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Dentistry/Cost of procedure


QUESTION: Recently I developed pain in a lower molar.  The X-ray taken shows infection.  I was told I need a root canal.  The charges listed are Procedure D3330 $1,580.00 and Procedure D2950 $350.  This seems rather high to me.  The dentist said he gives a lower price to those without dental insurance.  Do the costs quoted seem like there has been a discount?  Unfortunately he did not say if there would also be a charge for a new crown and I did not ask.  Is it likely I will have to have a new crown?

ANSWER: I don't know where you live, and I don't know what the fees are in your area. I work in Northern Virginia, near D.C., which is a high cost of living area, and our fees are not nearly that high. If you have a crown on the tooth already, there should be no need to replace it, unless it has some problems in and of itself. All you would need is a filling in the access hole the dentist will make, and $350 is way too much for that. I would shop around a bit. I would also see an endodontist for the root canal, because you would certainly go to a cardiologist if you had a heart problem or a dermatologist if you had a skin problem. Why not treat your tooth the same?

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QUESTION: I live in Southern California.  Because I was having pain I didn't want to delay having the root canal.  I moved to this area not long ago and have not had time shopping for a dentist so I saw the endodontist in this dentist's office yesterday.  It was a horrific experience.  He was non-communicative and frequently gave big sighs of frustration.  Also, I had the feeling he needed some implement/s that they did not have there.  So, after working 2 hours, he filled the opening he made with some sort of substance and made an appointment for me in a week.  So I have to go through having those needles again and spending who knows how long in the dentist's chair!  He only works in that office one day a week, which no one had told me.  The site was not completely numbed and when I told him, he did not respond, just kept working.  He was completely without personality, unlike the dentist I had before moving here.  If my second appointment does not improve, I will be hunting for a new dentist.  I like somewhat the dentist but not the endo. who comes to his office only once a week.  And I am paying a premium price for this service!  I plan to talk with the dentist to see if he will consider lowering the cost.  Would that be rude of me?  I thank you very much for your response.  It was a help, but I would be much obliged if you could offer some more thoughts.

It would appear that the problem is more with the endodontist's personality than with the treatment he is rendering. You can have dentists with good personalities who do good work, with good personalities who do bad work, with bad personalities who do good work, or with bad personalities who do bad work. Really, the quality of the work should be the number one consideration, and the personality second. It would be nice if all dentists fell into the first category, but dentists are human, and not all have ideal personalities. Endo is probably the most difficult and frustrating dental specialty, so it can be very stressful for the endodontist. Who knows what was going on with him that day - maybe he ran over his cat in the driveway coming to work. So, my point is that you can't let something like that color your perception of your treatment. I think the high cost also figures into your unhappiness and negative reaction, and that is something you should have discussed before he started, perhaps making a few calls. Since all that is water over the dam, I would say that if you still have some serious reservations, you can ask them if you can make partial payment for what was done and go elsewhere. However, if he spent two hours, which is all I would spend start to finish on an extremely difficult case, you cannot expect much of a discount at this point. He has already devoted a great deal of time to your tooth. Still, this is something you need to discuss with your dentist.


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Frederick R. Liewehr DDS, MS, FICD


I can answer your questions about root canal therapy in general. PLEASE DO NOT ask me to diagnose your particular problems or recommend treatment as I cannot do this without examining you and seeing your x-rays.


I am a Board-certified endodontist, former university department Chairman, teach dental residents, and have a private practice.


J of Endodontics, Endodontics and Dental Traumatology, O,O,O, Military Medicine, Medical Bulletin, J of Dental Education

DDS, MS (Oral Biology), certificate in Endodontics

Awards and Honors
Surgeon General's "A" Designator, Fellowship ICD, Order of Military Medical Merit

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