filling or crown to seal the tooth.

Your dentist will decide which are needed in your case. You may have to pay for them separately.

What’s more, it may happen that the initial treatment fails. If this does happen, you will be looking at additional, higher costs.

Root canal retreatmentAverage costCost range
Anterior tooth$1,200$750-$1,900
Bicuspid tooth$1,350$850-$2,100
Molar tooth$1,550$950-$2,400

Sometimes it is not possible to finish the procedure, at least not in one visit. Such a case may also take a hit to your budget. Incomplete root canal therapy costs $500 on average. The prices range from $250 up to $850.

This visit would typically end with a temporary filling. Many offices don’t bill separately for this, but it is a possibility. Moreover, you can expect a fee for extraction of the tooth and a referral to an endodontist.

Have a look at the calculator below. You can change the options around, add or remove procedures, and see how the price changes.

RCT type
Tooth type
Associated procedures
Calculate
0

Root canal near me

Root canal treatment requires your chosen specialist to be very knowledgeable, skilled, and meticulous. That often comes with a steep bill. But don’t worry, prices can be very different from one office to another.

Authority Dental can help you with the research. We have a network of great experts with tons of reliable reviews and the best equipment. The dentist near me service includes booking an appointment with an expert in your area.

When looking for a dentist, always optimize your spending. We’ll consider your preferred form of payment, insurance plan, and schedule. The service is free and available 24/7. Find out more here.

FAQ

Does insurance cover root canal treatment?

Some of the costs related to root canal treatment may be covered. You might be reimbursed for a portion of the price for the dental visit (20%-80%). Since root canal treatment is expensive, however, it can take up a lot of your insurance credit.

This means that the yearly cap (usually around $1,000) can be reached quite quickly. In the event that this happens early on in the year, your provider won’t cover any other procedures.

The solution is to sign up for a dental discount plan. Those can be used independently of insurance but also after the annual limit is reached. They allow you to save up to 60% on all dental procedures. You pay a monthly or yearly fee and have to visit in-network dentists.

Who is a root canal specialist?

Endodontists are experts on dental pulp issues. They focus on treating the inner part of the tooth.

Do root canals hurt?

The procedure is not pleasant, but an anesthetic is always used to manage pain. A tooth that is in need of root canal treatment is usually painful beforehand. The aim of treatment is to reduce this discomfort.

How long does a root canal take?

TA root canal procedure commonly takes about 30 minutes to an hour. If the tooth is badly infected or if there is an unexpected number of canals, it can last up to 90 minutes.

Is it better to pull out a tooth or root canal?

The best solution is to do whatever possible to save a tooth. Not only is an extraction itself expensive, but the tooth should also be replaced afterwards. This can turn out to be a lot more costly and you may need to think about relines or a long recovery period.

Is root canal cheaper than tooth extraction?

In most cases, no. However, when a tooth is extracted it should be replaced with an artificial one. Bearing in mind the costs of such a solution, saving the natural tooth might be more affordable in the long term.

Do they put you to sleep for a root canal?

Root canal treatment is almost always done with no more than a local anesthetic. Those with high pain sensitivity or dental anxiety can discuss sedation options with their dentists.

What happens if you wait too long to get a root canal?

First of all, that can be very painful. You are likely to experience swelling from the infection which may spread to other teeth. The longer you wait, the more costly the repair will be.

What are some alternatives to root canal treatment?

Some dental professionals, mainly holistic dentists, recommend against root canal treatment. Unfortunately, the only real alternative is extraction. If you do decide to pull your tooth, or if it is damaged beyond repair, you should always choose a restoration.

Not replacing extracted teeth leads to other dentition shifting, bone loss, loss of opposing teeth, as well as diet changes. These could all affect not only your oral but also general health. The most popular solutions are dental bridges, dentures, and implants.