Braces have been around for decades, and there’s a good reason they remain a go-to teeth straightening option for adults everywhere: they work. But one thing that isn’t so certain about braces is treatment cost. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all number – it depends on a variety of factors, including your location.
Each place contains their own unique factors that can contribute to overall orthodontic costs. Your braces in D.C. might be a totally different price than a comparable situation in Missouri or New York. This guide will help you understand all the factors that contribute to your overall treatment cost for adult braces in D.C., so you can make an informed decision about treatment.
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Cost of Adult Braces in D.C. vs. National Average
According to the American Dental Association, the national average cost for adult braces treatment is $4,800 to $7,135. D.C. is a tiny place with a relatively high cost of living. Due to its size, there isn’t much variability in rates within the district itself. Even if you leave the district and seek treatment in its neighboring states of Virginia and Maryland, the treatment prices don’t vary drastically. Though so much is dependent on your specific condition, you can generally expect to pay between $5,000-$7,500 for adult braces in D.C.
|Area||Cost in D.C.||National Average|
|Urban||$5,000 - $7,500||$5,000|
These ranges are estimates based on what we know about adult braces costs and some information from a few D.C. based orthodontists. But they should give you a general sense of what you might pay.
Why Are Braces So Expensive?
There’s no getting around the fact that braces are expensive. But that’s because they’re one of the most consistent and effective treatments available.
They might be visible and somewhat intrusive, but braces’ major benefit is their sturdiness. You can’t take them out like clear aligners, so they eliminate the potential for user error. Sure, you need to avoid excessively sticky or gummy foods, but in return, you’re getting surefire results. Metal brackets and wires give an orthodontist incredible control over your teeth, and during routine office visits, he or she can make adjustments to deliver the perfect results.
Braces require routine trips to the orthodontist over the course of a 12-24 month treatment timeline, and each visit costs money. Orthodontist offices have overhead costs like rent, utilities, and staff, which translate to patient fees. And don’t forget that you’re also paying for the orthodontist’s expertise and time. However, as you’ll find out, the price you ultimately pay is subject to a variety of influences, including where you live.
Looking For Affordable Orthodontic Treatment in D.C.?
Braces are a time-tested treatment option, but their price tag doesn’t fit every budget. That’s one reason why more and more adults are opting for “at-home” clear aligners like SmileDirectClub instead of braces or Invisalign.
By cutting office visits out of the equation and providing professional oversight in a remote format, at-home clear aligner companies offer straighter teeth for a much lower price. Our in-depth comparison guide provides all the information you'll need to choose the best provider for you.
What Factors Influence the Cost of Braces?
Braces are typically expensive. But exactly how expensive is a more complicated question. Multiple factors can influence your final bill. Some are based on your location, others are constant across state lines. We break them all down in detail below.
This is the most significant price-determining factor. A minor case of crowding or spacing simply takes less time and aligners to correct than a severe case of crossbite. The fewer office visits your teeth require, the less you’ll pay. During your initial consultation, your dentist/orthodontist can evaluate your teeth and estimate how long your treatment might take.
Type of Braces
Orthodontic technology has advanced significantly over the past couple of decades, and standard metal brackets aren’t the only option anymore. For instance, you can opt for ceramic braces that blend in with your teeth, or lingual braces that sit behind your teeth. Each of these is less noticeable than traditional braces, but they’re also more expensive. Ceramic braces can cost up to $8,000, while lingual braces can be between $8,000 and $12,000.
In general, orthodontic care costs more on the coasts and less in the middle of the country. The northeast is particularly expensive, while southern states like Alabama and Mississippi boast some of the nation’s lowest costs. Taxes can also play a role. The state will add sales tax to your total braces cost, and higher corporate taxes might cause your orthodontist to accommodate by raising prices.
D.C.’s cost of living is about 50% more than the national average. It’s also tiny, so there isn’t necessarily a great deal of price variability within the district itself. However, its proximity to Virginia and Maryland does have the potential to open up some different options when it comes to treatment.
D.C. has a relatively high corporate tax rate (8.25%), which could mean their orthodontist offices are going to have to charge a little more for treatment. Its neighbor Maryland holds the same rate, but in Virginia the corporate tax rate is only 6%, which could mean their orthodontists will charge a bit less than in D.C. or Maryland.
The same is true of sales tax. Both D.C. and Maryland have a 6% sales tax, but Virginia has 5.3%. This is a small difference, but since orthodontia is a large purchase this has the potential to make a difference.
Urban, Suburban, or Rural?
Not only are orthodontic costs different for each state, but they also vary based on your location within the state. Urban areas, for example, often have a higher cost of living, and it’s less expensive to live in a small town. Do you have high rent and utility payments? Then your dentist or orthodontist likely does too. Higher overhead costs usually result in more expensive orthodontic treatment.
D.C. is a district, but it’s typically characterized as one large city. It’s population is about 700,000, but its commuters increase that by nearly ten fold during the work week. D.C. has a very high rate of orthodontists per capita, which has the potential to lead to competitive pricing within the district itself. So despite having a higher than average cost of living, its density of orthodontists may help to decrease your treatment costs overall.
Since D.C. is so small, the areas that are typically considered to be its suburbs are in its neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia. Suburbs like Alexandria, VA, Frederick, MD, and Arlington, VA typically have a slightly lower cost of living than D.C. itself. They also have smaller populations. So though it’s possible you could save money on treatment due to their lower costs of living, you may end up paying more due to less industry competition in these smaller places.
Since D.C. is such a small area (1/17th the size of the smallest state, Rhode Island) there is nowhere truly rural in the district. The neighboring states (Virginia and Maryland) surround the district with their small cities and suburbs, so getting to a truly rural location may take a bit of effort.
It’s likely if you did take yourself to the rural part of these neighboring states you would receive more affordable orthodontic care, but bear in mind you’ll need to return to your orthodontist for appointments every 4-8 weeks — so make sure it isn’t too inconvenient of a journey!
When you have numerous orthodontists in a given area, they each need to find ways to stay ahead of the competition and attract new customers. Many times, this means lower prices and special offers or sales. So, if there’s a high concentration of orthodontists in your area, it can mean lower prices, giving you the ability to “shop around.”
D.C. has one of the highest per capita orthodontist rates in the country. The more competition in an industry the more competitive the pricing usually is, so D.C.’s robust orthodontist population is likely to help lower your total cost for adult braces.
Like most industries, in orthodontia, seasoned professionals can charge more for their services than relative newcomers. So, if your orthodontist has been administering braces for years, you might end up paying a bit more. For this reason, it can sometimes be helpful to “shop around” to weigh your options if you have multiple orthodontists nearby.
Managing Treatment Costs
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by treatment costs, you’re not alone. Take comfort in the fact that in most cases, you won’t have to pay the entire amount up front. Here are some ways you can make that price tag seem a little more manageable:
Review Your Insurance Plan
Braces for children and adolescents are partially covered by most dental insurance plans. However, plans don’t often cover costs for anyone over 18, unless they include orthodontic benefits. But you don’t want to begin treatment expecting help from your insurance provider, only to find out that it’s not coming. So don’t commit to braces without first reviewing your insurance plan and contacting your provider.
Some orthodontist offices also accept payments directly from an FSA or HSA account if you have one. Consult your dentist or orthodontist to see how they handle these payments.
Search for Sales and Discounts
You won’t likely see your orthodontist running sales or promotional discounts on braces. But sometimes they’ll offer perks to go along with your treatment, like teeth whitening or a percentage off your next visit. It certainly can’t hurt to ask. Sometimes you can even find deals on Groupon.
Universities with dental and orthodontic schools will also offer discounts if you don’t mind a resident administering your treatment. These individuals are qualified and on the track to becoming state-licensed orthodontists. Plus, they’re overseen by professors and experienced dental professionals, so you can be assured you’re receiving quality care.
Howard University College of Dentistry provides quality orthodontic treatment for an average of 50% less than you would pay elsewhere in D.C. The only drawback to this treatment is that the appointments tend to take a little longer than traditional appointments. But if you have a flexible schedule and are eager to shave a considerable amount off your final price, Howard University College of Dentistry could be a great fit for you.
Inquire about Financing Options
Most orthodontist offices offer financing plans that break your costs into manageable monthly payments. Typically you won’t need to pay the entire lump sum upfront. The terms of these plans vary, so you should speak with your orthodontist about the financing options they offer.
If your orthodontist’s options aren’t ideal, you can look into third-party dental financing companies like CareCredit or beWell, which finance everything from routine dentistry to complex orthodontic procedures.
Discuss Aftercare in Advance
Even after the brackets come off, teeth tend to shift back to their old positions. Aftercare retainers keep that from happening. After your teeth have been freed, you’ll have a perfect new smile, and you’ll need to purchase a retainer to protect it. Retainer costs vary, but you can usually get one for $100 - $300. This, too, depends on your specific orthodontist.
Because your dentist can make tweaks and course corrections throughout your treatment, they can ensure that you’ll get a perfectly straight smile, and they won’t remove your braces until then. That said, some teeth simply don’t move quite as expected, so your orthodontist might need to add attachments and extend your treatment timeline, which will cost more. Talk to your orthodontist about their mid-treatment refinement policies before you begin.
3 Affordable Braces Alternatives
Braces are one of the most effective and powerful options out there, but they’re not ideal for everyone. Whether you’re unsure about the price tag or the procedure, here are three braces alternatives we think are worth your time.
1. Six Month Smiles
Maybe you want to get the sturdiness and power of braces, but avoid the metal wires and lengthy treatment time. If so, you might consider Six Month Smiles. They’re an in-office brand that uses clear wires and brackets for a more discreet appearance. Or, if you want to avoid brackets and wires altogether, they recently expanded their services to offer clear aligners as well.
With an average price range of $3,500 - $5,000, Six Month Smiles costs less than traditional braces in most cases. Plus, as their name suggests, the average treatment time is just six months, so you get the best of both worlds – one-on-one care and an abbreviated timeline. But on the flipside, Six Month Smiles isn’t suitable for as wide a range of conditions as traditional braces. If you have a severe case of misalignment, Six Month Smiles might not work for you.
Byte is a home teeth straightening service that sells custom clear aligners for less than half the price of braces or Invisalign. With Byte, you’ll receive your full aligner series in the mail, then administer treatment from the comfort of your home, no office visits required.
Like Six Month Smiles, Byte can treat mild-to-moderate cases of misalignment. But unlike Six Month Smiles, Byte’s average treatment time is only 3 months (thanks to their “HyperByte” vibration technology). We also like their lifetime guarantee, which promises users free revision treatment if their teeth ever move out of alignment.
If you think Byte might be a good fit for your needs, check out our comprehensive review for a closer look at their service offerings, customer reviews, and a whole lot more.
Candid started out as an at-home teeth straightening service like Byte, but has since transitioned to a hybrid model that more closely resembles in-office treatment options like Invisalign.
With Candid, your treatment will be administered by a local dentist, but you'll only need to visit them in person a couple of times throughout the entire process — much less often than braces. That said, you'll still get the clinical oversight you need thanks to Candid's proprietary CandidMonitoring™ system, which allows you to submit scans of your teeth for review every two weeks from the comfort of home.
Candid treatment typically costs less than braces, but on the flip side, it's more limited in the scope of conditions it can address. Candid's treatment plans aren't currently designed to incorporate rubber bands or dental attachments like braces can. However, if you're looking to correct a mild or moderate case of misalignment, Candid could be a great option for you.
Read our review of Candid to learn more.
Getting braces is a big move, a significant step on your journey toward a new smile. But it’s a big expense, and uncertainty about your treatment’s price tag can be stressful. Fortunately, with the knowledge you’ve gained from this guide, you can get a better sense of whether or not braces are a viable option.
Keep in mind, though, that the only way to get a truly accurate cost for your braces in D.C. is by visiting your orthodontist. You should also remember that, although braces might seem expensive, there are ways to make them more affordable, like financing, discounts, and insurance. In the end, if you decide that they’re simply not right for you, there are plenty of other options available. No matter which route you take, your destination is the same: a brand new, photo-ready smile.