The costs of tooth alignment can be stupefying. Unfortunately, this is because they are so high, rather than shockingly affordable. Metal braces cost $5,350 on average.
While conventional braces are not your only choice, research shows that prices across different options are similar. Where do the figures come from?Creative Commons
Complete braces cost analysis
The overall cost of braces depends on many factors. The biggest determinants are:
- your age,
- insurance plan,
- the issues you have,
- the length of treatment, and
- the type of braces you choose.
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Of course, your orthodontist might decide that you are not a good candidate for the type of braces you would like. Remember, it is he or she that will be making the final decision. Below you can read about what to expect from each option.
The average cost for metal braces is $5,350. The prices start at $1,800 and top off at $8,500.
Fully metal braces are the oldest and most common type. They are universally available, so you won’t have trouble finding a dental professional who will be willing to install them. All this helps make metal braces a little more affordable than other permanent options.
The great thing about them is that they can solve the most complex cases, unlike the more esthetically pleasing types. They can also be customized with colorful elastic bands.
Ceramic braces cost around $5,500, with a price range between $2,000 and $10,000.
This type was designed for a more inconspicuous look. If appearance is what you’re going for, you should prepare to pay a little more. The downsides of ceramic braces are that they’re more brittle than metal ones and stain without proper care.
Some patients opt to have the top arch aligned with ceramic and the bottom with metal. Others claim that ceramic brackets are bigger and stick out more. It’s all down to personal preference. And your budget.
Self-ligating braces can cost between $2,500 and $8,000, giving an average of $5,500.
This type of braces is slightly more expensive than the bare-bones metal type, but it comes with a lot of advantages. First of all, less pressure and friction are placed on the teeth, which makes the system more comfortable.
Secondly, since they adapt to the changes in your mouth, the process is considerably faster. You will not need to visit the orthodontist for adjustments as often, either.
The most popular representative of this type of braces is The Damon System. Initially, they can be expensive, but the costs you save visiting the orthodontist less regularly makes them affordable still.
Without elastomeric rings they are also easier to keep clean which can prevent restorative costs.
Lingual braces cost $12,000 on average. The price range is between $5,000 and $13,000.
Those who desperately want to opt for braces that won’t make them look like eternal teenagers can choose lingual ones. They are installed behind the teeth and this makes them practically unnoticeable.
The problem is that they are hard to install and even harder to adjust. You should take into consideration that there are few specialists who take on such cases. They will definitely charge accordingly.
Dr. Christopher Riolo
More often than not, lingual braces are just as effective as the traditional option if you are in the hands of an experienced lingual orthodontist. Most speech issues also disappear after the first month of wear.
What’s more, they are unsuitable for those with small teeth. These braces can also cause temporary speech and tongue problems. On top of that, some patients claim lingual braces were quoted as twice as expensive in comparison with regular metal ones.
Clear aligners (invisible braces)
The average price for Invisalign Full treatment is $5,700. The prices for clear aligners in general range from $1,100 and $9,500.
Invisalign treatment, the most popular type of invisible braces can turn out to be quite costly. It is typically more expensive than conventional braces. This shouldn’t be surprising, since you are paying for the recognizability of the brand, invisibility of treatment, and specialist support.
Dr. Richard Hattaway
One of the most important steps with clear aligners is the accuracy of the impressions or the scan. Leaving this step out of the treatment by a professional with proper training could lead to a more costly option to fix.
Some dentists and orthodontists offer their own custom aligners. They are made right at the office, so the trays can be delivered to you very fast. The costs of these depend on your situation, of course, but they are comparable to Invisalign.
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The cheapest option are at-home teeth straightening kits. Prices are 30-40% lower than with traditional braces.
Among those on the market, byte seems to be the most attractive option. The treatment costs $1,895. To pay even less, you can use code BYTEAUTHORITY2020. It will reduce the price of the impression kit by 70% and cut off aligners’ cost by $100.
Moreover, there is the HyperByte device included with the kit. It makes the whole process much quicker than with traditional braces. The average time to straighten teeth is 3 months. Orthodontists sell similar gadgets for a lot more, $800-$900 on average.
The first visit to the orthodontist can be free if you decide to go with that office for your treatment. Some even offer free consultations without having to declare anything. This gives you an opportunity to shop around before you commit.
Your mouth will be assessed so that both you and the doctor are aware of the issues going on. These could be minor like slight spacing, crowding, an overbite, or a single crooked teeth. Such issues will make for cheaper treatments later on.
Be prepared for a higher estimate if you have teeth that stick outside the general arch, if you are missing some dentition (causing major spacing issues), or if your bite is deeply misaligned.
It is a good idea to include a professional cleaning in your budget before having braces installed. The orthodontist will not mount any wiring or brackets if you have plaque or tartar buildup. Your teeth should be thoroughly cleaned beforehand.
What’s more, having braces on, it will be more difficult to clean the teeth. So it’s just good measure, and helps prevent any issues that you would have to pay to fix later on.
You might be expected to pay for each check-up visit separately, unless you are going with Invisalign. If you have major orthodontic issues and a long treatment plan, there will be more visits planned, and you can end up paying considerably more.
You might also be charged differently for the last appointment, when your braces are coming off. It might be a good idea to schedule another cleaning that day to really elevate your new smile.
The cost of dental X-rays is an inherent part of the overall fee for tooth alignment. Even some home straightening kits insist on patients delivering radiographs. That’s because they provide information on the internal structures of the mouth.
You can expect to undergo the following X-rays:
- panoramic, and
Special orthodontic appliances are extra tools that help align your teeth faster and more efficiently. There are many different things that could be recommended to you (or rather, you might simply have it installed in your mouth), depending on what your issue needs.
Some are removable and some, as mentioned above, might be fixed in your mouth for a few weeks or months. They are usually not to be worn during the entire treatment. To provide a few examples of the most common appliances:
- an expansion device: creates more space for crowded teeth by pushing the teeth outwards,
- a transpalatal arch: helps maintain the arch and prevents molars from tipping, and
- a protraction mask: this device, unlike the two above, is removable and uses the chin and forehead for “pull” teeth forwards or backwards, as necessary.
There are, of course, many more. You will have an appliance installed or be instructed to wear one if it is necessary. Your orthodontist will make this decision.
There are two options to go for when it comes to retainers:
- removable - like Hawley, Vivera, or Essix,
- or permanent - wire mounted permanently on the six front teeth from the inside.
When it comes to the removable options you have to remember that you can’t take impressions or a digital scan before your braces are off. It also takes some time to manufacture a set of retainers. Without a permanent wire you might lose some progress.
Does insurance cover braces?
Insurance won’t cover anything that isn’t medically necessary. In orthodontia by that we mean that misalignment must cause at least one of the following:
- jaw pain,
- grinding of teeth,
- increased likelihood of tooth decay or gum disease, or
- difficulty in speaking properly.
Even if your plan doesn’t cover orthodontia a dentist might make an assessment that judges your issue as medically necessary to fix. Some plans might not cover adults, though the age cut-off might not always be 18. Some plans provide coverage for 19, 20, or even 21-year-olds.
The best solution is a discount plan. They offer all services at a reduced rate and there is no paperwork. You won’t be turned away, even if you have braces on already. Cosmetic procedures are also covered, no questions asked.
These plans work more or less like a membership. You pay a regular fee, but all services are more affordable in the long run. Discounts range from 10% up to 60%.
Why are braces so expensive?
Orthodontic treatment of any kind is a complicated process. It requires a lot of planning and specific knowledge that only orthodontists have. They spend many years acquiring the skills that can help you get a straighter smile. And so, they charge you for it adequately.
The biggest determinants as regards the price for braces are your age, your insurance plan, the issues you have, the length of treatment, and the type you choose.
Are there any more affordable alternatives to braces?
If your misalignment is not severe, you can try applying for a teeth straightening kit. Prices start at $1,395.
You will need to visit an outpost for a scan or send in impressions of your teeth. Then, the company will determine whether they can help you with your orthodontic issue.
Can you get braces for free?
It may not be easy to get orthodontic treatment for free, but it is possible.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program covers children’s alignment through Medicaid and separate CHIP programs. Eligibility is mainly determined by income. It must be too high for patients to qualify for Medicaid, but not high enough to afford braces privately. Pregnant women can also qualify under certain circumstances.
You can also look into non-profit organisations such as Smiles Change Lives. It is not completely free, as there is a $680 charge for application and investment. But it can help finance your child’s orthodontic needs (candidates must be under 18).
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