Do you flinch every time you hear the term root canal? Most people immediately associate the term with pain and endless hours in the dentist’s chair. But that isn’t necessarily the case. Every year dentists choose to perform millions of root canal treatments rather than extracting an affected tooth.

Root canal procedures aren’t as painful as most people expect them to be, and they aren’t as expensive as an extraction can be either. If the tooth is extracted and replaced with a bridge or implant, that takes a lot more time and money. It may also affect the neighboring teeth and supporting tissue and bone matter.

If your dentist recommends a root canal for you, remember that it is always better to save a natural tooth rather than to replace it with a false one. That’s why it’s important to get the facts about which Medicare benefits policy covers the cost, what the root canal procedure is, and whether it is the best option for you.

Do You Need a Root Canal?
A root canal is a form of endodontic treatment, a procedure that treats the inner part of a tooth. A root canal may be necessary if the inner tooth pulp, or soft tissue, becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation causes discomfort and can lead to severe pain and an abscess which must be treated with antibiotics.

Some factors that could cause infection or inflammation in a tooth and lead to a root canal being performed are a broken, cracked, or chipped tooth, or deep or severe decay.

Some of the common signals that you may need a root canal are:

• Pain
• Sensitivity to hot, cold, or to the touch
• Pain when chewing or putting pressure on the tooth
• Gum swelling in the area of the infected tooth
• Discoloration of the infected tooth
• Swollen lymph nodes

What happens during a root canal? A root canal procedure takes one or two visits to the dentist. Under local anesthetic, your dentist removes all the pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals of the infected tooth with a very fine instrument. After preparation, your dentist fills the empty chambers with a biocompatible material that seals off all the root canals. When the root canals are sealed, your dentist prepares the tooth for a crown.

Do Medicare Recipients Have Coverage for Root Canals?
Original Medicare benefits (Parts A and Part B) do not cover most dental care procedures, including root canals, but some Medicare Advantage plans do include dental services. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, check with your provider to make sure you have coverage for dental procedures like root canals. In order to be eligible for payment, you must use a dentist within your plan’s network.

Medicare Advantage plans are also known as Medicare Part C or MA Plans. They are considered an all-in-one alternative to Original Medicare because they include Parts A and B, and usually Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D). These MA plans are offered by private companies approved by Medicare. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, you will have at least the same benefits as Original Medicare, but most MA plans provide additional coverage, such as dental care.

The Costs of a Root Canal
The final cost of a root canal depends on the complexity of the procedure needed to repair your tooth, which tooth is affected, and the crown type and size. Molars generally cost more than front teeth because they are larger and have more roots.

In the United States, the average cost of a root canal procedure runs from $300.00 to $1000.00. The average cost of a crown can range from $500.00 to $3,000.00.

For Medicare recipients, the final cost of a root canal procedure depends on the Medicare benefits your Medicare Advantage policy offers. Your dentist and health care insurance provider can assist you with all the details you need to make your final decision.

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