Is Root Canal Treatment Expensive?
As dental patients, most people are at one point or another faced with a financial decision regarding treatment, specifically weighing the pros and cons of the cost of treatment. Unlike in other forms of medicine, dentistry usually presents multiple options with varying price points. This gives patients an unusual amount of autonomy regarding their dental care, allowing them to play an active part in the treatment decision process. Some treatments, such as root canals, represent a relatively significant investment in the health and vitality of a tooth. Given the root canal alternatives a patient may have, it is important to determine whether or not root canal treatment price is worth it. The short answer is—yes—the price of a root canal is by far worth its value. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why.
The first thing to understand is that, without a root canal, an abscessed tooth has no other recourse but extraction. When bacteria invade a tooth, they receive nourishment from the dental pulp—the soft tissues within the tooth that contain the nerve and blood vessels. Many abscessed teeth are managed with antibiotics, but antibiotics alone cannot completely eradicate the infection. As long as the bacteria have a source of nourishment (in this case the pulp) the infection will always be present. This is why a root canal is the only option for saving an abscessed tooth. That fact alone makes root canal treatment price worth it. For further understanding, it is prudent to examine the costs—monetary and otherwise—of the alternative: losing a tooth to extraction.
Permanent teeth are meant to last a lifetime. When one is lost, there can be far-reaching, long-lasting effects in the mouth. One example is bone resorption. The human body has highly specific signals that instruct certain cells to either create or destroy bone. These signals are initiated by the amount of pressure and force that is exerted on bone. When a tooth is no longer present, the chewing forces that once stimulated the bone around the tooth are gone. What results is a slow but deliberate resorption of bone that can have effects on the neighboring teeth, as well, causing them to become loose or more prone to infections. Missing teeth create gaps that can lead to shifting of teeth throughout the arch, as well as teeth drifting out of their socket. This happens when the missing tooth’s “antagonist,” or tooth that opposed it during chewing, gradually elevates from its socket, a process known as “supraeruption.” All of this is to say nothing of the reduced function of the teeth and greater difficulty in chewing.
There are also financial costs when it comes to losing teeth. More specifically, there are costs associated with replacing missing teeth.
One of the most advanced and popular tooth replacement options are dental implants. Implants are widely regarded as the best tooth replacement option available, but they cannot replicate your own, natural tooth. Furthermore, dental implants represent arguably the most expensive tooth replacement option. The implant itself, a post that is placed in jaw bone, can cost several thousand dollars, not including the crown that is cemented to the top of the post. At present, dental implants are not covered by any major dental insurance provider. In contrast, root canals are a fraction of the cost, are almost always covered by dental insurance, and allow for retention of your own tooth—something that is irreplaceable.
Another common tooth replacement option is a dental bridge. A bridge consists of a series of crowns fused together that span a toothless space, thereby re-creating chewing functionality. Bridges, however, come with several drawbacks. First, they require irreversible alteration of teeth adjacent to the gap, even if the teeth are perfectly healthy. Bridges are also challenging to keep clean, since they are cemented permanently in place and must be carefully flossed underneath every day. Finally, a dental bridge does not solve the issue of bone resorption, since it hovers just above the gum line and does not stimulate bone in any way. Combined with the cost of the initial extraction, many bridges will end up costing more than one root canal.
Removable dentures are another option for replacing missing teeth. A new partial denture will usually cost at least as much as a root canal, but is not nearly as functional. Dentures can be uncomfortable, difficult to eat with, and can lead to teeth shifting and ongoing bone loss. It goes without saying no denture can replace a natural tooth.
By examining the alternatives to root canals and the many different costs associated with them, it is plain to see that root canal treatment price is abundantly worth its outcome. Other treatments are more expensive, damaging to other teeth, or plainly uncomfortable and dysfunctional. The bottom line is that no prosthesis can replace the function or aesthetics of your natural tooth. Only a root canal can facilitate this.
If you are experiencing a toothache, you should visit your endodontist for a definitive diagnosis. The prognosis of root canal treated teeth is much higher when the infection is treated early. Do not rely on self-diagnosis or attempt to “wait out” the pain—abscessed teeth are a serious condition that can lead to systemic health problems when untreated. With root canal treatment, you can restore health and pain-free function to your tooth that can preserve it for decades to come.