Most Common Dental Procedures and What They Cost

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Contributor, Benzinga
April 19, 2022

Did you know most of our readers prefer for their dental insurance needs?

Many people are surprised to learn that dental care needs aren’t typically covered by their health insurance plan. If you’re suffering from a common dental problem and you don’t have a specific dental insurance plan, you might be hesitating to make a dentist’s appointment because you don’t know how much the treatment will cost. Read on to learn more about what you can expect to pay for some of the most common dental procedures both with and without insurance coverage.

No. 1: Teeth Cleanings

Biannual cleanings are the most common dental procedure, and everyone should make an effort to see their dentists for a cleaning every six months to prevent future dental issues from arising. 

During a cleaning appointment, a dental hygienist will remove built-up plaque and tartar from your teeth and gums. A dentist will also look at areas of concern within your teeth to determine whether you have any immediate dental care needs that must be addressed with a more intensive procedure. Depending on when you’ve last seen your dentist, you might also receive an X-ray to identify further dental health issues.

The average cost of a cleaning without insurance is about $125. However, if you have a dental insurance plan, you likely won’t pay anything for your biannual cleaning because insurance providers consider cleanings to be preventive care that helps prevent more expensive dental health issues later down the line. 

No. 2: Fillings

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably had a cavity filling or two in the past. A filling is used to address a dental cavity, which is a permanently damaged area of your tooth that has been worn away by acids and bacteria, causing tooth decay to develop. If left untreated, a cavity can progress further into the interior of your tooth, leading to more painful infections later on. 

During a filling, your dentist will apply local anesthesia and remove the infected area to stop the decay from progressing. Though anyone of any age can need a filling, cavities are most common among children, teenagers and young adults.

If you don’t have dental insurance, you can usually expect to pay between $200 and $600 for a filling, depending on the size and location of the cavity. If you have dental insurance, you’ll usually pay around $50 to $250 out of pocket for your care costs. Addressing cavities early can help you save money on your fillings, as treating a cavity sooner helps prevent further decay from increasing the area of the tooth that must be removed.

No. 3: Root Canals

A root canal is a procedure that removes infected areas from the interior of a tooth that’s been overtaken with bacteria. Behind the hard, white surface of your teeth lies a soft tissue layer called “pulp.” The pulp of your teeth has its own blood vessels and nerve endings that can become infected with bacteria over time. 

If left untreated, this infection can lead to a dental abscess. During a root canal, your dentist will remove the infected pulp from the interior of your tooth. Thanks to modern anesthesia, getting a root canal is now no more painful than a filling in the vast majority of instances.

If you don’t have insurance, you can expect to pay between $700 and $1,800 for a root canal depending on the size and location of the infected tooth. If you have dental insurance, you’ll typically pay between $200 and $1,200 out of pocket for your root canal.   

How to Pay for Dental Care 

Dental care can be expensive, and sometimes you don’t have much of a choice as to whether or not you pay for it. However, what you might not know is that there are many different ways to pay for dental care beyond cash and credit cards. The following are some of the most common methods you can use to pay for most medically necessary dental care needs that you run into. 

  • Dental insurance: This may be an obvious choice, but there are plenty of dental insurance plans you can get in order to help pay for dental care. If your employer doesn’t offer dental insurance, you can still get a policy on your own through an independent insurance provider. Dental insurance can help lessen the burden of paying for dental care, but there are some exceptions for what it will pay for outside of common dental procedures.
  • Dental discount plans: Dental discount plans are programs that anyone can join. They offer dental services at a lower cost in exchange for membership fees. When you sign up for a discount plan at a dental care provider that offers these types of programs, you pay a membership fee to access discounted dental care.   
  • Dental schools: If there is a dental school in your area, you may be able to receive some basic dental services from dental students. Dental schools take in patients to allow students to get real-life experience. The services they provide are offered at a cheaper rate than they would be if you went to a dental practice. All students are supervised by licensed dentists during treatments, so you won’t need to worry about your dental issues getting worse because of inexperienced service providers. 
  • Low-cost or free providers: Some dental care providers offer their services at a low cost or for free to patients living below the poverty level. There are also local clinics that offer services for lower costs or for free as well. However, these services are typically only offered to uninsured or low-income individuals. Research options in your area and be sure you meet income requirements before you set an appointment with a low-cost provider.  

Common Alternative Dental Care Methods

While it may be hard to believe, there are alternatives to common dental care methods. These alternatives may not be your first option, and you may not have ever heard of them, but they can still present good choices for you if you do the proper research and understand what the option you choose will and will not cover. Some common alternatives to standard dental care methods include the following. 

  • Dental grants: Dental grants are offered to those who apply and meet the requirements of that specific grant. You can search online for these types of grants and check out the requirements to see if you are eligible. If you are eligible, you may be able to get your dental care paid for by a grant. However, grants are not a great option if you’re in need of more immediate care because they are known to have long waiting periods. 
  • Choose a cheaper alternative for the service: For a lot of dental procedures, there are typically cheaper options than the dentist’s first choice for service. For example, instead of dental implants, you may want to consider a dental crown or non-surgical dental implants, both of which are more affordable than implants. While a cheaper alternative may not be an option for everything, it could help you avoid major dental expenses.   
  • Dental tourism: Dental tourism is when you seek dental care in another country. There are plenty of countries that offer dental care at much lower rates, which allows you to get the care needed without breaking the bank. However, regulations vary in different countries, so it’s important to research the regulations where you are considering going to make sure it will be safe. 
  • Teledentistry: As is the case with other types of medical services, providers are starting to offer dental evaluations over video chat or phone. This is referred to as “teledentistry.” While you certainly can’t get a root canal over video chat, you may be able to get a consultation or a prescription refill via teledentistry at a much lower rate than what you would pay if you visit a dentist’s office. 

Compare Dental Insurance Providers

Investing in a dental insurance plan can help you get the dental care you need at a price you can afford. Benzinga offers insights and reviews on the following dental insurance providers. Consider beginning your search with one or more of the following links below. 

Frequently Asked Questions


What are the most common dental procedures?


The most common dental procedures are teeth cleanings, cavity filling, tooth extractions, crowns or caps and root canals. 


What are the two most common dental diseases?


The two most common dental diseases are gum disease, otherwise known as periodontal disease, and tooth decay, which results in cavities that need to be extracted and filled. 

Dental Insurance Methodology

To determine the best dental insurance providers, we pored through all United States carriers. We winnowed the list by only including companies that have a wide coverage area and product offering. To further break down the list to the true best dental insurance providers, we gave weight to carriers that offer discounts, are available in all states and have multiple payment plan options.

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About Sarah Horvath

Sarah is an expert in the insurance, investing for retirement and cryptocurrency space.