Yes and no. Root canal treatment is sometimes available as an NHS treatment option.
What is a root canal treatment?
A root canal treatment or root filling is a deep filling in the root of a tooth. A root canal treatment is sometimes a treatment option that can be tried in an effort to save a tooth that is dying or that has already died and/or causing inflammation or infection. Sometimes a root canal treatment is used to get extra grip to help build up a tooth when there is very little of the tooth left on top of the gum.
Are root canal treatments available on the NHS?
Root canal treatments are technically “available” on the NHS, but only if your NHS general dentist feels confident of a reasonable chance of success.
If your tooth is in such a bad state that your general dentist feels it is unlikely that they could achieve a good result, then the NHS treatment option available would instead be to extract the tooth and then consider the options to replace it if required.
How much do NHS root canal treatments cost?
NHS root canal treatments usually fall under Band 3 if your dentist recommends immediate protection with a crown or onlay. If your dentist feels your tooth will not need a crown right away, then NHS root canal treatment may fall under Band 2 instead. See NHS Dental Charges for more information.
If you are referred to an NHS endodontist in a dental hospital then the same charges may or may not still apply.
When should I see a specialist root canal dentist (endodontist)?
It is always an option to request that your general dentist refers you to an endodontist for provision of a root canal treatment to give you the best chance of success in a tooth that would otherwise likely require extraction.
Although general dentists typically achieve good success rates with root canal treatments, endodontists who have undergone more training, have more experience in providing root canal treatments, and have more specialised and fancy equipment, understandably achieve better success rates. Especially in difficult cases.
If the tooth is in fairly good shape but your dentist feels there are particular difficulties that might reduce the chance of success (e.g. a curve in the root, unusual anatomy, or a pre-existing root canal treatment), then it might not be appropriate for your general dentist to attempt root canal treatment. In these cases, referral to an endodontist may be the only option if you wish to try and save a tooth.
Can I be referred to an NHS endodontist for my root canal treatment?
NHS endodontists do exist, but there are very few, with very limited budgets and consequently very long waiting lists. NHS endodontists have slightly different referral criteria in different areas, but in general usually do not offer NHS root canal treatments in cases when there is a suitable alternative treatment such as extracting the tooth and replacing it with a denture. Your dentist will advise you if your case meets local NHS referral criteria.
When should I be referred to a private endodontist?
Requesting referral to a private endodontist is always an option if a root canal treatment is possible and appropriate. In difficult cases when your general dentist feels unlikely that they can achieve a successful result and your case does not meet your local NHS endodontist referral criteria, then referral to a private endodontist may be your only option to try and save your tooth.
How much do private endodontists cost?
Private endodontists do not receive any funding from the NHS and so the total cost of the treatment they provide has to be paid for by the patient, or if applicable, by the patient’s dental insurance company.
The cost of an assessment by an endodontist is usually in the region of £50-£150, and root canal treatment can be anywhere from a few hundred pounds to over a thousand pounds, depending on which tooth needs the treatment, the difficulty of the case, the skills of the endodontist, the location of the practice, and the time of the appointment.