The cost of braces can vary significantly from person to person depending on:
- the complexity of your orthodontic needs
- what type of braces are used
- length of your treatment
- number of appointments
- your age
- where you live
- experience of the orthodontist
- insurance coverage or not
Total costs can vary anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 or more.
In the past, braces were worn primarily by young people while their jaws were still developing. Now, more and more adults are wearing braces for the first or second time in their lives to correct teeth movement or enhance appearance.
While many dental insurance companies offer coverage for some or all of the cost of braces for children, fewer companies offer coverage plans for adults. Some employers, however, offer financial support as part of their benefits package, and it may be possible to utilize an HSA or FSA account. Doing your research ahead of time, and being prepared with a financial plan for you or your family, is a smart first step towards creating a beautiful new smile or healthier bite.
Read on to learn how to make an informed decision when it comes time to select a treatment plan.
Type of Braces
There are basically two different types of braces: clear plastic aligners such as Invisalign or metal wires bonded onto the surface of teeth (called brackets). An experienced orthodontist can talk with you about the pros and cons of each type and whether both types are, or are not, an option for your needs (some conditions can only be addressed with brackets).
In addition to the cost of the braces themselves, there may be material costs such as X-rays, impressions, Invisalign trays or replacement wires and brackets, and a retainer to wear after your treatment ends. Sometimes these items will be added expenses to the plan you are presented with, and sometimes they are included in your overall cost package. Ask the orthodontist office for a breakdown of all upfront and future costs prior to moving forward with a treatment plan.
Complexity of Corrections
The complexity of your corrections depends upon whether you or your child have mild problems needing minor intervention followed by a retainer or whether you have major structural issues that might require full arch reconstruction or extractions, for example.
Length of Treatment
Some treatments can be completed within months or over a year’s time. Others, due to complexity, may extend into two years or longer. Treatment time is factored into your total cost, and a financial plan may allow you to spread payments over time to make your treatment needs more affordable.
On average, kids need to wear braces for about two years while their adult teeth are growing in and getting straightened out. However, some kids may need more or less time depending on how severe their problem is and what type of treatment plan is required to correct it.
Number of Appointments Needed
Keep in mind that young children will require more orthodontic appointments than older children or adults because their bite alignment or jaw growth are developing and changing during puberty. The orthodontist will monitor progress and adjust appliances (brackets or wires, for example) for optimal tooth alignment.
Experience of the Orthodontist
The credentials and years of experience an orthodontist has working with different types of braces can be a factor in your customer experience. Some orthodontists have specialty training with Invisalign, for example.
With many general dentists now performing several different types of orthodontic care, you may be wondering why you need an orthodontist. There are many reasons. An orthodontist is a specialty dentist, much in the same way a surgeon is a specialty doctor.
General dentists specialize in diagnosing, preventing, and treating dental disease. They complete four years of dental school and often go into practice after graduation. They focus on the entire oral cavity and its health. Orthodontists specialize in facial growth, dental development, and occlusion (how your teeth meet together). They also specialize in tooth and jaw alignment and solely perform orthodontic work. While general dental practitioners may provide orthodontic treatment, they have not completed the additional two to three years of education and training to specialize in orthodontics.
Finally, it is important NOT to be tempted to use mail-order aligners services. Those services are not a substitute for orthodontic care. The American Association of Orthodontists recently issued a consumer alert cautioning against using mail-order aligner services. Straightening teeth is a medical procedure requiring an experienced orthodontist’s oversight.
Insurance Coverage for Braces
Your out-of-pocket costs for braces vary depending on how your insurance plan is structured. Some plans cover the entire cost of treatment, while others cover a portion. Your orthodontist’s office should be able to estimate what your out-of-pocket costs will be.
Whether you obtain coverage through your employer or a private insurer, review your policy before getting any work done so you know if there are any limits or exclusions to your benefits.
How Much Do Braces Cost Without Insurance?
If you are considering paying out of pocket for braces, there are several factors to understand regarding cost without insurance. Your orthodontist office can break down all the expenses for you.
If you do not have insurance, you may be able to deduct the cost of your or your child’s braces from your taxes if your braces are considered medically necessary. The cost has to exceed a certain amount before it’s deductible. You should keep track of every expense, even small ones like co-pays and check-ups, as they can add up. To learn more, visit Topic No. 502 Medical and Dental Expenses | Internal Revenue Service.
If you qualify for Medicaid and the braces are medically necessary, Medicaid may cover some of your costs. Be sure to check your plan and find out the percentage of coverage and the lifetime maximum. To learn more, visit http://www.medicaid.gov/.
Other tips for containing the cost of braces include:
- Payment plans: many orthodontist offices offer payment plans.
- Health Savings Accounts: you may be able to set aside pretax dollars in a flexible spending account, health savings account, health reimbursement account, or medical savings account. Check with your insurer or employer to see if any of these accounts are available to you.
- Apprentices: apprentices at dental schools may offer fully supervised services at a reduced cost.
- Planning ahead: an early checkup (orthodontists recommend by age 9) can determine what your child may need in the future so you know the best time to start budgeting or planning to get dental or orthodontic insurance coverage.
How does Age Affect the Cost of Braces?
Age becomes a factor in the total cost of braces for the reasons noted above: younger patients with developing jaws may require more appointments and adjustments than adolescents or adults in order to move a forming jaw and teeth. Older adults who wore braces as adolescents are more likely to need minor adjustments to straighten teeth that have moved over the years.
Some areas of the country have higher living costs than other areas. Orthodontist fees often reflect those differences due to higher overhead costs and staffing costs. Your goal is to find an orthodontist within your area that matches your budget or financing plan.
Moving Forward with Confidence
As a parent or patient, your research will help you make an informed decision about which type of braces will be best for you or your child, which insurance plans might be your best investment, and which experienced orthodontist will best meet your needs. With all this information in hand, you can move forward with your decisions with confidence.
Contact Walton & Maready Orthodontics for a free consultation w x-rays in Raleigh, North Carolina today if you’re ready to explore your orthodontic treatment options. Get the smile of your dreams with experienced, medically-trained orthodontists loved by their patients. Your teeth and your healthy smile will thank you!