In the United States, the average cost of braces is approximately $3,888. On the low end, the cost of braces may be around $2,700 while on the high end getting braces costs as much as $5,200. This article breaks down data from over 1,000 dentists from across the United States, and details the cost of braces, to help patients make an informed decision about their oral health. It will also discuss the different factors that can affect the final braces cost so that patients never receive surprise bills in the mail.
What are Braces?
Braces are devices that are used in orthodontics to align and straighten teeth and help to position them with regard to a person’s bite, while also aiming to improve dental health. Braces also correct bad bites. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children have an orthodontic evaluation by the age of seven.
What Factors Affect the Cost of Braces?
Age of the Patient
As a general rule, the younger the patient, the less expensive braces will be. Children’s bones are still growing and therefore teeth can be more easily moved into place. As we age, our bones fuse and it becomes more difficult to move teeth without causing serious damage. This is why treatment for adults often takes longer and is usually more expensive. Orthodontic treatment can be broken down into three distinct phases
- Transitional Dentition: The presence of primary teeth and permanent teeth
- Adolescent Dentition: Teeth that are present after the loss of primary teeth but before growth stops in the jaw
- Adult Dentition: Fully developed teeth from an orthodontists perspective
Complexity of Treatment
The complexity of your treatment will also affect how much you will pay for braces. If you only need to have your teeth straightened, you will likely pay less than someone who needs their teeth straightened and their bite corrected. The more complex the treatment, the more expensive it will be. The complexity of treatment can be broken down into three distinct groups:
- Limited Orthodontic Treatment: Not involving all teeth in the mouth
- Comprehensive Orthodontic Treatment: Involving all teeth in the mouth
Length of Treatment
The length of your treatment will also affect how much you end up paying for braces. The average length of time for treatment is about two years but some patients may need to wear them for a shorter or longer period of time depending on how complex their orthodontic case is.
Type of Braces
The type of braces you choose will also affect the cost of your treatment. Metal braces are the most common and least expensive type of braces. Ceramic braces are less visible than metal braces but they are more fragile and tend to be more expensive. Lingual braces are placed on the inside of your teeth making them invisible but they are also the most expensive type of braces.
Invisalign vs Braces
Many people ask about the cost of Invisalign vs braces. Truthfully, Invisalign is often very similar in price to braces, and perhaps sometimes a bit more expensive.
Location of the Orthodontist
The geographic location of the orthodontist also affects the cost of braces. Orthodontists in rural areas typically charge less for their services than those in urban areas. This is because the cost of living in rural areas is usually lower than in urban areas, so orthodontists can charge less and still make a profit.
What is the Average Cost of Braces Based on These Factors?
Although there are various factors affecting the cost of braces, we can take a look at the average costs of current orthodontists to help inform our decision-making. The following data is from a survey completed by over 1,000 dentists from across the United States:
|Type of Orthodontic Treatment||Average Cost of Braces ($)||Low-End Braces Cost (10th percentile)||High-End Braces Cost (90th percentile)|
|Limited Orthodontic Treatment: Transitional Dentition (age 6-12)||2,692.42||1000||4293|
|Limited Orthodontic Treatment: Adolescent Dentition (age 12-16)||3,072.72||1575||4600|
|Limited Orthodontic Treatment: Adult Dentition||3,355.57||1950||4738|
|Comprehensive Orthodontic Treatment: Transitional Dentition (age 6-12)||5,327.80||4282||6409|
|Comprehensive Orthodontic Treatment: Adolescent Dentition (age 12-16)||5,369.51||4500||6300|
|Comprehensive Orthodontic Treatment: Adult Dentition||5,426.03||4560||6500|
|Procedure Description||Average Cost ($)||Low-End Cost (10th percentile)||High-End Cost (90th percentile)|
|Examination Before Treatment||290.44||82||500|
|Periodic Check-ups with Orthodontist||248.45||103||400|
|Adjustments to Removable Orthodontic Retainers||162.16||51||310|
Note: This cost breakdown does not include direct-to-consumer aligners. Typically, once you start looking into how much braces cost, you’ll begin seeing direct-to-consumer aligner advertisements. Their unique selling proposition is that without a dentist or orthodontist in person, you can have these braces delivered to your home. However, unless you have been advised by your dental practitioner to purchase these products, they currently have too many dangers to be recommended despite their price.
For a full breakdown of all dental procedure costs click here.
How can I get Low-Cost Braces?
At the end of the day, braces are extremely expensive. However, they are a necessary evil for many people. If you are in need of braces but cannot afford them, there are a few things you can do to get free or subsidized braces:
One way to get low-cost braces is to go to a dental school. Dental schools are educational institutions that train students to become dentists. They typically have clinics where students can gain hands-on experience treating patients. The treatments provided at these clinics are usually very cheap or even free. However, the downside is that students typically are much slower and less experienced than practicing dentists.
Community Dental Clinics
Another option for getting cheap braces is to go to a community dental clinic. Community dental clinics are non-profit organizations that provide dental care to underserved communities. They typically offer their services at a reduced cost or even for free. However, the downside is that these clinics are often very busy and have long waitlists.
There are a few organizations that provide free braces to low-income individuals. One such organization is the Dental Lifeline Network. The Dental Lifeline Network is a non-profit organization that provides free dental care to low-income seniors and people with disabilities. Another organization that provides low-cost braces is the Give a Kid a Smile Program from the American Dental Association. The Give a Kid a Smile Program is a non-profit organization that provides free dental health education, screenings, preventive care, and/or treatment for kids.
If you are low-income, you may be eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid is a government-funded health insurance program that covers low-income individuals. Many states have expanded their Medicaid programs to cover dental care, including braces. To see if you are eligible for Medicaid, contact your state’s Medicaid office.
Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) are organizations that provide health insurance coverage to their members. Many HMOs have dental plans that cover part or all of the cost of braces. However, the downside is that HMOs often have a limited network of dentists that they work with.
Dental Discount Plans
Another option for getting low-cost braces is to sign up for a dental discount plan. Dental discount plans are not insurance plans, but rather membership plans that offer discounts on dental services from a network of dentists. These plans typically have an annual fee that entitles the member to a certain percentage off of dental services. The downside is that dental discount plans often have a limited network of dentists that they work with.
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No two mouths are the same, and each oral situation is unique. As such, it isn’t possible to give comprehensive advice or diagnose oral conditions based on articles alone. The best way to ensure you’re getting the best dental care possible is to visit a dentist in person for an examination and consultation.