Cheaper root canal options in Chicago?
October 13, 2008 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I need a root canal in Chicago; I've already burned through our dental insurance for the year, and our dentist wants $1200 to perform one. Is there a better option? I don't know if I can hold out until our insurance resets in January.

My husband and I have been going to Chicago Style Smiles, run by Dr. Rohan, for a few months now; they've taken good care of us so far, especially with a strange case of advanced gum disease I've been dealing with (considering that I'm only 27!). But our insurance has run out for the year, and the practice is asking $1200 to perform a root canal. We really don't have that sort of money right now, and they don't take CareCredit, either. Of course, the tooth in question is starting to really hurt, so I'm going a bit crazy. :-/ Any advice?
posted by new-xero to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know what care credit is, but the last time we had huge dental bills, the dentist had financing options. Not interest free, but if it is necessary, it is necessary.
posted by domino at 2:16 PM on October 13, 2008

You could ask them if they would be willing to do the surgery now and wait until January to make the claim to the insurance company.
posted by stavrogin at 2:27 PM on October 13, 2008

You can check out the UIC College of Dentistry. An acquaintance just went there and saved a bunch of money — I believe it was for a root canal, too. If you're interested, shoot me an email and I can ask him for further details when I see him tomorrow.
posted by veggieboy at 2:28 PM on October 13, 2008

Is $1200 the root canal cost, or does it also include the crown? You might be able to get the root canal taken care of now (and at the very least, get antibiotics if it's hurting right now while you decide what your strategy is) and then get the crown in January. This isn't optimal since your tooth will be fragile and you could shatter it, but it's possible. Check with your insurance that you can do this, I have no idea how dental insurance works and whether there's pre-existing condition stuff so make sure this will work but you might be able to turn it into two small payments instead of one large one.
posted by jessamyn at 2:30 PM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding UIC College of Dentistry. The work will be done by a student, supervised by a professor. It's not free but it is discounted. Address and phone: 801 S. Paulina St., 312/ 996-7555.

I had a root canal done about five years ago by Dr. Terry Tolwin. I paid (I think) $900. I've recommended him to others and everyone has had a good experience. He's an endodontist, so that's his specialty.

No, I definitely would not put off the work until January. Tooth decay just gets worse with time. Not to be a fearmonger, but you know the Deamonte Driver story, right? The kid died from a brain abscess caused by decayed teeth. It's rare, but infected teeth can result in systemic illness.

If you can't swing the bill, I would like into someone who accepts Care Credit or see if you can get either a small loan or finance it on a credit card.

Incidentally, what stavrogin suggests is fraud. I can't imagine any ethical health provider agreeing to that. (Not to mention that there are no guarantees you'll still be insured at the start of the year, which would leave them holding the bag when it came to your bill.)
posted by Sully6 at 2:40 PM on October 13, 2008

Jessamyn raises a good point--does the $1200 cover the crown too? Honestly (I work in dental), I don't think you'll be able to find anyone cheaper than that in the Chicago area if the price includes both the cost of the root canal and the crown.

You could get a temporary crown, although they're meant to last a week or two, not months.
posted by Sully6 at 2:43 PM on October 13, 2008

Dental colleges are lifesavers in situations like these. (Here in NYC I've been able to get the same care for a third of the cost because of them.) However, since you have dental insurance and a dentist that you already trust why not work out a payment plan with them?

Also, do you have an idea of how bad the decay is in the tooth needing a root canal? The amount and structure of tooth decay that necessitates a root canal varies widely. If your tooth was painless you might be able to wait until the new year, although the fact that your tooth is hurting suggests the decay has made its way through to the tissue, so time is of the essence. (I am not a dentist! But I have been getting continuous dental work for about a year now, including root canals.)

I would also check to make certain your coverage covers root canals. Like jessamyn said, they may deny you because of pre-existing, or they may cover the root canal but not the post or crown (which may be considered "cosmetic").
posted by greenland at 2:53 PM on October 13, 2008

We have the same dentist! Earlier in the year, I was between dental plans, and he worked with me to get just the emergency stuff done, and I came back for the less-urgent work when my new plan kicked in. However, my situation was a little less dire than yours.

If you haven't already, call the dental office and explain that you can't afford $1200 right now and ask if working out a payment plan is an option. Dr. Rohan's office is incredibly understanding and I'd be surprised if they weren't willling to give you a few options.

Barring that, though, I haven't heard anything about UIC specifically, but I have heard good things about dental schools in general; that's likely your best bet.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:04 PM on October 13, 2008

Seconding Jessamyn. Two years ago, I had a root canal with a temporary crown in February, maxing out my dental insurance. Then I got the crown in November, after I changed jobs and had new insurance. I had no problems with the temporary crown, and my dentist had no problem with me waiting that long.
posted by kimdog at 3:08 PM on October 13, 2008

(I'm the husband of the OP.) We just emailed the practice and asked about alternate finance options, potentially getting a temporary crown for now (and whether the crown is included in the first place), etc. They initially offered to split the $1200 across three months, but that's still quite a bit when we have no savings, meh. (Even four months would be better, which I mentioned in the email.) We'll likely stick with this dentist if at all possible, since they have been good to us overall, not to mention that they already have all of my wife's info, x-rays, etc., and we really can't afford to start that whole process over again elsewhere. We'll post again when we have more information; thanks for the tips so far!
posted by korpios at 3:54 PM on October 13, 2008

I was paying at the dentist once after my insurance had run out. I saw on the receptionists computer, while she was looking up my bill, that they charge me more than they charge the insurance co. for the same things!! I asked why they charge me more and she said that they negotiate deals with the insurance co. I said that I would like to negotiate a deal. She didn't go for it, but my dentist agreed to charge me the lower rate.
posted by lee at 4:46 PM on October 13, 2008

A side note, since you say that you can't afford to go through the X-rays and such again: You own the X-rays, not the dentist. You can request them at any time, and they must provide them.
posted by Houstonian at 5:20 PM on October 13, 2008

A caveat about getting it done at a student clinic -- root canals do have an appreciable failure rate (if the dentist misses one of the roots or doesn't clean it far enough), and if it's not done right the first time, it'll be expensive and potentially agonizing later on. (Personal experience, unfortunately.)
posted by greatgefilte at 5:45 PM on October 13, 2008

Have you considered a vacation to Mexico?
posted by zoomorphic at 7:39 PM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is it possible to have the first part of the root canal done? I don't mean the entire procedure, just the gross removal of nerve/blood vessel tissue and then have medication packed inside with a temporary filling.

We did these a few times for patients when they needed to get through a short period of time before being able to get the root canal completed. Sometimes, if the tooth flared up again, we'd hit the infection with a course of antibiotics and open the tooth back up and repack medication. This isn't an ideal treatment, but ten weeks isn't all that long to wait. It sucks that it's the holidays coming up and you need to be very, very careful to not eat anything that could break the tooth. If the tooth breaks, there is no guarantee it is salvagable.
posted by Jazz Hands at 8:23 PM on October 13, 2008

(Husband of the OP.) Further follow-up: the office got back to us; they explained that root canals involve three steps — the actual root canal therapy, the build-up, and the crown, and it sounds like the $1200 covers only the root canal therapy as well as some follow-up therapy for my wife's gum problems. They said it would be fine to have the payment split into four parts rather than three, and also gave us the information for a credit company they do work with (Capital One Health Credit). They also said we could wait on the crown until next year when our insurance resets ... but if the "build-up" is a separate step that costs even more money, I'm not so sure of our position anymore. Meh. ::grumbles about the lousy US health care system::
posted by korpios at 8:57 AM on October 15, 2008

(BTW, I'm grumbling about the way insurance works in the US, not about the dental office.)
posted by korpios at 9:04 AM on October 15, 2008

Okay, the root canal, plus crown, totals $2893. Holy crap ... we definitely can't swing that. Should we try to just do the surgery without the crown for now, or should we find another dentist?
posted by korpios at 9:14 AM on October 15, 2008

An follow-up for anyone who comes across this later:

new-xero and I decided at first to wait until January; that turned out to be a bad idea this past weekend, when her tooth went crazy (with the worst pain she's ever felt, and that's saying something). We couldn't find anyone available on a weekend; Dr. Rohan from Chicago Style Smiles talked us through things via phone and got her painkillers at least, and saw her first thing Monday morning to drill and do a temporary filling. new-xero is much better now, and we feel much more secure knowing that we can split the work up among a few visits/treatments to better work vs. our insurance.

Everyone who said "don't wait" — well, yeah, you were right. ;-)

Dr. Rohan's office may have seemed a bit pricey to us, but they've been fantastic in how they've handled things. They do a thorough job in their dental work, they're pleasant and polite, and they always call to follow up on how we're doing. They let us split up payments, and apparently they do take a CareCredit-like payment plan (Capital One Health). If you need a Chicago-area dentist and they take your insurance, check them out; we'll be sticking with them.
posted by korpios at 8:57 AM on November 13, 2008

(Meh, that should've been "A follow-up" ... not "an" ... doh. The grammar nazi in me cries.)
posted by korpios at 8:59 AM on November 13, 2008

« Older Hiring a Las Vegas wedding photographer on 10 days...   |   Is building a femtosecond laser within the reach... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.