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How Much Can One Tooth Cost ?

A long story about bad oral health, and just one tooth. I wrote this back in 2011, but in 2020 there was more to write about.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

An important fact for many Canadians, if you lose your job, you lose your dental coverage as well. How important can a dental plan be? One tooth can add up to a lot of money.

How Much for Just One Tooth?

Over my life, my oral hygiene has not been the best. I have had extensive dental work done on most of the teeth in my mouth. I have learned to regret my poor oral hygiene habits of my youth. For this article, I will concentrate on a single bicuspid in my upper right jaw.

This tooth has had extensive work done on it. First it was filled due to it having a cavity, this must have cost upwards of $80 worth of work, which my parents insurance most likely covered. I most likely made the dentist’s life a living heck whilst this procedure was done (I am confident I am on a “patient from hell” list with the Canadian Dental Association).

Around my 30th birthday, I was eating a hard candy and I heard a snapping noise in my mouth. I ignored it, since nothing seemed to fall out of my mouth (I learned later that I cracked that tooth with that candy). This is not a good dental problem heuristic.

Root Canal

A Questionable Smile

A year or so later, I started getting swelling in my upper right jaw. It was decided that the tooth beside the bicuspid was the culprit, so a root canal was done on that tooth. It turned out that this was the wrong tooth. That cost about $300 or so in procedures (remember this wasn’t even on that tooth). Most of this covered by my company dental insurance plan.

I noticed the swelling dropped, but the pain continued in my jaw. When I returned to my dentist a few months later he did a very unscientific test by turning around his observation mirror around and tapping teeth in my upper jaw. When he hit the bicuspid in question I jumped out of the chair and screeched in pain. This is where we came to the decision, we may have fixed the wrong tooth. Another root canal was scheduled, $300 more was spent, but this time on the correct tooth.

We then needed to think about a crown for this bicuspid. Another $900 later (only half covered under my insurance), a brand spanking new crown appeared on this mummified tooth.


Story over, you might think? Nope, the crown was a little tall, and I managed to knock it off chewing some gum. The crown had to be attached again (about $120 more spent). You must be done, right? Nope, I knocked the crown out again (another $120) and this time I was told that if it was knocked out again, there was nothing else to be done.

Another year passed, the crown became dislodged after it being “loose” for a long time, another $100 spent not reattaching it (and in fact not giving back to me the crown, I should have been allowed to keep it as a souvenir).

Now I had a whole in my jaw with some mummified roots under it. That needed to be removed, and that cost another $600 to remove.

Final Cost?

So, thanks to my bad oral hygiene as a youth, I ended up spending over $2000 to end up with a hole in my jaw where a tooth once was, and remember this is only 1 tooth (and not counting cleanings as well). Oh, and if you thought that was the end of the story, nope, because now I have to have  a prosthesis put in place as well (possibly up to another $1000 (at least)).

Good oral hygiene for your kids and in your youth pays dividends later in life (OK, maybe not dividends, but does not create debt or expenses later in life).

Epilogue and Addendum

During COVID, I noticed swelling again in my upper right jaw. It ended up being the original, incorrectly root canal’ed tooth. This meant the entire bridge had to be removed. This also meant two implants had to be set up to replace those gaps in my teeth. After all that, about $5000 more spent in the same area.

I ended up max’ing out my dental plan for the year. Starting to think socialized dentistry might be nice too.

If this keeps up my mouth could end up costing about $200K? I really hope not.

Feel Free to Comment

  1. Good day! What an experience. Do you think my kids would listen if I told your story to them? They seem to ignore their dentist’s advice. They have to realize that not taking care of your teeth is going to hurt them and my wallet. The only bribe I’ve got left is that if they don’t take care of their teeth, the money for their games will be gone. Thanks for sharing your story. I know that people are going to learn from this. Maintenance is better than repair, I guess.

    By the way, about those dental implants. How long do they last? I’m planning to have one put in by a dental surgeon in Lexington. I know it’s going to cost me, but if it’s going to bring back my smile, then I’ll go for it.

    1. Implant itself didn’t break, the root it was attached to broke, they should last a lifetime, is my understanding (or until the supporting Gum/root infrastructure collapses).

  2. I know this is late, but just wanted to add a different perspective… Is it possible your dentist is not particularly competent? Your dentist should have been able to determine which tooth was the problem from the start. Not to mention observing that the tooth undergoing root canal was healthy… If the tooth was cracked that should have shown up on X-Ray! (Did he do X-rays?) There are also other tests for sensitivity – a fine spray of cold air, or exploration would do the trick.

    Additionally, a properly made crown should not be knocked off by chewing gum! Or any other chewing! Your crown clearly did not fit the tooth! Didn’t he do bite tests?

    It’s possible (even probable) your choice in dentists has cost you the extra $$, not your choice in snack foods.

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