Saving on Root Canals

Many of us have been there, sitting in the dentist chair and hearing those dreaded words: “You are going to need a root canal to save that tooth.” Some may be afraid of the procedure, but if you have ever had a root canal before, you may just be afraid of the cost entailed. Root canals, and other so-called Class C dental claims are not cheap. Most dental plans cover preventative care extremely well, and perhaps pay for things such as fillings somewhat well. But many plans force you to foot a good portion of the Class C Major dental costs. A recent root canal by yours truly cost me $564 out of pocket, and that was after two insurance companies coordinated benefits! And I don’t even have a permanent crown on the tooth yet, that cost isn’t included in the above figure.

Is there anything that you can do to perhaps cut down on the cost? Perhaps. Many dental schools, such as Tufts, offer services at a reduced rate and even participate in some dental plans. The upside to this is that the cost could be significantly less than going to a specialist to have your dental work completed. A negative is that the dentists who would be doing the work are dental students, ergo not full-fledged dentists. However, the work provided to you by these student dentists is overseen by licensed dentists.

Another option is to ask your dentist if he can do the work that you need to have done. Some general dentists are qualified to perform root canal therapy (RCT) and will happily do so in their office by scheduling an appointment for you at a later date to have the work done. Some dentists, however, do not or will not perform RCT and will refer you to an Endodontist, a dentist that specializes in RCT. The difference here is that your general dentist is likely in your plan and not considered a specialist. Specialists generally charge more, sometimes significantly more, for such work. General dentists may feel more comfortable performing RCT on teeth that are not molars, due to the fact molars can have more than one canal and can be more difficult to treat. Your dentist will advise you if he or she can perform your RCT or not.

If you do need to be referred to an Endodontist, make sure you ask your dentist for some basic information about your tooth so that you can shop for an Endodontist. Did I just say shop? Yes, I did.

A little known fact about dentists is that they have contracted reimbursement rates with insurance companies. Their rates are not advertised and not all dentists are reimbursed at the same rate. If you call your insurance company with basic information such as which tooth number it is, they should be able to tell you what a prospective dentist’s rate for a procedure would be. A dentist’s rate for a given procedure will likely vary from insurance company to insurance company, so asking your best friend how much her root canal cost is not a reliable gauge of what it will cost you.

Most people don’t think about shopping around for a dentist, but you really should. A dentist performs a service, much like a plumber would. Before you commit to an expensive water leak repair, you would probably get several estimates and pick the plumber who was the most reasonable with his rate and costs. The same should go for choosing a dentist. Do your research with your insurance company to find out rates for several dentists in your plan before settling on one to perform your dental work. A fifteen minute phone call could easily save you hundreds of dollars.

Another thing to consider when you are facing expensive dental work is that if you are able to do so, picking up a second insurance plan to help cover the costs may not be such a bad idea. Sit down and do the math once you are able to determine the approximate cost of what you need to have done. In some cases, it is actually cheaper to pick up a second plan than it is to pay the full out of pocket costs.

These tips have helped me get dental care for less. Your situation may vary. The information provided here is based on my own experiences.