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Why Are Braces So Expensive?

Investing in straighter teeth is worth it for many, especially if it allows them to avoid future complications. But choosing braces requires both financial and time commitments. However, if you want to avoid cavities, gum disease, discomfort, and cosmetic issues, braces are an option.

metal braces on teeth

But why are braces so expensive? Why does orthodontic treatment cost so much to realign teeth and improve your smile?

It’s because tooth movement is a slow and gradual process.

Dental discount plans might save you more than insurance.

For some patients, a dental discount plan could save you more money each year.

It is a labor-intensive process that requires many follow-up appointments over months or years. Some braces wearers go for a check-up every few months for adjustments or to make sure everything is proceeding as intended.

How Much Do Braces Cost?

Unfortunately, braces don’t come cheap. Though the cost of braces varies widely, depending on the types of braces recommended, you can expect to pay well over $1000. The average cost tends to be around $2000 to $3000 depending on the circumstances and the amount of time you wear braces. Dental insurance and other financial support is an option in some cases. 

The cost of braces is based on many factors, including the type of braces you choose. For example, traditional braces or metal braces tend to cost anywhere from $2500 to $7000 plus a $200 to $300 consultation fee. This includes retainers and rubber bands and most other accessories. 

Ceramic braces tend to be more expensive and range from $4000 to $8000 plus the consultation cost. Clear and lingual braces are also more expensive than traditional metal braces.

Does Dental Insurance Cover Braces?

Every dental plan is different. The amount covered by insurance varies from situation to situation. The actual amount you pay out of pocket is based on the braces' total cost minus the percentage covered by insurance. You also need to consider deductibles, co-pays for visits, and other factors. The chances of insurance covering braces are higher when a dentist deems that braces are necessary for dental health purposes instead of cosmetic reasons.

Can You Get Braces for Free?

In some states, Medicaid offers coverage for braces for adults. Dental benefits covered by state Medicaid programs fall into one of three categories, including:

  • Emergency
  • Limited
  • Extensive

Your dentist or orthodontist will help you determine what type of coverage you’re entitled to.

The Children's Health Insurance Program is administered by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. It offers matching funds to states for health insurance to assist families with children. The program's goal is to cover uninsured children whose families don’t qualify for Medicaid but still need assistance.

CHIP covers dental care, including the cost of braces if your child’s dentist deems them necessary. In most cases, braces are about more than the cosmetic benefits of having straight teeth, so dentists consider them medically necessary. 

What to Do When You Can't Afford Braces?

You have options if the cost of braces is too much, and you aren’t sure how to afford this type of treatment. Many dentists and orthodontists offer payment plans. There are also discount dental plans available for those who do not have traditional dental insurance coverage. And in some cases, alternative treatments such as clear aligners allow you to fix your alignment for less than the cost of braces. 

Keep in mind, though, if you are considering alternative treatment, you need to look at the total cost and ensure it is truly less than the total cost of braces. 

Some people choose to use credit to help them pay for the cost of braces. Health care credit from third-party credit companies makes it possible to extend payments over time, but you’ll have to pay interest. Make sure you understand the terms of a healthcare line of credit before choosing this option.

Alternatives to Braces: Clear Aligners

Invisalign

Invisalign is one of the best-known dental realignment brands. The product uses removable clear aligners to straighten teeth and correct bite, crowding, and gaps gradually. You wear aligners day and night except when eating, drinking, or brushing teeth for approximately six to 18 months. The cost of Invisalign treatment averages about $5000 and varies based on:

  • Length of the treatment plan
  • Complexity of case
  • Whether you see a dentist or orthodontist for treatment 
  • Whether insurance will cover a portion of the cost

Candid Co

Candid Co offers clear aligners made of Zendrua thermoplastic. Users say these aligners are more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing than braces. Treatment typically takes, on average, six months, and costs $2400.

candid starter kit and impressions

Smile Direct Club

Smile Direct Club offers customized aligners that shift teeth. The product claims it works in as little as six months and also includes teeth whitening. The treatment cost is $1895 when paid in full upfront or for $85 a month for two years plus a $250 initial down payment. Smile Direct offers FSA, HAS, and CareCredit. Some insurance plans offer reimbursement for Smile Direct aligners. 

smile direct club aligners

Byte

Byte provides customized invisible aligners. They claim teeth can be straightened in half the time as competitors, and they offer a lifetime guarantee. The cost is $1795 if you use the $100 coupon if you pay in full upfront. It’s also possible to spread payment across 25 months for a total cost of $2324.

byte impression kit

The reason at-home clear aligners are less expensive is because they do not include in-office dental supervision with treatment monitoring.

Finally, an insurance alternative that works.

In many cases, dental discount plans can replace dental insurance. It even helps pay for cosmetic procedures.

Resources

Medicaid Adult Dental Benefits Coverage by State. www.chcs.org/media/Medicaid-Adult-Dental-Benefits-Overview-Appendix_091519.pdf.

Medicaid Adult Dental Benefits: An Overview. www.chcs.org/media/Adult-Oral-Health-Fact-Sheet_091519.pdf. Accessed 24 Sept. 2020.

 “Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Eligibility Requirements.” HealthCare.Gov, 2018, www.healthcare.gov/medicaid-chip/childrens-health-insurance-program/.

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Updated on: December 21, 2020
Author
Kelly Jamrozy
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Medically Reviewed
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Dr. Lara Coseo
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