CU Continues its Access-to-Care Initiative with the Save-A-Tooth Program

Molly PereiraFeatured News

By Kathy Michel, CU School of Dental Medicine Director of Marketing/Communications
From the Winter 2022 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

Chair of the Department of Surgical Dentistry Dr. Emanouela Carlson (right) working with a dental student in the CU SDM student clinic.

The effort is aimed at making endodontic treatment affordable and avoiding tooth loss. Patient care and easing the financial barrier are at the heart of this program.

In partnership with the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine (SDM) and Colorado dental providers, adult patients (18 or older) contemplating tooth extraction to avoid endodontic costs can be referred to the CU SDM’s Division of Endodontics for low-cost treatment. If an examination reveals the patient is eligible for a root canal in the student clinic, it will be performed at the same price as an extraction: $102.

Spearheading the Save-A-Tooth Program is board certified endodontist and Chair of the Department of Surgical Dentistry Dr. Emanouela Carlson.

“As the only dental school in Colorado, the CU SDM is in a unique position to serve all populations, including those who are disadvantaged and vulnerable,” said Dr. Carlson. “In many cases, the fee for a root canal poses a significant financial barrier for patients who are faced with the unfortunate decision to either extract a tooth or save it with a root canal. As we all know, the regrettable choice to have a tooth extracted for financial reasons is often the beginning of a failing dentition for the patient.”

Since its inception, CU SDM has partnered with local providers and has seen patient referrals double since the initiative began in January 2020. This provides empirical evidence for the program’s initial success and provides CU dental students with increased patient contact, promoting a richer learning environment.

“The Save-A-Tooth Program enhances the patient care experience in endodontics for our students and serves our most vulnerable patients,” shared Senior Associate Dean for Clinics and Professional Practice Dr. Lonnie Johnson.

Chair of the Department of Surgical Dentistry Dr. Emanouela Carlson

Within the CU dental student clinic, staff endodontists supervise treatment using advanced techniques and technologies, including NiTi rotaries, apex locators, bio-ceramics, and magnification. This evidence-based approach makes root canal treatment comfortable and effective for the patients being cared for in the clinic’s private treatment suites.

“This not only benefits patients and students,” said Dr. Johnson, “but it’s also a rewarding experience as a dental provider.” He continued, “You see a patient with a tooth that can be saved instead of extracting it, making all the difference for the patient and the pain they have endured during this process.”

When asked about the future of the program, Dr. Carlson stated, “By eliminating the bulk of the cost of root canal treatment, the program will help us achieve the following goals:

  • Reach a larger population of patients with endodontic needs and highlight that natural teeth are worth saving.
  • Improve public awareness on the role endodontists play in dental health and longevity.
  • Provide our students a strong foundation in endodontics by providing a broad, patient-based experience in the diagnosis and management of endodontic disease, with a heavy emphasis on case-selection, referral relationships, and delivery of mindful endodontic intervention.”

For more information about the Save A Tooth Access-to-Care Initiative, visit