Ballpark Estimate: $0 to $10,000
Although orthodontic braces bestow upon the wearer straighter teeth and a more beautiful smile, the need for braces is not purely cosmetic. A mismatched bite, or malocclusion, hampers the proper cleaning of the teeth and effects oral hygiene. This in turn contributes to periodontal disease and a host of associated conditions.
To a child however, the health factors are outweighed by the fact that he or she has a less than perfect smile. Whether your child has an over or underbite, crooked or gappy teeth, you can be sure that the other kids in the playground do not let him or her forget about it.
Although the need for braces is common both in children and adults, the cost of the treatment is quite high and insurance will not always cover the cost. With standard braces averaging out at about $5,000 they are a significant expense for even middle income families.
Types of Braces
The thin metal wire with the funky jewel colored tabs that you see on schoolgirls teeth these days are a far cry from the railroad track style metal braces of a generation ago. In fact, far from being the stigma that it used to be, nowadays wearing braces can be cool.
Metal braces are still the most commonly used and they tend to fall in the $4,000 to $6,000 price range. (The price is usually higher in large cities like New York and Los Angeles.)
If you need braces but don’t want the look that goes along with them, clear braces may be a good choice. These are made of a see through material so the only visible component is the wire section. The price for clear braces is more or less the same as for metal braces – expect an average of about $5,000.
Another option is to go with ceramic braces which are made to match your tooth color. This is a good choice if your orthodontist feels that they offer the required level of dental correction. You pay approximately $500 to $1,000 more for ceramic braces than you would for metal or clear braces so expect a bill in the region of $5,500 to $7,000.
If ceramic braces aren’t subtle enough for you, you can also look into concealed braces (also called behind the teeth or lingual braces), which are attached behind your teeth. Lingual braces are practically invisible and as you would expect are the most expensive of all types of braces. Expect to pay up to $9,000 for lingual braces.
Factors Affecting the Cost of Braces
Generally speaking the more ‘invisible’ the brace system, the higher the price will be.
There are a number of factors involved in the cost of braces. The type selected, the amount of correction required and the duration of treatment will all affect the overall cost. Braces for children can be slightly less expensive than for adults, since younger mouths are often smaller and require less complicated work.
Most orthodontists will provide an overall price for the entire treatment plan, which includes all of the brace hardware and related appointments. This lets you know exactly what you’re committing to upfront, so you can plan your budget accordingly. Unexpected costs may still arise for things like x-rays,retainers, extra appointments and damage to the appliance so factor that into your overall budget.
If you’re comparing prices between two or more orthodontists be sure to get the quotation from each in writing so you can be sure that you are getting the same thing in each case. (Experts caution against making your choice on price alone, since the quality of the professionals work is key to achieving the best final results.)
The Cost of Braces and Payment Options
Braces on a Low-Income Budget
$0 to $5,000
Children’s Health Insurance Program or Children’s Medicaid
State-linked children’s health insurance programs (CHIPs) provide dental coverage to children from low income families. Individual states are not required to offer all services so some have excluded braces from their services.
Others, such as the Idaho CHIP program, do cover 100% of the cost of the braces but within certain limits.To find out whether the CHIP or Medicaid program in your state covers braces visit InsureKidsNow.gov.
Smiles Change Lives
Smiles Change Lives is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide access to ‘…life-changing, essential orthodontic treatment for children from low income families.’ Smiles Change Lives has a program for children between the ages of 10 and 18 that need braces. There are a few criteria:
- The child must be age between 10 and 18 with fewer than 4 baby teeth and good oral hygiene.
- The family, if approved, must be able to pay the $500 SCL program fee. (There is also a non-refundable $30 application fee)
- The annual household taxable income must fall at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guideline.
As stated on the Patients page of the Utah School of Dental Medicine, “Although the time required to complete treatment in our student clinics is longer than with in a private practice setting, fees are generally less.”
The same will generally be true no matter which dental school you approach for your braces or dental treatment. Dental school treatment is not free and charges vary from campus to campus. It is a good option for those wish to save money and who are not pressed for time. It is also a good option for adults who would not be eligible for the previous two options. Here are a list of Dental Schools.
Braces on a Middle-Income Budget
$4,000 to $6,000
You can consider $5000 to be the average cost for standard braces, not including any previous or related work (extractions, fillings etc). This is what you can expect to pay for metal or clear braces from your local dentist and your best option is to check the prices for braces in a few of the dentist or orthodontic clinics in your area.
High End Braces
$6,000 to $10,000
Treatment from an orthodontist will always cost more than that from a general dentist. Orthodontists have studied for an extra three years and much of this time is focussed on the aesthetics of the smile. If cost is not a concern, it makes sense to take advantage of the specialised training undertaken by an orthodontist in this area.
An orthodontist will also be the better option if there is much overcrowding of teeth or there are many malocclusions.
Added to the higher cost of orthodontist consultations isthe cost of the type of brace. The most expensive is the lingual or concealed brace. When paying the extra costs for this type of brace you must consider not only the material used but the added complexity of the procedure.
Orthodontic Braces and Dental Insurance
If you’ve got dental insurancea portion of the cost of braces may be covered. Your dental insurer can advise you what benefits are covered by the policy or you can ask the orthodontist’s office to work with the insurer directly and let you know what part of the treatment qualifies for reimbursement.
It is common for dental insurance to only cover a portion of the total cost (say 50%) but then the total amount may be capped for the lifetime of the plan (anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand). So if the insurance covers 50% of orthodontic work up to a maximum of $1,000, and your dental bill is $5,000, your insurance company may pay $1,000 toward the job if this is your first claim but you would have no benefits for future dental treatment.
Payment Options for Orthodontic Braces
It would be most unusual for a dentist or orthodontist to insist on full payment upfront at the beginning of braces consultations but you are sometimes offered the opportunity to pay in full in return for a discount of 3 to 10%.
Payment Over Time
As braces tend to be required for a period of one to two years and many visits will be made in that time, a common option is to pay for the treatments as you go. There may be a 25% or 30% deposit to begin with and then you pay down the balance monthly or per visit.
Third Party Financing
Some companies, like Springstone Patient Financing, enable their members to finance elective medical or dental treatments through low monthly payments. There are expanded and interest free plans and payments can be completed in 6, 12 or 24 months without extra charges.
Retaining Your Results
Once your braces are removed, you may need a retainer, which is a removable plate that can help retain the tooth placement achieved through braces. This is often included in the overall braces cost, but if your orthodontist charges separately for this, it will usually be about $250 for the orthodontic device alone.