How much does a root canal cost with and without dental insurance? This critically important question has many different correct answers unique to each individual.

Most uninsured patients will have to pay for most of the bills by themselves. An average figure is a good starting point to set a budget, chart your course of action, and find savings opportunities.

Having an insurance policy pay for any portion of this expensive emergency procedure can make it far more affordable. However, each person’s level of unreimbursed expenses will vary for many reasons.

Root Canal Costs without Insurance

Forecasting your root canal costs without insurance can help work around your budget constraints. Some patients may need to spread payments out over time, while others may choose to invest in a discount plan. A lucky few could get treatment from a free clinic.

However, buying a policy with no waiting period is not a “Get out of Jail Free Card.” Start by looking at average figures, and the other factors that could push your spending up or down.

Payment Plans

Payment plans are often the only way some patients can afford to pay for the entire out-of-pocket costs of a root canal procedure without dental insurance. Many people do not have enough cash set aside in an emergency fund to start treatment right away to relieve their pain.

Two types of payment plans could help.

  1. Financing programs require you to borrow money from a third party company and then repay the lender each month over time. These arrangements could be a personal loan, credit card, or private label deal through the dentist.
  2. Flexible spending accounts allow you to borrow money from your employer and pay them back each pay period using pre-tax deductions. However, you must elect to contribute during open enrollment in advance of your need.

Try not to allow a lack of funding to delay treatment or seek an alternative way to deal with the problem. Preserving your natural teeth is always the best route.

  1. Extractions are more affordable but can lead to later problems
  2. Implants will set you back at least twice as much

Free Clinics

Some lucky people may be able to receive gratis root canal treatment from a nearby clinic. Select centers across the USA offer pro bono oral care services in a local setting to uninsured and low-income patients in their community

However, geography and timing have to be perfect to receive free help.

  • Many charitable and non-profit organizations may help specific groups (senior citizens, disabled veterans, etc.) via free dental clinics.
  • Students at dental schools donate their time (under supervision from trained professionals) to hone their craft and get practical, real-world experience. The ADA publishes a state-by-state listing of accredited student programs and locations.

No Waiting Period

Do not count on cutting costs significantly by buying dental insurance with no waiting periods for root canals. Immediate coverage for major emergency procedures does exist – but the issuing companies take measures to limit these benefits.

You may encounter many of these caveats when shopping around for insurance without waiting periods. Read the fine print before signing up.

  • Discount plans (see below) offer immediate benefits but are not insurance
  • Other types of coverage pay right away for preventive and basic services
  • Many policies contain pre-existing condition exclusions
  • Graded benefits pay a small percent of the allowed amount in year one
  • Large copayments accompany payments that begin right away
  • Group coverage features immediate benefits but start after open enrollment

Average Prices

Asking how much does a root canal cost on average without dental insurance is a good starting point. The typical charges range from $300 to $2,000 per tooth. [1]

However, most people need a more precise figure. The price that you ultimately pay can depend on the recommended treatments, affected teeth, need for a crown, and region where you live.

Treatments

The specific treatment recommended by your endodontist or dentist is a significant factor in driving costs. Many different therapies fall under the root canal umbrella and can influence what you must spend out-of-pocket.[2]

  • Therapeutic Pulpotomy: removal of infected tissue from the pulp chamber
  • Pulpal Therapy: resorbable filling (Gutta Percha)
  • Retreatment of previous root canal
  • Apexification: stimulate the formation of a hard tissue barrier
  • Apicoectomy: surgical removal of the root tip
  • Hemisection: surgical separation of a multi-rooted tooth
  • Canal preparation and fitting of preformed dowel or post

Teeth

The position (anterior vs. posterior) and the number of roots in each tooth determines the amount of work needed by the dentist to complete treatment. Time equals money.

In general, each tooth type has an expected number of canals, but the sum differs for upper (maxillary) and lower (mandibular) and can vary from patient to patient.[3]

Type# RootsPrice Range
Incisors1$300-$1,500
Canines1$300-$1,500
Bicuspids1-2$400-$1,800
Molars3-4$500-$2,000

Crowns

Your endodontist may recommend the placement of a crown to strengthen the tooth after completion of the root canal. In general, front teeth endure less stress while biting and chewing and may only require fillings or posts. However, molars are less likely to stand the test of time after the removal of decayed enamel, dentin, and pulp.

The additional cost of adding dental crowns depends on the tooth type and material used by the lab to create the new cap.

  • All-porcelain crowns on front teeth: $500-$1,500
  • Metal crowns for back molars: $800-$2,500
  • Porcelain fused to metal crowns: $800-$3,000

Regions

The average out-of-pocket cost of root canal treatment can also vary by region. For example, practices in metropolitan areas may need to charge heftier fees to offset higher expenses for real estate and staff salaries. Also, the supply (number of endodontists) and demand (number of patients) in a local area can push rates up or down.

Fortunately, several online databases house data regarding what dentists typically charge patients without insurance. You can find reliable local estimates whether you live in a big city such as Los Angeles, CA, Chicago, IL, Houston, TX, Boston, MA, New York, NY, or a small town such as Succasunna, NJ from either of these two resources.

  1. Fair Health
  2. Delta Dental

Cheap Dentists

Enrolling in a discount plan can help you find local dentists that will perform a root canal at a cheaper price. Discount programs are not insurance and provide a unique set of pros and cons that you should understand before signing up.

 Discount PlansDental Insurance
Waiting PeriodNoYes
Annual MaximumNoYes
Network ProvidersYesYes
Savings Percent10 – 20%50 – 80%

With dental discount plans, you enjoy savings at participating dentists by paying a lower price for services. The network of providers agrees to reduce fees to card-carrying members to increase patient volume.

Root Canal Costs with Insurance

The only reliable way to estimate the cost of a root canal with dental insurance is to have your endodontist submit a treatment protocol to the issuing company. The company will return a detailed estimate of benefits, which should include what amounts the policy will pay and the remaining patient responsibility.

You cannot get a reliable benchmark from an average figure because the industry issues many different plan designs, with a wide range of features, and patients sometimes choose an out-of-network specialist.

Plan Designs

First, your root canal unreimbursed costs with dental insurance will change based on the plan design. Policies come in many different shapes and sizes.

  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) provides prepaid services through narrow networks of providers
  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) have higher premiums where network dentist accept reduced fees
  • Fee-for-Service (Indemnity) features the largest network of practices with the highest service charges
  • Supplemental coverage pays fixed benefits for each covered service performed by any licensed dentist
  • Medicaid pays for endodontic procedures in 26 different states
  • Private medical insurance may cover antibiotics to clear up oral infections
  • Traditional Medicare does not include any dental work while Advantage (Part C) sometimes does

Expense Sharing

Second, every dental plan has cost-sharing components built into the policy, which determines your root canal expenditure with insurance – after you satisfy the waiting period if applicable. Read your policy documents carefully and look for these terms.

  • The allowed (approved) amount is the pre-negotiated allowance for each service that participating providers agree to accept as payment in full
  • The annual deductible is the charges that patients must cover at 100% before the policy begins paying benefits
  • Co-insurance (or copay) is the percentage of the allowed amount that is the patient’s responsibility to cover
  • The yearly maximum is the dollar limit of allowed amounts that the company will pay in any given year per person and or family

Network Coverage

Third, the specialist that performs your root canal can have the most profound impact on your cost with dental insurance. Your endodontist may or may not participate as an in-network provider.

The cheapest root canal with insurance is always through an in-network practice. Therefore, always confirm that your dentist participates with your plan. Do not ask if they “accept” XZY coverage. Go to the provider directory published by the issuing company and look for your endodontist by name.

Using a non-participating provider could lead to these balance billing surprises.

  • Bigger copayments and deductibles
  • No out-of-network benefits
    • Most HMO
    • Some PPO
  • Loss of the pre-negotiated allowance

Do not underestimate the value of the allowance negotiated by your insurance company for each service. In-network specialists agree to accept reduced fees as payment in full. Check your Explanation of Benefits statement for two figures.

  • Submitted amount: what the dentist charges
  • Approved or Allowed Amount: what the plan pays

Patients using out-of-network practices must pay 100% of the difference between the two figures. Typically, the approved amount represents a potential 40% to 60% savings!

Delta Dental

Approximating the cost of a root canal with Delta Dental insurance illustrates many of the points noted above. They issue many different plan designs, in three markets (individual and family, employer group, and senior), customized to follow unique laws in all fifty states.

Furthermore, Delta Dental offers two networks of participating providers.[4]

  • PPO includes participating practices that accept reduced fees for covered services leaving the patient with lower out-of-pocket charges
  • Premier provides the largest network of participating dentists who earn higher fees for covered services

Finally, Delta Dental hosts an online charge estimator tool (see above in average prices) that presents data on the range of out-of-network fees in your zip code for each covered service. Even the insurance company does not want to provide web-based specifics on what they might pay – including for logged-in members!

Have the practice submit a treatment plan to get a detailed estimate of benefits.

[1] Health Cost Helper

[2] American Association of Endodontics

[3] Dental Picture Show

[4] Delta Dental Networks