How much do braces cost?

The costs of tooth alignment can be stupefying. Unfortunately, this is because they are so high, rather than shockingly affordable. Metal braces cost $5,350 on average.

While conventional braces are not your only choice, research shows that prices across different options are similar. Where do the figures come from?

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Braces cost

The overall cost of braces depends on many factors. The biggest determinants are:

  • your age,
  • insurance plan,
  • the issues you have,
  • the length of treatment, and
  • the type of braces you choose.
Braces typeAverage costCost range
Metal$5,350$1,800-$8,500
Ceramic$5,500$2,000-$10,000
Self-ligating$5,500$2,500-$8,000
Invisible$5,700$1,100-$9,500
Lingual$12,000$5,000-$13,000

Of course, your orthodontist might decide that you are not a good candidate for the type of braces you would like. Remember, it is he or she that will be making the final decision. Below you can read about what to expect from each option.

Metal braces

The average cost for metal braces is $5,350. The prices start at $1,800 and top off at $8,500.

Fully metal braces are the oldest and most common type. They are universally available, so you won’t have trouble finding a dental professional who will be willing to install them. All this helps make metal braces a little more affordable than other permanent options.

The great thing about them is that they can solve the most complex cases, unlike the more esthetically pleasing types. They can also be customized with colorful elastic bands.

Ceramic braces

Ceramic braces cost around $5,500, with a price range between $2,000 and $10,000.

This type was designed for a more inconspicuous look. If appearance is what you’re going for, you should prepare to pay a little more. The downsides of ceramic braces are that they’re more brittle than metal ones and stain without proper care.

Some patients opt to have the top arch aligned with ceramic and the bottom with metal. Others claim that ceramic brackets are bigger and stick out more. It’s all down to personal preference. And your budget.

Self-ligating braces

Self-ligating braces can cost between $2,500 and $8,000, giving an average of $5,500.

This type of braces is slightly more expensive than the bare-bones metal type, but it comes with a lot of advantages. First of all, less pressure and friction are placed on the teeth, which makes the system more comfortable.

Secondly, since they adapt to the changes in your mouth, the process is considerably faster. You will not need to visit the orthodontist for adjustments as often, either.

The most popular representative of this type of braces is The Damon System. Initially, they can be expensive, but the costs you save visiting the orthodontist less regularly makes them affordable still.

Without elastomeric rings they are also easier to keep clean which can prevent restorative costs.

Lingual braces

Lingual braces cost $12,000 on average. The price range is between $5,000 and $13,000.

Those who desperately want to opt for braces that won’t make them look like eternal teenagers can choose lingual ones. They are installed behind the teeth and this makes them practically unnoticeable.

The problem is that they are hard to install and even harder to adjust. You should take into consideration that there are few specialists who take on such cases. They will definitely charge accordingly.

Dr. Christopher Riolo
More often than not, lingual braces are just as effective as the traditional option if you are in the hands of an experienced lingual orthodontist. Most speech issues also disappear after the first month of wear.

What’s more, they are unsuitable for those with small teeth. These braces can also cause temporary speech and tongue problems. On top of that, some patients claim lingual braces were quoted as twice as expensive in comparison with regular metal ones.

Clear aligners (invisible braces)

The average price for Invisalign Full treatment is $5,700. The prices for clear aligners in general range from $1,100 and $9,500.

Invisalign treatment, the most popular type of invisible braces can turn out to be quite costly. It is typically more expensive than conventional braces. This shouldn’t be surprising, since you are paying for the recognizability of the brand, invisibility of treatment, and specialist support.

Dr. Richard Hattaway
One of the most important steps with clear aligners is the accuracy of the impressions or the scan. Leaving this step out of the treatment by a professional with proper training could lead to a more costly option to fix.

Some dentists and orthodontists offer their own custom aligners. They are made right at the office, so the trays can be delivered to you very fast. The costs of these depend on your situation, of course, but they are comparable to Invisalign.

The cheapest option among invisible braces are at-home teeth straightening kits, such as SmileDirectClub, Candid Co, and “>byte. They are much more affordable, since they offer less assistance and the process is mostly remote. What follows is that they might refuse to take on more complicated cases.

Associated costs

Initial consultation

The first visit to the orthodontist can be free if you decide to go with that office for your treatment. Some even offer free consultations without having to declare anything. This gives you an opportunity to shop around before you commit.

Your mouth will be assessed so that both you and the doctor are aware of the issues going on. These could be minor like slight spacing, crowding, an overbite, or a single crooked teeth. Such issues will make for cheaper treatments later on.

Be prepared for a higher estimate if you have teeth that stick outside the general arch, if you are missing some dentition (causing major spacing issues), or if your bite is deeply misaligned.

Professional cleaning

It is a good idea to include a professional cleaning in your budget before having braces installed. The orthodontist will not mount any wiring or brackets if you have plaque or tartar buildup. Your teeth should be thoroughly cleaned beforehand.

What’s more, having braces on, it will be more difficult to clean the teeth. So it’s just good measure, and helps prevent any issues that you would have to pay to fix later on.

Check-up visits

You might be expected to pay for each check-up visit separately, unless you are going with Invisalign. If you have major orthodontic issues and a long treatment plan, there will be more visits planned, and you can end up paying considerably more.

You might also be charged differently for the last appointment, when your braces are coming off. It might be a good idea to schedule another cleaning that day to really elevate your new smile.

Dental X-rays

The cost of dental X-rays is an inherent part of the overall fee for tooth alignment. Even some home straightening kits insist on patients delivering radiographs. That’s because they provide information on the internal structures of the mouth.

You can expect to undergo the following X-rays:

  • panoramic, and
  • cephalometric.

Removable/fixed appliances

Special orthodontic appliances are extra tools that help align your teeth faster and more efficiently. There are many different things that could be recommended to you (or rather, you might simply have it installed in your mouth), depending on what your issue needs.

Some are removable and some, as mentioned above, might be fixed in your mouth for a few weeks or months. They are usually not to be worn during the entire treatment. To provide a few examples of the most common appliances:

  • an expansion device: creates more space for crowded teeth by pushing the teeth outwards,
  • a transpalatal arch: helps maintain the arch and prevents molars from tipping, and
  • a protraction mask: this device, unlike the two above, is removable and uses the chin and forehead for “pull” teeth forwards or backwards, as necessary.

There are, of course, many more. You will have an appliance installed or be instructed to wear one if it is necessary. Your orthodontist will make this decision.

Retainers

There are two options to go for when it comes to retainers:

  • removable – like Hawley, Vivera or Essix,
  • or permanent – wire mounted permanently on the six front teeth from the inside.

When it comes to the removable options you have to remember that you can’t take impressions or a digital scan before your braces are off. It also takes some time to manufacture a set of retainers. Without a permanent wire you might lose some progress.

Does insurance cover braces?

Insurance won’t cover anything that isn’t medically necessary. In orthodontia by that we mean that misalignment must cause at least one of the following:

  • jaw pain,
  • grinding of teeth,
  • increased likelihood of tooth decay or gum disease, or
  • difficulty in speaking properly.

Even if your plan doesn’t cover orthodontia a dentist might make an assessment that judges your issue as medically necessary to fix.

Some plans might not cover adults, though the age cut-off might not always be 18. Some plans provide coverage for 19, 20, or even 21-year-olds.

FeaturesCoverage under Delta Dental (Enhanced) PremierDelta Dental PPOMetLife Federal Dental Plan
Deductible per person, per year$25$25$0
Braces50% (50% coinsurance)50% (50% coinsurance)50% (50% coinsurance)
Age limit19no age limitno age limit
In-network dentistsIn-network dentists/orthodontists onlyIn-network dentists/orthodontists onlyQuotes provided for in-network dentists/orthodontists*
Lifetime cap on orthodontia$1,000$1,000 per adult,$1,500 per child$2,000

*You can see out-of-network specialists, but the coverage is less favorable.

It is recommended that you stick with one plan during your treatment to avoid paperwork-related charges. Moreover, some providers might simply refuse to cover braces installed before the policy was active, treating them as a pre-existing condition.

Do braces have to be so expensive?

The best solution for saving on dental services is to go with a discount plan. They offer all services at a reduced rate and there is no paperwork. You won’t be turned away, even if you have braces on already. Check it out!

These plans work more or less like a membership. You pay a regular fee, but all services are more affordable in the long run.

Another idea is to travel. Dental costs are extremely high in the US and sometimes it is just more prudent to visit another country, even bearing in mind the travel and accommodation costs. You will have to return for each check-up visit though.

If you are able to pay upfront you might get a discount too. You could get a reduction of about 5% to 10%. Lastly, check whether you can take advantage of your FSA or HSA.

Those accounts (as well as insurance, in some cases) can also go towards paying for home teeth straightening kits. They are the cheapest way to fix misalignment. Bearing that in mind, remember, they might not be for everyone. They were designed to treat mild to moderate cases.

Braces can be a pain, but they don’t have to hurt your wallet as well, so make sure you do your research. You don’t want to find out you overpaid and had options to get cheaper braces elsewhere once you have started your treatment.

Final thoughts

Just reading this article might make you think “gee, why wasn’t I one of those who were simply born with perfect teeth”. Well, it would be great if we all won the genetic lottery. Those people surely have other issues, too. Maybe ones that can’t be fixed as easily as misalignment!

One way or another, a Hollywood smile is something most of us don’t have naturally. Have you ever had braces? Comment down below whether you found the price fair.

Disclaimer: The total cost of braces depends on numerous factors. These include the location, the experience of the person performing the procedures, and the materials used. The costs vary from state to state, from office to office, and even from dentist to dentist working in the same office. These prices show the average expenses involved without insurance or dental plans. We did our best to compile and take into account values from many sources, but the final decision as to which procedures must be performed and how much to charge for them is always ultimately made by the dentist. We give no guarantee that the prices you find here are the prices your dentist will quote.