Root Canals. Over priced?

I was getting legally tortured by a dentist the other day, who informed me that I needed a root canal after he finally set his instruments of pain aside. The cost would be $400+ dollars.

Now, I’m not the brightest bulb in the patch, but I have been to college and in business and I realize that the dentist has many expenses, but for what a root canal consists of, the price seems too much.

Using somewhat sterile technique – which cannot be 100% because he is fishing in your dirty mouth – the dentist uses about $2 worth of anesthetic to painfully numb the tooth. Then, after flirting with the pretty assistant for 10 minutes while the stuff makes your mouth and lips feel like inflated inner tubes, he gets to work. Now, he is working on something less than half an inch big. He cleans out any debris from any cavity with something like a Dremel coarse grinder. ($2 bit) Then he flushes it out with an antiseptic wash. ($2) With a micro bit in the Dremel, he opens the pith of the tooth, locates the nerves and grinds them out. ($2) There can be from 2 to 4, depending on the amount of roots in the tooth. He has to be careful not to go through the bottom of the root.
That done, he may flush out the empty canals. ($2) Then he will use micro probes to insert medicated paper or fiber points which prevent infection and kill any germs in there. Then he will rinse out the opening in the tooth proper, dry it and carefully pack in a filling. ($2) Over that he may apply a harder bond that matches the shell of the tooth. ($2) IF necessary, you might have to come back to have a cap applied. (Cost to make the cap in materials = $5. Cost to cement the cap in place = $5.) You might just have to have the whole tooth ground down to a stump before all of this work begins, the canals reamed and plugged, a gold post cemented in place and an artificial tooth poked onto it. (Total cost in materials = $50.)

Now, the original cost is $24. Figure in his time at $50 an hour. Now it comes to $74. Since he has to pay his staff, figure his time at $100 an hour. The cost comes to $124.

Big difference from $400 plus. I know that dentists get their teeth made by a dental lab, which pays minimum wage to all of these poor folks who slave away at tiny molds, sculpting, casting and fitting teeth and that the lab will charge the dentist $50 a tooth. (A touch too high, if you ask me.)

No wonder so many people won’t go to a dentist until their teeth are hurting. The cost is so high. What do you think? A friend of mine had partial plates made and 6 or 7 teeth pulled, had a filling, and some teeth bonded for the cost of $3000! He’s still trying to justify the expense. PLUS, he had to make the guy redo some of the work because the fellow was in such a hurry that he screwed up several times. (No discount for that! Not even when the dentist screwed up a normal tooth and had to fix it. He charged my friend for doing so!)

The Night Watch always knows things.

…there are just a few reasons why it’s so expensive.

Not to mention the cost of malpractice insurance… the cost of the building s/he works in and the staff to help him/her do his/her job, (those cuties who hold your hand don’t come cheaply!) Then the supplies that are used aren’t all that inexpensive either, put a dentistry label on them and the price doubles. … then there are OSHA regs to make sure everything used is all so sterile which helps keep the cost up there altho they are most necessary. Let’s not forget the infectous waste disposal fee either for any items which may be contaminated by any bacteria or virus’ congregating about in your body… the list goes on… but I won’t bore you to death. I worked in the dental profession for 18 years and I have to tell you… I never met a dentist who made it rich by just doing dentistry. Ohh btw… did you ever stop to think that that expense could have been prevented with something as inexpensive as brushing and flossing. The dentist didn’t cause the cavity that led to the root canal hon, that was something a little preventative maintenance on your part could have fixed. Your outrage at him/her getting paid for doing their job is misdirected.

“Only when he no longer knows what he is doing, does the painter do good
things.” --Edgar Degas

Yeah, but it’s nice to eat something besides soup, isn’t it?

“Some people are worried about the difference between right and wrong. I’m worried about the difference between wrong and fun.”
~P.J. O’Rourke~

I saw a dentist catalog, novacaine was 20 cents a shot.

Anyway, get the thing pulled for $50.00.
Ifyou want a cheap canal job visit a dental college. oh what fun.

NITWATCH2, I want to know where you got the idea this is only going to take an hour. I had a couple done two decades ago, and as I recall, each one took several long sessions. Hope this makes you feel better!

I recently had one of them cleaned out because it had an infection. Two 2 hour sessions. I just got a permanent filling in the hole left (My mouth is still numb, even as I type). I have to go back to the endodontist in six months, and if I’m lucky, everything will be OK, and I can get a permanent replacement crown put on then.

It is too clear, and so it is hard to see.

I have had 6 root canals done. The pain was BEFORE the procedure. And my root canals were about $1100.00 a piece. So count yourself lucky.

Besides virtually no dentist will pull a tooth now a days. Of course about 1/2 the $1100 is for the crown.
I don’t regret them. Only one of the root canals doesn’t feel natural. If you’re in Chgo email me I’ll give you the name of a great dentist.

Shows what you know… :wink: I had two teeth extracted (i.e. “pulled”) about a month or so ago. Cost: $63 for the easy one and $115 for the “surgical” removal which was a wisdom tooth. The easy one was an old root canal which lost its cap and then broke.

Of course, it’s not really just a $63 deal. I need to get a bridge put in there which’ll run me a bit more (in the $550 neighborhood).

Thank heavens for dental insurance.

“I guess one person can make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

Yeah dentists are expensive, but what do you expect? They are, after all, doctors.

I had 2 teeth in the past year yanked by dentists, but from what I hear, that job is increasingly being turned over to oral surgeons.

Speaking of which, I have to go to one next Tuesday to yank every tooth in my mouth at a cost of $2825 for 26 teeth!! And they’re not even gonna knock me out. They have to call in an anestheseologist(sp?) for that, which would cost an extra $350. Instead, I get novacaine, nitrous oxide, advil and 4 VERY powerful benzodiazepenes (like valium). I wish I could get knocked out, but alas, no insurance, so every dollar counts.

Dentures at age 21 is a pretty raw deal. Listen to the PurpleCrackWhore, kids. Brush and floss every day (also it helps if you don’t drink a gallon of Coca-Cola every day).

Yup, it’s very expensive, but there’s nothing to be done about it. You want the expertise, you have to pay for it, and believe me, you want the expertise.

A root canal these days (as I have reason to know) usually takes two - three visits: One for the canal itself and one or two for the post and crown. It’s not nearly as ghastly as it used to be.


It’s just like doctors–you want there to be some incentive for the best and the brightest to go to dental school. If your dentist had, as an undergraduate, thought that being a dentist would make him 25K a year, he’d of gone into something better.

I will say this, though. . .dentists vary a lot. If your gut feeling is that you are getting ripped off, do what you would do if he were a doctor or an auto mechanic–go get a second opinion. In my experience, the worse dentists to go to if you are poor are the ones in nice upper middle class neighborhoods–they assume everyone has dental insurance and set their prices accordingly.

puff, why not get a second opinion?

Also in my area they have Dentists in a Box. Cool, no waiting.

I had three root canals about 15 years ago (I was a kid) so I don’t know how much they cost.

BUT, I had to get three new crowns a few months ago. They cost $9,000. Yup, $9,000 just for little tooth-like pieces of plastic. Luckily, I have amazing dental coverage and I only paid a $50 deductible.

Formerly unknown as “Melanie”

Root Canals! I hate them! It does seem really over priced for the tiny bit of tooth they have to work on. I went to a discount dentist, which was a mistake, and when he was not rushing between me and several other patients, who I not only could see in other half cubicles, but get to hear their cries of pain, he was flirting with his assistant. (A very pretty young lady who OBVIOUSLY has the hots for the dentist.)

$445 it cost me, with three sessions, but in each session he only did 15 minutes worth of work because he let me sit in the cubical for 20 or 30 minutes, then rushed in changing gloves, numbed me up, flirted with the pretty lady, did some cracking and grinding and poking and rushed out, letting the pretty young lady dismiss me and set up my next appointment. I have to put up with it because I have no dental insurance.

If you don’t mind a long wait, like 3 or 4 months, your public health center will pull your tooth for $30 to $50. You just have to put up with sitting in a crowd for a couple of hours, enjoying the perfume of sweat, urine, trying not to smack that ladie’s 4 or 5 wet, noisy, little toddlers who run amuck, getting to hear the latest on whose boyfriend smacked who and which one of several is probably the daddy of that remarkably ugly little boy sitting on the dirty floor eating crackers off of it. Then you hope that the staff at least sprays disinfectant on those hard, plastic chairs at least once a day because that fat lady over there has a suspicious stain right on her bottom that you noticed when she got up. Plus that skinny girl two seats away, staring sullenly off into space looks like she HAS to have some disease and has not been close to a bath in a few days and her hair could grease a car.

puffy-do not do it. Save your teeth! I myself had a root canal started in April. It only took an hour,the putty is still there. When I go back,they’ll finally fill it,no crown! And I do eat more than soup,just not on the left.

True – often people who don’t have much money have to bring their kids with them to their doctor’s appointments. I hadn’t noticed any particular correlation between poverty and ugliness of children. Of course, being poor, the patients can’t always afford to dress nicely or keep their clothes as clean as we (or they) might like.

I have no doubt that the patients’ physical and mental health often leads to unpleasant smells and sometimes “suspicious” stains as well. If you go to public health, you’ll have to see people’s symptoms in public. I assure you, they don’t like it either.

It’s better, in my long experience of these things, (and I hope I’m never forced again to get my health care under those conditions, but I did it for a dozen years until this spring) to assume everybody, patients and staff, is doing the best they can under bad circumstances. Contempt for the poor will only frustrate you if you’re relying on public health.