For most of us, braces are a significant investment — both in time and money. However, a perfect smile not only yields a polished appearance, but it can boost confidence and even improve long-term dental health. Before you stress over your wallet, review the information about the pricing of braces and ways to make braces affordable.
Cost of Braces
How much you will pay for braces depends on the type you choose and the care that you need. Here are some estimates for the price range of each of the most popular types of braces. (These are estimates, and the final cost could end up being higher or lower than the average range.)
- Metal braces : $3,000 – $6,000. These are the traditional braces that most of us wore as kids, with metal brackets bonded to the teeth and an archwire running across them. Although a significant price range exists, metal braces are almost always the most affordable option.
- Ceramic braces : $4,000 – $6,400. Ceramic braces are a lot like metal ones, except their brackets are transparent and the archwire that connects them is designed to blend in with the normal appearance of the teeth. Ceramic braces tend to cost slightly more than traditional braces and treatment time is usually longer.
- Invisalign : $4,000 – 7,000. Invisalign braces do not have wires or brackets. Instead, they are clear plastic trays, which look like a retainer or night guard. With Invisalign, you wear these trays around the clock to slowly realign your teeth. As they’ve grown in popularity, the cost of Invisalign braces has decreased enough to make them competitive with traditional braces, but they still tend to cost more.
- Lingual braces : $7,000 – $10,000. Lingual braces attach to the back of the teeth, which hides them completely. This is the most expensive option due to the advanced technology and technical skill required to apply and adjust the brackets and wires in that location.
Why Does the Cost Vary?
Each orthodontic patient is unique, and so is her treatment plan. This requires the orthodontist to adjust the price based on the complexity of the case. Simpler cases will require less time and fewer visits, while challenging ones will require more. Prices also vary depending on where you live and the orthodontist you choose.
You might hear your orthodontist use the term “malocclusion,” which means that the teeth are misaligned. If your teeth are slightly crooked, but you have no other structural problems, then you’re likely to pay on the lower end. If you have more severe orthodontic complaints, you could go toward the higher end. Types of malocclusions include:
- Overcrowding — This type of malocclusion is the most common reason people, especially adults, seek orthodontic treatment. It’s often caused by a lack of space, resulting in teeth that partially overlap or develop at an angle.
- Overjet — This occurs when your top and bottom teeth don’t align. Generally, overjet can be paralleled to protrusive top teeth. As you might guess, this causes difficulty with eating and speech.
- Overbite — Your top teeth are meant to fit over your bottom ones. However, an overbite occurs when they overlap too far, which can cause your front teeth to bite down into your gums.
- Underbite — An underbite occurs when the lower jaw extends beyond the upper jaw, causing the bottom teeth to cover the top teeth. This condition can cause premature tooth wear. It progresses over time, so leaving it untreated will increase the likelihood of needing surgical correction down the road.
- Crossbite — This occurs when one or more of your upper teeth actually slide behind your lower teeth.There are two types of crossbites, Anterior (front teeth) and Posterior (back teeth). In some cases you can have both anterior and posterior crossbites. Untreated, this can cause accelerate tooth wear or misaligned jaw growth.
- Open bite — If both your upper and lower teeth connect when you close your mouth, you have an open bite, which can also impair eating and speech.
- Spacing — Incorrect spacing means some or all of the teeth have too much room between them.
- Diastema — Also a spacing issue, a diastema typically refers to a sizeable gap between the two front teeth.
- Impacted teeth — A tooth becomes impacted when it is not able to grow into its normal position, usually due to insufficient space. An impacted tooth requires medical attention because it can damage adjacent teeth.
Does My Insurance Cover Orthodontic Treatment?
To find out if your insurance will cover all or part of your orthodontic treatment, check with the company. Many do not cover orthodontics, especially for adults and/or when treatment is not medically necessary.
Many states, including Maryland, consider pediatric dental care to be an “essential health benefit,” and require that healthcare plans include insurance for medically-necessary dental work. For example, they will cover braces if they are necessary to improve a child’s ability to chew his food properly. If the reason for braces is solely cosmetic, they might not be covered.
Although the numbers of adults seeking orthodontic treatment now comprises a significant market in the orthodontics industry, the ACA does not require insurance companies to offer dental insurance for people older than 17.
If your insurer is willing to finance the braces for you or your child, you will need to find an orthodontist who accepts that particular company. If you can’t find anyone who works with your insurance company, it is possible that the insurance will reimburse a portion of your bill if you file an out of network claim.
Medicare typically will not cover orthodontic treatment. Medicaid usually does cover braces if they are deemed medically necessary.
If your orthodontic treatment is not covered, there are still ways that you can pay for your braces.
If your employer’s partnering insurance company does not cover your expenses, you can purchase your own secondary insurance. You can shop around for options, which Maryland has a lot of. You will typically choose between two types of plans.
Managed-care plans cover most of the up-front costs. Many will require a copay, which means that you pay a set amount each time you use a service. Copays can vary greatly depending on the insurance carrier, but you are probably looking at somewhere in the range of $10 to $100. Managed-care plans offer a selection of providers within a network. These providers have agreed to perform services at pre-negotiated rates, and they will submit the claim to the dental insurance company themselves. In order to receive coverage, you can only see a provider that is part of this network.
An indemnity plan allows you a broader choice in dental and orthodontic specialists, but it does not pay for the up-front costs of treatment. You will pay for the services in full and then submit a claim to your insurance company to receive reimbursement. In general, you’ll have the least paperwork and lower out-of-pocket costs with a managed-care dental plan.
Dental Discount Plans
Dental discount plans can be a great way to save on your orthodontic treatment. These plans are different from insurance. You pay a monthly annual membership fee in exchange for discount pricing.
If you have a dental discount plan, you can use it for any type of dental or orthodontic examination or treatment, including braces. You will be able to save between 10% and 60% off services if your dentist or orthodontist participates in the program.
Dental discount plans charge a yearly fee (usually about $150 per family), and you don’t need to meet any deductible before your savings kick in. There also is no cap on the savings, so the more expensive your procedure the more you save.
Many banks and lending companies can offer you a personal loan to finance orthodontic work. Check your local credit union or search for a bank online. You’ll find competitive lenders, and the application process is easy.
Personal loans for dental work usually have a fixed interest rate, which is good for your budgeting, because the payment stays the same each period. You will need excellent credit history to receive a sizable loan with a low interest rate.
Another option to consider is a medical credit card such as CareCredit. These are specialized credit cards some providers offer patients to pay for specific healthcare costs. However, be certain that you will have the money to repay the balances on time. If you don’t pay within the grace period, you will owe interest on the entire amount of money originally borrowed rather than what is left to pay.
Your orthodontist’s office may offer you an interest-free payment plan. Typically, they will ask for part of the total up front and spread the remainder into monthly payments. If you can afford the up-front costs, financing braces through your orthodontist’s office is the most straightforward and simple payment method.
Dental schools often offer patient care so that students can shadow experts and practice procedures. Because it’s quite possible the person treating you or your child will be a student, the cost is often lower than at a private practice. A seasoned professional will always monitor the student’s work. Here is a list of accredited orthodontic programs within dental schools around the country.
Take advantage of savings programs your employer offers, such as a flexible spending account, health savings account, health reimbursement account or medical savings account. Enrolling in these types of accounts will allow you to save pre-tax dollars that you can eventually use to pay for orthodontic treatment. If you anticipate that your young child will need braces as a teen, putting aside the money now will allow it to grow, tax free.