How to ease the cost of root canal surgery

Ask anyone who’s been through it, and they might tell you the physical discomfort of root canal surgery is compounded by the financial pain.

Problem is, you never see it coming, so it’s impossible to plan or budget for a costly — and necessary — root canal procedure.

A short primer on root canal surgery

According to the Canadian Dental Association, root canal surgery is needed when the nerve of your tooth becomes infected. It’s important to get treatment soon, as the infection can spread beyond the tooth into the jaw and, in extreme cases, into the sinuses and beyond.

The doctor uses a local anaesthetic to surgically remove the infected or dead pulp, after which the tooth is sealed and a temporary filling applied.

Not all dentists do root canal surgery. So your dentist may refer you to an endodontist, who has specialist training. Generally speaking, you will require two visits. One for root canal surgery (by an endodontist or dentist), and a second to remove the temporary filling and cover it with a crown (by your dentist).

Root canal costs in Canada

Depending on where you live in Canada, root canal surgery costs can be hefty, often far exceeding a thousand dollars — and that doesn’t cover the cost of the crown.

You can get some relief from a workplace benefits or private insurance plan. If you do have a plan, check it carefully. It may provide only partial coverage or no coverage at all for “major dental” work such as root canal surgery or other endodontics.

4 ways to reduce the financial pain

  1. Shop around. Ask family members or friends for recommendations. Each provincial dental association has a fee guide, but dentists and endodontists are not bound by it. Also, keep in mind that endodontists charge more for the same procedure.
  2. Ask about a payment plan. Most dentists and endodontists understand that a root canal is a big financial hit and will allow you to pay in installments. The doctor may also offer a discount if you pay the whole amount immediately.
  3. An ounce of prevention. Regular hygiene — brushing, flossing and checkups — can help to prevent or delay root canal issues. So does cutting down on sugary foods. Look for more tips and resources at the Canadian Dental Association and your provincial dental association websites.
  4. Get dental insurance or top-up your policy: Like we said, government health insurance doesn’t cover dental (except for children and those on social assistance), and most workplace and private plans have limited coverage. So weigh the modest cost of dental insurance for your family against the unexpected financial hit of root canal surgery.