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Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Gemma Wheeler

(GDC Number: 259369)

Root Canal Treatment: Costs, Procedure & FAQ

The exterior of our teeth might well be made of the hardest substance in the human body, enamel, but inside each tooth is a complex network of tissues and nerves that are much more delicate. This softer area is called the pulp.

If the enamel becomes damaged bacteria, liquids and food stuffs can come into contact with the delicate inner tooth structure.  This can result in infection within the root(s) that are essential to keeping the tooth healthy and in place within the jaw.

Pain and discomfort usually ensues.  If this infection is left untreated it can lead to more serious health issues.

Dental professionals can save the tooth, thanks to a treatment called Root Canal Treatment (RCT) or Root Canal Therapy. This treatment may also be referred to as endodontic treatment. Some dentists choose to specialise in treatments of the pulp, and they are called endodontists.

This article explains all you need to know about RCT, covering commonly asked questions such as what is involved, how long will it take, what does it cost and more.

What is root canal treatment?

Root Canal Procedure (RCT) Explained

Root canal treatment or root canal therapy, is the name given to a procedure that involves removing decay and infection that exists inside centre and roots of the teeth (the pulp and root canal system).

Also known as a root filling, the tissues inside of the tooth, the pulp, is cleaned out and then the tooth filled to preserve it for many years.

Such treatment allows the natural tooth to be kept in place and avoids the need for extraction.

Teeth that have undergone a root canal filling are more fragile and are normally capped with an artificial crown to protect them from the stresses of eating that could damage the tooth further.

Illustration showing how root canal treatment works

To provide further insight we asked Esther Hathorn, founder of Visage Dental Spa, to describe root canal treatment:

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 1

Root canal treatment is the removal of the infected nerve tissue of the tooth. The tooth is numbed and the nerve is removed using tiny files. The empty nerve canal is then filled and a filling/crown is placed on top

Esther Hathorn – Visage Dental Spa – GDC Number: 5711

Why would I need root canal treatment?

A root canal treatment (RCT) is needed to stop the spread of decay from the tooth into the surrounding bone and tissue, but to also save the existing natural tooth.

Illustration showing inflamed root canal

Teeth can become damaged as a result of trauma, fractures, faulty crowns and fillings, but most common is decay.

Whilst every case is different, if you see a dentist for a regular checkup, the decay can be dealt with, before it makes its way to the sensitive inner tooth structure and an RCT in needed.

Nothing acts or looks as good as a natural tooth, so it is best to keep them if possible.

diagram showing infected root canal

Initially, decay occurs only in the outermost surface of the tooth – the enamel.

If this simple decay is left, it progresses through the tooth, towards the centre of the tooth, where the pulp is. This will cause the nerves in the pulp to react.

The most common symptoms and complaints of those who then need a root filling are:

  • Sensitivity when eating or drinking, often hot or cold foods
  • Pain when biting down
  • A loose tooth
  • When your tooth has got darker/discoloured

Failing to take note of these warning signs can lead to the spread of the decay and make the situation worse.

Once the infection gets to a certain stage, you will no longer feel the pain or discomfort.  This is not a good thing. This means the infection has damaged the nerves within the tooth to such an extent they not longer function correctly.

Failing to treat the spreading infection or a dead nerve may eventually lead to an abscess.

An abscess is an inflamed area in which pus collects and can cause swelling of the tissues around the tooth.

Within a short space of time you can expect:

  • Pain when biting or chewing returning
  • Swollen gums around the tooth
  • Swelling to your face
  • Pus draining from the tooth or gum
  • Change in colour of the tooth (gets darker)
Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 2

Going to the dentist might not be fun, but it’s a whole lot less fun to go and have treatment as a result of failing to get regular checkups.

If your tooth is infected it cannot heal itself like a small cut on the surface of your skin can.

Whilst over the counter or shop shelf painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen may ease the discomfort, they are not the solution and should only be used to help manage the pain until such time as you can see a dentist.

Ultimately you need to remove the source of the infection – the tooth decay!

If you think going to the doctor or dentist for antibiotics is the solution, sadly you are wrong.

Antibiotics are not effective in treating root canal infections, because usually there is no longer a blood supply entering the pulp space to reach the bacteria and deliver the antibiotic.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 3

Do I need RCT?

Ultimately, it will be down to the dentist to make an assessment, present the findings and options open to you, whilst giving their professional opinion on what to do.

Some cases may be borderline as to whether an RCT is required or not. For example, the infection may be close to the pulp and when it is removed the nerve may be irritated. Sometimes the nerve is able to settle down by itself with time. Sometimes the filling has been left too late, and RCT is needed.

In many cases where there is infection in the pulp RCT is possible. Sometimes a root canal filling may not be possible and extraction might be the only option.

During your initial assessment questions will be asked about your symptoms, pain and medical history.  The dentist will then look at your teeth and the mouth via a physical examination. X-rays will likely be taken as this can show the extent of any decay and pulp damage.

X-ray of root canal

All of this helps build up a picture of what the problem is and options for treatment.

Dentists wish to preserve your natural teeth.  No dentist went into the profession just to pull teeth out.

Extraction is usually a last resort.

RCT is in many respects a last ditch effort to keep the natural tooth in place. Keeping the tooth in place, even if there is no longer any living tissue inside is better than removing it.

However, in some instances, extraction is the only option.

Extraction may be a better option if the infection has passed into the bone surrounding the tooth or the remaining tooth structure is not strong enough to support the root filling or the crown that will be placed over it.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 4

Our guide on tooth extraction goes into much greater detail, but what you need to be aware of is that removing a tooth poses new issues.

When a tooth is lost, extra pressure is put upon the surrounding teeth.  It can affect how you eat and speak, not to mention your confidence with a potential gap in your smile.

If the gap is left, the surrounding teeth can move and change your smile, bite and even cause facial tissue and muscle to sag.

Dentures are often the solution which have their own pros and cons, notably, there is an extra cost to get these made.

Nothing is better than your natural tooth, so dentists will always try to save the tooth and opting for root canal treatment is usually best.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 5

The tooth structure

To better understand the procedure and what is involved, it is necessary to look at what exists inside the tooth.

It is not a solid lump of enamel, inside it is a complex network of tissues, nerves and blood vessels.

The image below is a representation of what the internal structure of a tooth looks like.

Medical diagram of tooth structure

It is the crown that sits at the top of the tooth and is made of enamel. This enamel is the white top side of the tooth that is exposed to everything in our mouths, and is the hardest structure in the body.

It is the crown that is protected and maintained by daily brushing and flossing.

You then have the neck of the tooth, which runs from the crown, down into the gum.

The remaining part of the tooth, that is normally twice as long as the crown, is the root which anchors the tooth into the jawbone.

Inside each root are the canals.  Each root can have 1 or more canals.

There are essentially 3 layers to the tooth – enamel, dentine (or dentin), and the pulp.

Diagram 1: Layers of the tooth

On the outside is the hard enamel, followed by something called dentine.  Dentine is a less hard and porous material, that makes up the majority of the tooth. The enamel and dentine protect the softer pulp chamber that contains the blood vessels and nerves that run through the roots and into the jawbone.

Diagram 2: Layers of the tooth

The canals are the chambers inside the tooth that run down to the base of the tooth root and contain the nerves and the associated tissues.

The enamel is broken down by decay also known as dental caries.

Decay is often as a result of poor oral hygiene. The bacteria is not brushed or cleaned away which allows it to stay in place.  These bacteria produce acids which break down the enamel.

Only a microscopic amount of the enamel needs to be eroded to put the tooth and the roots, at risk of infection.

Bacteria can very quickly get into the soft dental pulp and spread through to the root(s) of the tooth.

Root canal treatment removes the pulp from the internal tooth structure and involves filling the tooth to give it strength to remain seated in the jaw.

Failure to get treatment at this stage can allow infection to spread to the bone and cause more significant impact on your health, notably the presence of an oral abscess.

How many roots and canals does each tooth have?

The number of roots a tooth has differs.

Normally it will be 1, 2 or 3 although some have 4.

As a general rule, the greater the pressure the tooth has to endure, the more roots it has to keep it in place.

As such, the molars at the back of the both have the most roots.

The images below shows the position and name of teeth, whilst the table lists how many roots each tooth normally has.

Diagram showing each tooth in the mouth
Diagram showing teeth and their roots
ToothNumber of roots
Uppers (Top Jaw)
Central incisor1
Lateral incisor1
First premolar2
Second premolar1
First molar3
Second molar3
Third molar (wisdom teeth)3
Lowers (Bottom Jaw)
Central incisor1
Lateral incisor1
First premolar1
Second premolar1
First molar 2
Second molar2
Third molar (wisdom teeth)1

The amount of time taken for treatment obviously depends on which tooth requires root canal treatment.  Those with more roots will have more canals and thus need more treatment to properly clean out the infected material.

Endodontist – Root canal specialists

A general dentist is capable of carrying out a root canal procedure.

However, the General Dental Council sets out 13 different fields of specialisation within dentistry.

Endodontics is 1 of those specialities.

An endodontist is a dentist who is specially trained in the cause, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease and injuries to the tooth root, dental pulp and surrounding tissue. They have undertaken extra training at university.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 6

They are themselves general dentists, but the expertise, clinical skill, equipment and success rates can make them better equipped to deal with your treatment.

Endodontists usually only provide private treatment. However, a small number of endodontists work in hospitals, where you may receive treatment from them on the NHS.

As an NHS patient, it may not be financially viable to seek out an endodontist, but if you are paying privately, it is certainly worth considering.

In some cases, your normal dentist may refer you.

Cases that a normal dentist may refer you for specialist treatment include:

  • Re-treatment of teeth that have already had RCT
  • Teeth with curved or very long roots
  • Adult teeth in children which have not yet finished growing.
Endodontists Put Root Canal Patients at Ease

Specialists near me

Endodontists are available all over the country, there is usually one just a few miles from where you live.

You can find your own by using the General Dental Council’s find a dentist tool available here.

The root canal procedure

Every individual patient is different, as is the way in which a dentist and their practice works.  This means the exact steps will vary, but as a guide, there a 4 major steps within the root canal treatment process.

Prior to these stages will have been an earlier appointment that diagnosed the need for a root filling.  In few instances would such treatment be carried out immediately.

The 4 key root canal treatment steps are:

  1. Preparation
  2. Opening the tooth
  3. Cleaning the tooth
  4. Root filling

Depending on the particular case, there is a 5th step that might be necessary to place a crown on the tooth.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 7


In the prior appointment that diagnosed the need for root canal treatment, the dentist will have taken x-rays to determine the extent of the decay and understand the tooth structure.  They should to have explained the pros and cons to the treatment, the cost and made you aware of what is involved.

No question is silly. It is important that you feel fully informed before giving your consent for the procedure to go ahead, so do ask any questions you have.

A clean and sterile working environment is paramount, because if anything gets into the tooth during the procedure, it can compromise the success rate and may lead to the procedure having to be repeated or the tooth removed.

The dentist will first inject the area around the problem tooth with local anaesthetic.  This will numb the area and means that you should not feel any pain. You will be conscious through the treatment as it is carried out in the dentist chair.

What is known as a dental dam (cofferdam) is put in place around the tooth.  It gives the dentist a safe area to work.  This rubber dam prevents chemicals and small instruments going into your mouth, and also prevents bacteria from your saliva getting into the clean tooth.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 8

The dentist can rest easy knowing their tools will not come into contact with any other surface in your mouth, debris from the treatment cannot be swallowed or choked upon.

The dam looks quite dramatic when in place, but the British Endodontic Society believe it contributes to the success of treatment.

Opening the tooth/accessing the root canal

Although there is already a hole in the crown of the tooth caused by the decay, a larger hole must be drilled by the dentist so that they can gain access to the pulp chamber inside the teeth that contain the infected tissue.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 9

On larger teeth such as molars, this hole is usually placed in the top of the tooth.  With smaller teeth, like those at the front of the mouth, the hole is drilled at the back of the tooth.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 10

Remember, you will not feel this drilling.

Once complete, the dentist will be able to access the pulp chamber and the root system for the tooth.  They will at this point be removing what is left of the pulp and looking for all the canals within the tooth so they know what they are working with.

The dentist will likely be wearing or making use of the best lighting and microscopes available, to give themselves a magnified and clearer view of the tooth and canals.

Not just straight paths from the top to the bottom of the tooth, the canals are often narrow and curved.  This makes the job more difficult and time consuming for the dentist to do properly.

Specialist files will be used to help enlarge the canals to give them a regular shape for filling and to allow for reach into the depth of the root to clear out the infected tissue.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 11

This part of the treatment may take several hours to complete.   The front incisor and canine teeth usually have a single root containing one root canal, but premolars and back molar teeth (chewing teeth) have two or three roots, each containing either one or two root canals. The more roots a tooth has, the longer the treatment will take to complete.


Once the tissue (pulp) has been removed, the dentist can clean out the inside the tooth and essentially sterilise it ready for filling.

Bacteria and their waste products are removed in two ways. One way they are removed is by physically getting rid of them, using small specialist files. The second technique is chemical removal using special solutions to kill the bacteria in the canals.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 12

A combination of products will be used to flush out any remaining bacteria and debris.  It is vital that nothing be left behind.

Syringes are used to push cleaning solutions into the canals, before being sucked back out and repeated several times. The canals are then dried with paper points or suction tips to complete the process ready for filling.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 13

In some cases, or when treatment cannot be completed in a single appointment, medication will be placed into the canals and a temporary filling placed.

This will be left for up to a week, allowing time for bacteria and infection to be killed off by the medication.

In a second visit, the filling will be removed, the canals will be cleaned out again and the final stages of the treatment completed.

Root filling

This is now the restoration stage.

The dentist now has a clean and perfect environment for the root filling.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 14

The canals must be filled to stop bacteria re-growth and keep the tooth in the best possible condition.

The canals are normally filled with a special type of rubber called gutta percha. In the past, other techniques have been used, e.g. silver.

The gutta percha is shaped as thin cones. These are dipped in a calcium hydroxide glue (cement) to help seal the very small gaps. Extra lengths of gutta precha are then heated with special implements so that the gutta percha stops at the pulp chamber.

A slightly different technique involves melting the gutta percha.  The cones soften and shape to fill the canal and are compressed for a complete and strong filling.

Once the roots are filled, a normal filling will be applied to the crown of the tooth.

In some cases, extra supporting pins will be placed in the upper part of the canal before the filling of the crown, to give extra strength to the tooth when the treatment is complete.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 15

Crowns (optional)

Whilst the filling adds strength back to the tooth that had been lost as a result of the infection, the tooth is still more fragile than it once was. It is more brittle and so more likely to break under pressure. In addition, bacteria could potentially creep around a regular filling which can cause a root canal procedure to fail.

Where the top of the tooth (crown) is most vulnerable, it may be advised to have an artificial crown (or cap) placed on the tooth, which essentially gives an extra layer of protection.

Those who have a crown placed often see the most successful root canal treatment results.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 16

To help retain a root treated tooth for as long as possible, I always recommend a crown (or cap) for the tooth to prevent it breaking. Teeth which have had root canal treatment are a lot more brittle and prone to breakage. Having a crown also decreases the risk of bacteria getting around the filling and causing another infection.

Dr Gemma WheelerIn-house dentist – GDC Number: 259369

This part of the treatment may take place several weeks after the root canal treatment, to ensure the the process has worked.

The last thing you or the dentist wants is to find the treatment has not worked and an expensive crown is wasted.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 17

For a crown to be placed, some of the tooth and filling will need to be removed, with drills, to create a space for a crown to be made. When ready for the crown, a mould of your teeth will be taken to ensure the crown is manufactured to fit precisely.

This may be achieved by biting into a special tray mould, or in the most advanced clinics, oral scanners are used to create detailed computer images, measurements and renderings of the teeth, for a cleaner more high-tech approach.

Crowns are made from:

  • Metal or porcelain (or both)
  • A ceramic material
  • Or powdered glass

When paying for the treatment privately you get the most choice as you pick up the bill.

Also known as a cap, the artificial crown is attached to the natural tooth, once it has been shaved down to offer a better fit for the cap and a nice surface area given for cementing it in place.

If there’s only a small amount of tooth left after the root canal treatment, a post can be cemented in the root canal and used to help keep the crown in place.

Read our article on crowns to learn more.

Watch the following root canal treatment video for a summary of the written content above.

Root Canal Treatment Step by Step

How long does a root canal procedure take?

The time taken for will vary from one patient to another.

It will depend on the extent of the infection and which tooth is being treated.

Teeth with fewer roots will normally take less time to treat than those with multiple roots.  Molars at the back of the mouth have the most roots and will take the most time to treat.

Your dentist can advise, but as a general guide expect approximately a total of one hour per root for a simple tooth.

Some treatments can be carried out in 1 visit, whilst other treatments may require a 2nd visit.

A 2nd visit is most common when the root canal is being completed on molar teeth and when the infection in the tooth is severe.

This 2nd visit tends to be a few days to a week after the 1st appointment.

As the treatment can take a few hours to complete, it is a long time to keep the mouth open for.  A break in the treatment can come as a welcome relief.

Where infection is more severe, the break allows for medication left in the tooth to take effect and ensure the tooth is free of bacteria.

How long does treatment last?

In an ideal scenario, where all has gone to plan and you look after the tooth once treated, there is no reason why it cannot remain in place for the remainder of your life.

This is something I confirmed with Esther Hathorn of Visage Dental Spa, who told me successful root canal treatment “should last forever if all nerve tissue is removed”. 

Those with poor brushing routines and those who smoke will be at greatest risk of the treated tooth not lasting this long.

Investing in perfecting your cleaning and giving up smoking are only going to help.

However, personal circumstances and health conditions may affect this and the treatment may need to be completed again or the tooth removed entirely.

Failure typically occurs in 10% of cases.  Failure means the tooth experiences pain or breaks.

Success rate?

Root canal treatment is according to the NHS successful about 90% of the time (9 out of 10 cases).

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 18

Treatment cost?

The cost of treatment for root canals varies depending on whether you are getting treatment on the NHS or privately.

As dental treatments go, it is not the most expensive but is more expensive than most because it is a more complex and time consuming procedure to carry out.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 19

Will going private for a root canal treatment be better?

Root canal treatment can be done on The NHS or privately. RCT is a very intricate and difficult procedure especially on the back molar teeth. Private dentists should have more time and equipment to do the treatment. However it can also be done adequately on the NHS.

Dr Chhaya ChauhanIn-house dentist – GDC Number: 83940

NHS treatment

Within the UK, if you are eligible for NHS dental care, then a root canal treatment falls under Band 2, which at the time of writing costs £65.20  (England), £47.00(Wales), whilst the cost varies from approx £42 to £55 upwards in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It often best to take the professionals advice, so if they feel a crown is necessary, you probably should opt for this.

A crown will impact the cost and will mean the work will fall under band 3, at a cost of £282.80 (England) or £282.80 (Wales). In these countries, the price includes the crown and RCT.

Patient undergoing root canal treatment

Private treatment

Getting root canal treatment privately within the UK will cost anywhere between £100 through to £700 as a rough guideline.

Those teeth with less roots and more easily accessed will generally be cheaper to treat.

Surgery on a back molar will be more complex, involve more time and therefore incur more cost.

Additional costs will come from the x-rays and if a crown is required.  Multiple visits may also have an impact too.

A crown on its own can cost anywhere from £350-1000 so in the most complex cases its not unreasonable to expect dental costs of over £1500.

Dentists and the surgeries in which they work can typically offer an accurate costing as part of the consultation process and there should be few surprise or unexpected costs.

When being treated privately you will have more choice, particularly when it comes to the materials the crowns are made from.

Aside from the actual act of treatment itself, the dentists location, training, reputation and popularity can also influence the cost.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 20

The difference between NHS and private treatment?

Time, equipment and experience are the 3 key differences between private and NHS root canal treatment.

Whilst a root canal treatment on a front tooth may take around about 1 hour, the most complex of root canal procedures can take many hours to complete.

Under the NHS pricing scheme, whether the dentists spends 1 hour completing the treatment or 4, the price is the same.  With private treatment, the price would be more expensive.

I would not suggest that the NHS dentist would do an inferior job, its not in their interest to do so.  But, inevitably, they are going to be under a little more pressure to complete the procedure in a timely manner.

With private dental treatment, you are paying for the dentists time and they are going to take as long as is required to do the job properly.

An NHS dentist is trained to complete RCT, but when paying for a private treatment, you can employ an endodontist.

As a root canal specialist, they generally have extra training and experience to be able to complete the procedure, particularly complex treatments with more confidence.  Although an endodontist is trained in general dentistry, they spend more of their time completing RCTs and intricate procedures like this.

In addition to this, the private dentist is more likely to have the very best and cutting edge tools and equipment on hand.  From lighting, to files, to microscopes, they are often equipped for maximum success.  These tools can cost quite a lot of money, but can improve the success rate of the root filling.

Overseas treatment for root canals

As I have seen with dental implants, there can be big savings for getting dental work done overseas in countries such as Hungary, Poland and Spain.

Even when factoring in the cost of flights and accommodation the costs can be 50-70% less, but still completed to a very high standard as you would get within the UK.

You will need to make your own assessment as to whether overseas treatment is something you wish to consider.

The complication here is that usually you will want the treatment carried out fairly quickly and this can affect the ease with which you can arrange such overseas treatment.


For a few days post treatment, the area around the tooth will likely be swollen, inflamed and sensitive.

This may extend for a week or so if you are having to make a couple of visits to complete the root canal.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 21

During this time, you will also find that pressure from chewing will result in extra sensitivity.

It will be advised that you eat soft foods as the area heals.

Within 72 hours or so, this will subside and you will hopefully feel normal again.

To help manage any pain or sensitivity you can use over the counter painkillers to provide relief.

Should you find these are not working or you are concerned, speak to your dentist for more information and guidance on what to do.

Preventing further treatment

The best methods to prevent the need for any further treatment to that tooth or others in the mouth is to:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene – Brush twice a day, floss once.
  • Not consume too much sugary food
  • Give up smoking, if you smoke
  • Get regular dental checkups


All dental procedures have an element of risk attached to them and not all will go perfectly.

Risks vary from one patient to another, but the dentist will take the appropriate action to minimise the risks to yourself.

Possible complications and problems include:

  • Damage to the root canal or the tissue surrounding the tooth
  • Infection
  • Damage to the nerves around the tooth
  • A canal not being filled (missed) during the first treatment
  • The canal not being properly cleaned and filled (tissue and bacteria remains)
  • A fracture in the root

Your dentist might get you to return for a checkup a week or so after initial treatment to check it has worked, but more often than not you will instinctively know.

If the pain or symptoms that caused you to fist get the work done have not gone away within about a week of the work being done, it will likely have failed.

Although it is most common for the root canal to fail pretty much straight after the first attempt, it can fail later if preventative care (brushing and flossing) is not followed.

Where it does not work you may be advised to have what is known as re-treatment.

Re-root canal treatment

Root canal re-treatment is the name given to the procedure whereby a previously completed RCT is completed again.

Retreament is required if the first RCT was not successful or if a treatment carried out a long time ago has since failed.

Reasons for failure of initial root canal treatment commonly include:

  • Previous inadequate treatment
  • Re-infection from a leaky filling or decay
  • Presence of cracks/fractures
  • Presence of a cyst around the root end

It tends to be a more complicated and longer procedure due to the fillers that have been placed in the teeth during prior treatments.

Pros and cons of root canal treatment

There is lots of information on this topic provided within this article.  What are the main positives and negatives?


  • Saves the natural tooth – Nothing can replace a natural tooth, RCT saves it.
  • Gives confidence – The treatment does away with the pain causing infection and allows you to live life normally once treated.
  • Safe – Used for a long time it is a tried and tested procedure.
  • Success rate – 90% of root canal treatments are successful.
  • No gaps – Extraction is the alternative and that will leave you with a gap in the teeth unless dentures are purchased.
  • No denture required – With the tooth saved no dentures will be required to replace what could otherwise be a missing tooth.


  • May not work – The treatment may not work in all cases, typically 1 in 10.
  • Time – It is a more time consuming procedure than tooth extraction.
  • Cost – It will likely be more expensive than extraction if you do not factor in the cost of dentures to replace a missing tooth.
  • Recovery – There will be a bit of recovery time, it is a surgical procedure


There are lots of claims and suggestions on the internet and amongst the general population that root canal treatments are dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

This is particularly rife amongst those who believe in more natural or holistic approaches to health, well-being and medicine.  The suggestion if often to avoid surgery.

Some of these claims are based on poor or old information as well as misunderstanding of the treatment process.

The following video gives a little insight into the safety of this procedure, from the point of view of trained endodontists (a root canal specialist).

Alternative treatment

The only alternative to this endodontic treatment is removal or extraction of the tooth.

It sounds dramatic, but that is the reality of the situation.

Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ 22

It is not an option dentists like to take unless absolutely necessary, hence the desire to attempt root canal treatment first.

Removal of a tooth can cause problems with chewing as well as having an impact on your smile and the way your remaining teeth look.

Most wish to replace the missing tooth, but restoring this involves obtaining an artificial (prosthetic) replacement, such as a denture, bridge or a dental implant.  The costs of such can vary considerably.

You can learn more about the extraction process here and about the dentures required to fill the gap by reading our guide on the types and cost.


Root canal treatment is a process that removes the infection and decay that exists inside a tooth.

Removing the soft inner tissue before it spreads further, the tooth is artificially restored by filling it with compounds that give the tooth strength.

When completed successfully and well managed thereafter, there is no reason why the tooth will not remain in the mouth for a lifetime.

It is a surgery few wish to go through with, but is one that is effective and much better alternative of tooth extraction.

A direct result of decay, regular dental checkups and good daily oral hygiene practices can prevent the need for such treatment.


All being well many questions you may have had have been answered in the contents of the article above.

However, here are some commonly asked questions, complete with answers.

What are the root canal treatment steps?

The 4 key root canal treatment steps are:

  1. Preparation
  2. Opening the tooth
  3. Cleaning the tooth
  4. Root filling

A 5th and final step may be the fitting of a crown, if required.

Does root canal hurt?

You are not alone in you are one who fears going to the dentist, 1 in 4 of us do according to the NHS.

However, the good news is that the treatment for a root canal is not painful.

Local anaesthetic is used to numb the area during the procedure so that you do not feel anything.

The dentist and support staff will be on hand if you feel pain and you will normally be advised to alert them.

Depending on the length of treatment required, extra anaesthetic will be used to ensure the area remains numb until the treatment is complete.  Most dentists will let you know what is going on at key stages such as this.

And although post treatment there will likely be a bit of discomfort, this will soon ease.

Failing to get the treatment will result in more pain, discomfort and worry than not getting it dealt with at all.

Can all teeth be treated with root canal treatment?

In many cases the answer is yes.  However, there are occasions where reluctantly, tooth extraction is the best option.

These instances are where the infection and decay has existed too long for the tooth to be saved, if the canals cannot be properly cleaned and sealed and there must be sufficient bone to support the tooth.

Can the treatment fail?

Yes, approximately 1 out of 10 cases will fail.

The circumstances for the failure differ.

It can be possible to reattempt the treatment or it might be necessary to remove the tooth.

What will my tooth look like after treatment?

All being well the tooth will look as it did (or as close as) prior to any decay and treatment.

The idea of the treatment it to retain the natural tooth as nothing looks or performs as well.

It is possible that the tooth will darken, but this is much less common and treatments such as chemical whitening can be completed to match the tooth in with the others in your mouth.

Where is root canal treatment carried out?

The procedure is carried out in your dentists/endodontists office.  It does not require admission to the hospital.

Can you eat after a root canal?

Yes you can, although initially you may want to choose to eat softer foods.

After a couple of days you should be able to return to a normal diet that includes harder foods.

Smoking after a root canal?

Yes, you can smoke after a root canal treatment, but leave it as long as you possibly can before doing so.

If possible avoid smoking after a root canal completely.  Even better, would be to quit as this can have positive effects on your dental and overall health.

How long does a root canal take to heal?

The root canal treatment in itself helps heal the tooth.  It is technically free or infection or decay once the RCT has been completed.

In some cases a filling will be placed in the top of the tooth and in others a crown fitted.

There will be some sensitivity for a couple of days once the treatment is complete, however healing should really be complete within about a week.  Any pain after this time and you need to consult with your dentist.

Your comments and opinions

If you should have any questions, comments or opinions you would like to add to this guide, please do so, by commenting below.

Should you have or be going through the process of implants yourself, why not share some feedback for others to take advantage of.



About Jon Love

Jon is a leading voice on electric toothbrushes and has been quoted by mainstream media publications for his opinions and expertise.

Having handled & tested hundreds of products there really is very little he does not know about them.

Passionate about business and helping others, Jon has been involved in various online enterprises since the early 2000s.

After spending 12 years in consumer technology, it was in 2014 that he focused his attention on dental health, having experienced first-hand the challenge of choosing a new toothbrush.

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13 thoughts on “Root Canal Treatment: Cost, Procedure & FAQ”

  1. Thank you very much for your prompt reply,I have pretty much decided to have root canal treatment and your reply confirmed that for me. Thank you once again

  2. After suffering abscesses in my lower front incisor my dentist has recommended root canal treatment but has left the decision as to whether to have it done or an extraction up to me. As I am 81 yrs of age and I have lost several teeth my instinct is to have root canal treatment and keep the tooth but is that being optimistic regarding time and cost. I might add I am a fairly healthy and active person with no long term health problems.

    Many thanks

    • Hi Pauline. Ultimately this is a question for you to decide the answer to.

      As a general rule, I think it is worth doing, if the dentist feels the likelihood of a successful root canal is high.

      Root canals can be successful and you may well be very thankful that you had it done, although there is always some risk. Given the dentist has not suggested just taking it out, and is even offering the option, I think may suggest it could be a successful procedure.

      There is nothing better really than retaining your own tooth.

      If it is extracted, it is not a problem as such, but subject to the teeth around the extracted one, it can potentially have other effects.

      Cost is going to depend on whether you are having it done privately or via the NHS and what you deem to be a reasonable price to pay.

      Are you wearing a denture to replace the other missing teeth? This would be something to consider if you decide to have it out. If you do not already, perhaps you could have one to replace those teeth.

  3. Do you have any advice on the pros and cons of different approaches to root canal treatment for a back tooth – hand files (NHS) vs protatper system (private) please?

    • Hi Phillipa.

      Apologies for the slight delay in reply, but I wanted to ensure you got a detailed reply, so the following comes from our in-house dentist Dr Gemma Wheeler.

      There are always risks associated with endodontic treatment. Without seeing you or your radiographs, I can only give general advice. You’ve asked about different types of files available to prepare a tooth for root canal filling. This stage is all about using files to physically remove and pulp, debris and bacteria (whilst simultaneously using chemicals to help dissolve unwanted tissue inside the tooth).

      Advantages of hand files:
      – Can navigate ledges in the route without potential damage.
      – Come in smaller sizes so can get down smaller canals.
      – No specialist equipment needed.
      – Cheaper files.

      Advantages of rotary instruments (e.g. ProTaper)
      – Less likely to fracture in the canal.
      – Can easily prepare canals with bends in them.
      – Quicker treatment time.

      I am a general dental practitioner, and so my preferences may be different to a specialist endodontist. However, as a clinician my personal preference is for a rotary system (like ProTaper). Generally, it is easier to get a tapered preparation (narrower nearer the end of the root), which in turn is easier to fill. I find them quicker to work with, which offsets the costs of the files.

      The only real negative for the use of rotary instruments is that the individual files are expensive (anywhere between £10-20 per file), and they can only be used for one appointment before being discarded. This means they are not always cost effective for NHS treatment. That said, some dentists will offer rotary treatment on the NHS whereas some will only offer rotary treatment privately. I would ask your dentist whether this treatment could be provided on the NHS.

      If it were a member of my family, I would advise treatment with rotary files for their own comfort and for a better outcome.

  4. Hi Jon,

    Thanks for your quick and helpful reply which has clarified things for me.
    I will have a further chat with my dentist now that I understand things better.
    Thanks too for such a clear and informative website, I’m so glad I found it!

    Best wishes ,


    • No problem Jo.

      If you can update me perhaps when you have everything sorted, then that would be great.

      The more insight I and the team here can gain, the more we can help other people like yourself.

  5. Hi Jon,
    One of my second molars (lower) has a crown which is 30+ years old and the lower rim of the crown was repaired 10+ years ago.
    Due to a painful swelling of the outer gum directly below the crown, my dentist took an x-ray which showed an infection present in the tooth.
    Just before Christmas, when the swelling spread to my tongue and upper jaw, he prescribed a seven day course of antibiotics and although some of the swelling has subsequently reduced, it hasn’t gone completely and is now in fact returning.
    Ideally, I’d like to have the crown removed so that the infection can be cleaned and the crown replaced, however my dentist suggested simply removing the tooth.
    I’d welcome your opinion on what criteria would point to extraction being the only option, and whether it’s feasible to decide on extraction without first trying to save the tooth.
    Many thanks,

    • Hi Jo.

      Thanks for the question.

      A definitive answer can only really be given on an assessment of the tooth, so I cannot, nor could one of our in-house dentists say for sure without seeing your tooth.

      However, under typical circumstances extraction is suggested if the tooth cannot be saved. This can be if the infection has spread beyond the tooth and the tooth itself is not suitable for a root filling.

      It is possible that this is applicable in your case.

      Have you asked whether root canal treatment could be tried? Did the dentist suggest this was not an option.

      The X-ray might have given information to help the dentist come to the conclusion that they did.

      If the dentist has suggested extraction is the only option, you could to be sure, seek the opinion of another dentist/root canal specialist to see what they have to say.

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