Cost of Braces and Other Orthodontic Treatments
What is the average cost of braces? That’s the one question everyone wants answered when they intend to have their teeth straightened. The most accurate answer is, of course, that it varies.
There are many different factors that affect orthodontic procedure prices. These include:
- The experience level and specialization of the orthodontist (top orthodontists may charge more than those with less skill)
- The average pricing in your local area (this varies by state and city)
- The materials that will be used in your treatment (some orthodontists charge extra for ceramic brackets vs. metal brackets)
- The complexity of placing the braces (lingual braces are more difficult to place/adjust than traditional braces and require special training to install)
- The length of treatment (if you are charged for every monthly visit, this can really add up over a period of 2-3 years)
- The amount of customization required for your treatment plan — especially if additional specialists must be involved to correct other oral problems like gum disease or missing teeth
- If replacement parts are needed due to damaged or lost components (it is common to accidentally lose brackets or damage retainers/headgear)
- If the orthodontist is using the latest technology and needs to defray the cost of purchasing and maintaining this equipment
- Whether surgery is involved
- If dental insurance will pay for a portion of your treatment
General Pricing Overview
Even with all these factors involved, you can still get a ballpark idea regarding the cost of braces.
- You can expect to pay about $5,000 for a two-year treatment with metal braces. The price may be slightly lower if your braces are placed by a general dentist and slightly higher if you are treated by an orthodontist. Use of headgear with the braces may increase the cost.
- Ceramic braces are an additional $500-1,000 if the orthodontist finds these more difficult to work with.
- Lingual braces cost $1,000-2,000 more than metal braces.
- Elastics used in conjunction with braces may add a few hundred dollars to the total cost.
- Invisalign braces cost about $5,000 for two years of treatment. Invisalign Express (used for minor correction) costs about $3,500.
- A retainer may cost $100-300 dollars (plastic retainers are cheaper but must be replaced frequently). The total cost for office visits, replacement retainers and adjustment over the years may end up costing about $1,000.
- Jaw surgery is, by far, the most expensive orthodontic procedure. The price tag can be $20,000-30,000 for the surgery, hospital bill, anesthesia and subsequent treatment with braces. Dental insurance is unlikely to cover the cost of orthognathic surgery. However, if the surgery is considered reconstructive rather than cosmetic, it may be partially covered by medical insurance.
Ways to Reduce the Cost of Braces
You don’t necessarily want to find the cheapest orthodontic provider since you may be disappointed with the results of your procedure. But there are some things you can do to help manage your treatment costs. First, determine if your dental plan covers orthodontic treatment and the dollar amount they will cover per year. Choose an “in-network” dentist to ensure your insurance will pay as agreed. For plans that pay a set amount per calendar year, you may want to start treatment at a specific time to maximize the total amount covered.
Whether or not you have insurance, you may wish to choose metal braces or Invisalign rather than more expensive options. Metal braces do work just as effectively as more costly lingual and ceramic braces. They just aren’t as attractive.
Be consistent with your treatment and oral care. If you skip appointments or forget to wear your orthodontic appliances as directed, treatment will take much longer and may fail altogether. This means you’ve wasted your money and will have to start over. Avoid foods and activities that may damage your braces so you don’t have to pay for replacement parts. Finally, always wear your retainer as directed so your teeth don’t move back to their original, crooked position.