Root canals are often regarded as one of the most intimidating dental procedures out there. But if you are due for the procedure, it’s better done sooner than later. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about root canal treatment in Canada. While it is not as painful as you think, it will still cost you a pretty penny. Skip to the end of the article for ways to counteract your costs.
NOTE: Please consult with a trusted medical professional before making a final decision.
Table of Contents
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1. What is a root canal treatment?
The root canal is actually an area in your tooth, but more commonly referred to as the root canal treatment itself. Endodontic treatment or endodontic therapy also refer to the same thing.
The purpose of a root canal is to remove and replace infected pulp or nerves in a tooth. If left unattended, the abscess, or infection, inside the root will deteriorate the bone and surrounding tooth, leading to greater complications.
A root canal can cost anywhere from $400 to $5000. It depends on a number of factors highlighted below.
2. What leads to root canal issues?
If teeth are not taken care of, tooth enamel (outermost section of your tooth) decay eventually forms a cavity. As time passes on, the decay wears deeper into the tooth, from the enamel to the dentin, and eventually the pulp and blood vessels. Once the infection reaches the pulp, a root canal intervention is necessary. As with most infections, the sooner you are treated, the less chance of a complication.
3. Root Canal Symptoms
Here are some factors which can point to a root canal infection:
- Severe pain while chewing
- Severe pressure on a tooth
- Irregular sensitivity to temperature (hot, cold food, beverages or even weather)
- Gum swelling or tenderness
- Darkening colors in the teeth
- General tooth pain, which is not relieved using over the counter drugs
4. Root Canal Cost
There are several factors which impact the cost of a root canal. The root canal itself will cost between $300-2000. Don't forget to check additional costs such as crowns, fillings, x-rays, and consultations.
For a look at standard pricing, visit 2018 Alberta Dental Guide for Dental Fees. This pricing guide refers specifically to Alberta, but may share similarities with other parts of Canada.
Cost Factor #1: Severity
The process of the decay and infection impacts cost. The worst case and most costly scenario is a tooth extraction (the tooth has to be taken out completely).
Cost Factor #2: Tooth location
Your front and back teeth have a varying number of roots. The incisors (front teeth) usually cost less because they only have one root. The molars (back teeth) cost more because they have 3 roots.
Cost Factor #3: Re-occurrence
Operating on previously treated teeth increases cost. Re-treatment can lead to a steep increase of 20-40% compared to a first timer. This is because the procedure becomes more complicated. The need for retreatment can be caused by a variety of factors, some which are hard to identify and treat. Additionally, the patient may need to add a crown. A crown is a permanent fitting over the filling which protects teeth. Crowns cost more than fillings. Most re-treatments require the expertise of a specialized dentist, an endodontist.
Cost Factor #4: Experience of dentist
As expected, cost varies by provider and also on whether the procedure is performed by a specialist (endodontist) or typical dentist.
Endodontist are specialists in root canal treatments but typically charge 20-40% more. Your dentist may not have the resources for the procedure and refer you to an endodontist anyway.
Cost Factor #5: Crown or filling
A root canal is usually finished off with a crown. This is added protection. If you’re lucky, then you might get away with only fillings.
Crowns can cost anywhere between $500-3000.
The cost of a crown is dependent on the material used (porcelain, metal, or porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM)). The cost increases in their respectively listed order, with PFM being the most expensive. Each has their pros and cons, talk to your practitioner to see which is best for you.
Fillings can cost anywhere between $90-300.
These are additional costs on top of the root canal treatment.
Cost Factor #5: Additional fees
There are also additional fees associated with tooth canal such as x-rays, consultation, anesthesia and emergency fees. Consult with your provider to see what can be expected.
5. Root Canal Procedure
Contrary to popular belief, a root canal is not very painful and has a similar feeling to getting your tooth filled. The primary purpose of a root canal procedure is to relieve pain from infection.
The length of the procedure depends on whether your teeth are being re-treated. If they are, expect two appointments. If this a first time root canal procedure, then it could be one or two appointments. Each appointment takes approximately 90 minutes.
6. How to prevent a Root Canal Infection
It is best to consult with your dentist but simple lifestyle and oral hygiene changes can go a long way. Try to maintain a routine of brushing your teeth twice a day (morning and night) and flossing regularly. A healthy diet can also improve the condition of your teeth. This involves regulating sugar intake and drinking lots of fluids (water).
7. How to reduce your Root Canal Costs
Small business owners in Canada can take advantage of a Health Spending Account (HSA) to turn root canal costs into a pre-tax expense through their corporation. This can equate to more than 50% in savings. An HSA is a tax-free benefit applicable to single person businesses, self-employed contractors, or a small business with 2+ employees. This is typically the most cost-effective method.
If you are NOT a small business owner, you can file these costs under the Medical Expense Tax Credit (METC). It is a non-refundable tax credit applied through your personal tax return.
A third alternative is to claim through an existing health and dental insurance plan. Coverage will depend on your plan and provider. In most cases, you will have to determine maximums, restrictions, deductibles, copay and other terms.
Learn more about tax-free health & dental benefits through a Health Spending Account:
Note: Cost predictions are based on North American (Canada and US) dental standards.