Everything You Need to Know About the Cost of Braces in the United States
Here’s how to calculate the cost of a straighter smile.
How much do braces cost?
Here’s the quick answer you’re looking for: braces can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $12,000.
Those numbers probably aren’t very helpful.
Why is there such an enormous range?
Here’s another quick answer: there are many factors that affect the cost of braces.
In this post, we can’t tell you exactly which factors will affect your unique situation. You can only get a customized treatment quote by visiting an orthodontic treatment provider. Most orthodontists offer free consultation.
But what we can do is share with you some average figures and explain what goes into the cost of your orthodontic treatment so that you’ll know what to expect when you go in for a consultation.
We’re also going to explain how you can keep your costs down when it comes to getting the orthodontic treatment that you deserve.
The Average Cost of Orthodontic Treatment
|Average Cost of Treatment for Kids and Adults|
|Traditional Metal Braces||$3,000 – $7,500||$3,000 – $8,000|
|Clear Aligners||$4,000 – $7,500||$1,200 – $8,000|
The most well-known types of orthodontic treatment appliances are traditional braces and removable clear aligners (clear plastics). Both types work well for people of all ages, and the cost varies depending on treatment length. There’s also plenty of variety within these two basic categories, so the total cost of treatment can also depend on which types of braces or aligners you end up using to straighten your teeth.
DID YOU KNOW?
It’s a common misconception that orthodontic treatment for adults is more expensive than treatment for adults. Perhaps people believe this because kids’ treatment is more likely to be covered by dental insurance. But the reality is that the basic costs for a child and an adult are exactly the same. An orthodontist doesn’t charge adults more for their care. It’s simply that adult braces are usually more complex than kids’ cases and take more time to correct. It’s faster and easier to guide a child’s teeth into healthy alignment as they grow than it is to correct the teeth in an adult whose facial development is complete.
Let’s now break down the average cost of braces based on the type of treatment appliance.
The Cost of Braces Based on Appliance Type
Lots of people search for braces based upon which treatment they think is the cheapest.
But it’s important to remember that all orthodontic treatment aims to do the same thing: straighten your teeth by applying pressure to them and correct the bite (like deep overbite or underbite) for comprehensive orthodontic treatment. The difference lies in the material and structure of the appliance used to provide that treatment.
So when choosing a type of orthodontic treatment, you’re simply selecting an appliance that straightens your teeth while offering other benefits that are important to you.
Cost of braces includes the cost of retainers and 1-2 visits after the treatment completion.
Here are the average costs of the most popular orthodontic treatments based on the appliances used:
|Average Cost of Orthodontic Treatments|
|Six Month Smiles||$4,000|
|Online Clear Aligners||$2,000|
Lingual braces are often the most expensive as they require great skill and experience to place, but they are extremely efficient. “Lingual” is a medical term that refers to the tongue, and lingual braces are placed on the inner aspect of the teeth which is next to the tongue. This means that these braces won’t be visible on the outside of your teeth when you smile. Treatment with this specific orthodontic appliance can cost upwards of $10,000, depending on the case.
Ceramic braces work just like regular braces, with the exception that they have ceramic brackets and tooth-colored wires. They’re a bit more prone to damage than metal braces, but they’re discreet because they blend in well with the teeth.
Damon braces are a self-ligating bracket system. Self-ligating braces essentially adjust by themselves, moving as your teeth move. This system allows your teeth to move at a quick yet comfortable pace and requires fewer trips to the office for adjustments.
Invisalign is the most popular brand of removable custom clear aligners. Treatment can sometimes include placing hooks and rubber bands or buttons, but the main draw of these and similar aligners is that they are removable and practically invisible.
Metal braces remain one of the most affordable ways to straighten teeth, but nowadays, treatment with clear aligners usually costs about the same.
Online clear aligners are a popular DIY option for people who want to save money and straighten their teeth from the comfort of their own homes. These might be the cheapest option, but they are also the most dangerous because they don’t require X-rays and in-person oversight by a dentist or orthodontist. This lower standard of care increases your chances of experiencing a complication during treatment which will only cost you more money to correct.
Insurance companies have various orthodontic insurance polices with different reimbursement and deductible rates that cover braces.
What Factors Influence the Cost of Braces
Now that you know how much braces cost by appliance type, let’s consider other factors that affect your total treatment price:
- Geographic location
- Treatment time
- Adjunctive services or additional treatments
- Your payment method
- Let’s take a look at these one by one.
Geographic location. As with any other dental or medical procedure, the cost of orthodontic treatment will vary from place to place. For example, orthodontists practicing in urban areas with high rental and property costs may need to charge more for the treatments they offer in order to pay for the overhead of running a practice.
Treatment time. This is arguably the most important factor in determining the cost of your care. In short, the longer your treatment takes, the more it will cost. Treatment length is determined by the complexity of your case. If you only need to close a small gap or correct the position of one or two teeth, then your treatment will be quicker and cheaper than most other cases.
Adjunctive services. The cost you are quoted for orthodontic treatment typically includes everything you need to get the results you want. But some necessary procedures may not be covered in that estimate. For example, you might need special diagnostic X-rays, restorative dentistry, tooth extractions, or gum treatment before getting braces. And you may have to independently purchase the hygiene tools you’ll need to clean your orthodontic appliance.
Payment method. You might pay less for your treatment at some practices if you can pay upfront. Many dentists and orthodontists offer a discount for doing so. On the other hand, you might pay a bit more in interest if you use dental financing to break up your treatment total into monthly payments.
Insurance companies have various orthodontic insurance polices with different reimbursement and deductible rates that cover braces.
How Much Do Braces Cost with Health Insurance?
Now for the all-important question: can dental insurance coverage help you pay for your braces?
As with everything else related to the cost of braces, the answer is: it depends.
It depends on your coverage type, on the company providing the dental benefits, and on your plan conditions or limitations are. Not all dental insurance plans cover orthodontic treatment, and of those that do, they often have age limits, pay for only a portion of the care, have a lifetime maximum, or will only apply the benefits to specific types of treatment.
For example, orthodontic insurance often covers 50% of the cost of braces, and only for patients younger than 18 years. There may even be a lifetime limit, so if insurance helps you out one time, it won’t cover you if you experience orthodontic relapse and need braces again.
This may seem confusing, but there are simple and practical steps you can take to find out your orthodontic benefits:
- Ask your employer for a packet of information on the benefits provided by your dental insurance provider.
- Call the number listed on your dental coverage policy holder card to speak with the coverage provider about your plan.
- If you still aren’t sure how your dental benefits will impact the cost of your treatment, contact an orthodontic practice near you for a consultation and a quote. They can help you find out what you’ll owe after your insurance picks up some of the cost.
How to Pay for Braces: Your Financing Options
You’re now seriously thinking about getting braces.
How are you going to pay for them?
These are your most likely payment options.
Check or credit card. You can pay for your treatment upfront with cash or credit at practices that accept these payment methods. Often, paying upfront means that the practice can give you a discount on your care.
Personal savings. If you have some savings set aside for something special but you don’t know what to spend it on, then this could be your sign. Investing in your smile is one of the best things you can do for your health and your confidence and you’ll never regret it, so putting your savings toward your orthodontic treatment is a smart move.
CareCredit. A third-party financing company, CareCredit is easy to apply for and can help you break up the cost of your braces into flexible payments.
HSA/FSA. Health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts let you save up pre-tax dollars which you can tap into for things like orthodontic care.
Medicaid. Some orthodontists accept Medicaid payments to provide basic orthodontic treatment to children for whom braces are medically necessary.
Dental insurance. As we just discussed above, your dental coverage provider may help you afford the cost of your care. You’ll have to contact an orthodontic practice directly to learn more about dental insurance and how it affects the amount you owe out of pocket.
In-house payment plans. Financing offered directly by an orthodontist is one of the best ways to pay for braces. You’ll get a payment plan tailored to your treatment needs and financial situation, and you won’t have to deal with any third parties.
Affordable Orthodontics: What You Can Do to Save on Braces
Finally, let’s talk about saving money on braces.
You don’t have to resort to dangerous DIY braces (read the American dental association alter on DIY braces here) or cheap online aligners—these tips will help you get orthodontic treatment that’s both affordable and safe.
- Ask about in-house financing at an orthodontic practice. Every good orthodontist offers flexible payment plans to help their patients afford treatment. You’ll only find out what financing options are available to you when you go in for a consultation.
- Pay upfront. As we mentioned earlier, paying for your treatment in full (whether by check or credit card) is a great way to qualify for a discount.
- Visit a university. Students in the orthodontic department at nearby universities are already qualified dental professionals, and they practice under the supervision of senior orthodontists. You’ll definitely receive high-quality care by an orthodontic student and for a significantly lower price, but be prepared for longer and more frequent checkups.
- Follow your orthodontist’s instructions. The success of your treatment largely depends on you. If you don’t follow the directions for wearing or caring for your orthodontic appliance, then your treatment will take longer to work.
- Avoid damaging your orthodontic appliance. Aligners and braces stop working the moment they break and it could cost you extra to repair or replace them. Keep your treatment plan running smoothly and on-budget by avoiding foods and habits that could damage your appliance.
- Practice excellent oral hygiene. If you develop a major cavity during your orthodontic treatment, the braces might have to be taken off so that a dentist can repair your tooth. Not only would this mean paying for the dental repair, but it would also mean that your orthodontic treatment will take longer. Keep your teeth clean and healthy to ensure that you don’t have to wear your braces for a day longer than is absolutely necessary.
A Handy Reference: How to Save Money on Your Orthodontic Treatment
- Ask your orthodontist about in-house financing
- Pay upfront to get a discount
- Visit a university for treatment by an orthodontist-in-training
- Follow your orthodontist’s instructions
- Avoid foods and activities that can damage your braces or aligners
- Practice excellent oral hygiene throughout the course of your treatment
Why Braces Are (Always!) Worth the Cost
Did you see the figure “$12,000” at the beginning of this article and then say “no thanks, I’m happy with my teeth?”
Well, if you’ve made it this far, then you’ve likely realized that you don’t have to pay that much for braces if you don’t want to.
Even so, orthodontic treatment of any kind represents an investment in your health, and not just a financial one. You also have to be committed to putting in the time and effort to make a success of your treatment so that your money doesn’t go to waste.
So what makes braces worth all that time and expense?
Here’s a quick reminder of the benefits.
- Save you money on restorative dentistry because they have a lower risk of tooth decay
- Are less prone to gingivitis and gum disease
- Last longer because they’re less likely to suffer premature wear and gum recession
- Make chewing much more comfortable
- Reduce TMJ pain that’s caused by an uneven bite
- Boost your confidence and make you want to smile more
- Stay whiter because they’re easier to keep clean
Clearly, straightening your teeth does more than just make them look good. It can have far-reaching effects on your oral health, helping you hold on to your natural teeth, avoid costly dental repairs, and keep smiling with pride.
It’s definitely worth it to straighten your teeth!
Where to Find Affordable Braces Near You
Orthodontic treatment is more affordable than you think, and we’ve discussed some practical ways you can pay for the cost of your care. This means that there are affordable braces near you!
This orthodontic financial guide has been posted on behalf of Rooz Khosravi, DMD, PhD, MSD and founder of PORTH in Sammamish and Bellevue, Washington. This information is not intended to serve as medical advice, so please consult an orthodontist near you if you are interested in orthodontic treatment for yourself or your child.
Dr. Rooz is currently welcoming new patients to his clinics in Sammamish and Bellevue where he practices advanced digital orthodontic treatments in a relaxed and family-friendly environment.
If you live in the area and want to explore your orthodontic treatment options, contact PORTH to book a consultation. You can get started simply by texting our team photos of your smile!
Frequently Asked Questions About the Cost of Braces
Some dental coverage plans include orthodontic benefits, but many of these have age limits or only apply to certain orthodontic appliances. Check with your dental coverage provider to find out what kind of benefits may apply to your treatment.
There is no one “best” type of braces because everyone who needs orthodontic treatment is unique. What’s best for one person isn’t the best for another. The most important thing is to choose a treatment that will work best for you. A qualified orthodontist can help you choose the right type of orthodontic appliance.
Basic metal braces are the most affordable and the most common. But other types of orthodontic appliances can give you more comfort, more freedom, and more control over your treatment. It’s good to compare the pros and cons of several orthodontic appliances so that your treatment is based on what you need instead of on the price alone.
Orthodontic treatment time is very hard to predict because everyone’s teeth move differently. But you can get a close estimate by visiting an experienced orthodontist who has the tools and knowledge to help you predict the length of your treatment time.
DIY braces might seem cheap, but they are dangerous and could cost you a lot of money in the long term. The science of moving teeth is extremely complex, so it’s with good reason that there’s an entire dental specialty devoted to this kind of treatment. When you try to straighten your teeth without the help of a trained specialist, you risk moving them too fast, and this can damage your smile. As a result, you could end up paying more to fix the damage than you would have originally paid for professional orthodontic treatment.
It depends on your treatment needs. You might have alternative treatment options if you only need to correct your tooth alignment for cosmetic purposes. For example, you could hide a gap between two front teeth with dental veneers or dental bonding. But if your tooth alignment poses a risk to your bite alignment or oral health, then correcting your teeth with orthodontic treatment is your only option. If treatment with classic braces doesn’t interest you, then you might pick another type of appliance like clear aligners.
Companies that sell clear aligners online attempt to reduce costs by cutting out in-person visits with a trained professional, aka the “middle man.” Unfortunately, you get what you pay for when you order an orthodontic appliance online without letting an orthodontist examine your mouth and guide your treatment.
Orthodontic treatment is an exact science that requires careful planning and a profound knowledge of oral anatomy and the way teeth move. Moving teeth might look simple on the surface, but there are a lot of things that can go wrong if it isn’t done correctly. It takes time to become a specialist in orthodontics, and it takes time to successfully guide teeth into perfect alignment.
Fortunately, today’s orthodontic treatment is rapidly advancing, and modern orthodontists can cut costs with technology that promotes faster treatment with fewer in-person visits.
The monthly cost of braces depends on the payment plan you set up with the orthodontist or a third-party financing company. Many payment plans work out to be about $75 to $100 per month.
On average, braces cost about $5,000 in 2021. The actual cost can range from less than $3,000 and exceed $10,000, depending on the complexity of the case and the orthodontic appliance used.
Most people with orthodontic coverage pay around $3,000 for their treatment. But the exact amount depends on how much a dental insurance plan covers. Some plans will cover orthodontic treatment in whole or in part, while others don’t offer any orthodontic benefits at all. The amount you owe also depends on which plan your or your employer have chosen.
Don’t despair, however, if your dental insurance isn’t helpful when it comes to braces. With so many other financing and discount options, you can get straighter and healthier teeth without relying on your insurance provider.
Simply put, orthodontic treatment is a highly individual process. There are many types of appliances, and each person’s teeth respond differently to treatment, resulting in different treatment time lengths. A personalized approach is the best way to get orthodontic treatment that balances efficiency with comfort and economy.