There’s a reason that traditional braces have been around for a long time: they work. The sturdiest, most robust treatment available, braces are still a primary option in many orthodontists’ offices. Even with the rise of clear aligners and at-home options, braces have stuck around due to their effectiveness and reliability.
But like most orthodontic treatments, traditional braces aren’t cheap. The high cost is due to several factors, most significantly the severity of your condition and your orthodontist’s rates. So, you shouldn’t just take a single person or website’s word for it – instead, evaluate all the aspects listed in this guide when considering the price you might pay for braces.
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There’s no flat rate for traditional braces because it all depends on how many office visits and what types of appliances your condition requires. The only way to get a specific estimate for your customized treatment plan is to consult your orthodontist.
Braces typically range from $4,000 to $6,000, but costs don’t always fall into this range. They can be much lower or even more expensive depending on your unique situation. Your costs could be completely different from a friend’s because you have completely different teeth! Again, you should schedule an examination and consultation to get a customized, accurate estimate.
5 Factors That Impact Your Treatment Cost
The cost of your braces is based on numerous factors. Each of these can have a significant influence on the final, out-of-pocket price you pay.
1. Condition Complexity/Severity
An in-office treatment like braces means that your condition will take an orthodontist’s time, facilities, and supplies to correct. Each of these costs money, and the more your condition requires, the more you should expect to pay.
For example, you’ll end up paying less for a minor condition that only needs a few metal brackets than a significant one that requires numerous office visits and supplemental attachments. Unsure how severe your misalignment is? Schedule an appointment with your orthodontist.
2. Office Location
Certain places are simply more expensive to do business. If your orthodontist’s office is in a city or another expensive area, their rent, utilities, etc. will cost more. Ultimately, this might mean higher costs for patients.
3. Orthodontist Expertise
Just like many other professions, more experienced, in-demand dental orthodontists can charge higher prices. So, your orthodontist’s rates may depend somewhat on his or her experience level.
Moreover, in many states, braces can only be administered by a licensed orthodontist, not a general dentist. What’s the difference? Orthodontists spend six postgraduate years specifically studying how to move teeth, align jaws, and craft smiles, so they’re more specialized than general dentists. This additional expertise could also influence treatment costs.
4. Aftercare Retainers
After you get those braces removed, your teeth will be nice and straight, a sparkling new smile. And you want to keep it that way. Teeth have a natural tendency to shift back after they’ve been moved. To prevent this from happening, your orthodontist will likely recommend wearing retainers.
There are a few different types of retainers available. Fixed retainers are metal wires affixed behind your teeth, keeping them in place. Hawley retainers are removable and consist of plastic plates and wires. Clear retainers look much like clear aligners and fit snugly over your dental arches. The first two are sturdy and long-lasting, while a clear retainer will likely need to be replaced every couple of years. No matter which one you choose, you can expect to pay an additional $200-600.
Clear aligner treatments have a process called “refinement,” in which your dentist can craft additional aligners to fine-tune your smile if you’re not satisfied with the results. Because of the additional time and resources involved, this process often costs extra.
Braces, on the other hand, are fixed in place until they achieve the desired movements. So, “refinements” would consist of any modification that helps them do so – tightening braces, adjusting brackets, adding supplemental attachments (like elastics, expanders, etc.), and more. Similar to aligner refinements, these modifications may end up costing more because they require additional time and supplies.
When you’re looking at treatments that can cost a few thousand dollars, payment plans can be comforting. These financing options break down that intimidating price tag into manageable monthly chunks. Most orthodontist offices provide financing options, so it’s just a matter of finding out which ones are available to you. There are also third-party financing options out there, like CareCredit and beWell, but they can potentially come with higher interest rates.
Some financing options require a credit check to qualify while others don’t. If you’re not confident in your credit score, you’ll want to seek out one that doesn’t include a credit check. And while monthly payments are nice, they also allow interest to accrue, increasing your final cost. For this reason, it’s better to pay up front if you have the financial flexibility.
This can be a tricky one. Many dental insurance plans will cover braces treatment for anyone under age 18, but not for adults. However, if your plan includes specific orthodontic benefits, there’s a good chance you’ll receive coverage, although it might not be for the entire cost. Still, every little bit helps, and your insurance company could provide some support.
That said, don’t assume that you’ll receive coverage. Before committing to treatment, contact your insurance provider to see if they will cover your braces.
Alternatively, if you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), your orthodontist’s office may accept payments from either. These tax-free funds – which may receive contributions from your employer – could be more convenient than paying out of pocket.
How Does the Cost Compare to Other Treatment Options?
Braces are somewhat comparable in price to Invisalign, which typically runs around $5,000. This is because they both require ongoing office visits. Invisalign is sometimes more expensive than braces, especially when used to treat more severe cases of misalignment. Whichever you choose, you can expect to pay somewhere between $3,000-$7,000 for the one-on-one care and expertise of your dentist, as well as the ability to treat more severe/complex conditions.
If your condition is relatively mild, you may be a candidate for at-home teeth straightening, which is much more affordable. By eliminating the need for in-person office visits, providers like SmileDirectClub, Candid, and byte have been able to offer clear aligner systems for just $1,800-$2,400. Many adults today opt for at-home treatment because it’s so much more convenient and affordable than traditional orthodontic care.
For some people, the peace of mind that they’re getting facetime with a highly-skilled professional is enough to justify the higher prices of braces or Invisalign. We think that it’s worth the cost if you have a severe condition like a bite misalignment, or prefer traditional one-on-one dental care. But if your condition is fairly minor and you’re looking for the most affordable, convenient option available, home teeth aligners are well-worth considering.
Getting braces as an adult can be intimidating for some, not only because of their appearance, but also because of the price. But keep in mind that, even though braces can be expensive, there are a number of moving parts that determine their total cost, and it all depends on your unique situation and orthodontist. Between the various factors outlined here, insurance, and financing, they can still be a surprisingly affordable option.
It’s easy to fixate on cost, but you don’t want to neglect the other important aspects of orthodontic treatment. Take a look at each treatment’s effectiveness, convenience, appearance, and customer service. Do they line up with your smile goals and priorities? If a particular option can deliver the results you want and fit with your budget, it might be the one for you. After you’ve done all your research and consulted your dentist/orthodontist, you’re ready to move forward with the treatment of your choice on the path to a transformed smile.