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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 why are braces so expensive?

Because tooth movement is a slow and gradual process. It's a labor-intensive process that requires many follow-up appointments over months or years.

Most people go in for a check-up every few weeks for adjustments and to make sure everything is proceeding as intended.

How Much Do Braces Cost?

Braces aren't cheap.

The average cost tends to be around $2,000 to $3,000. They may cost up to $10,000 for severe cases.

The total cost depends on the type of braces and the amount of time you need to wear them. Dental insurance may cover some of the cost if you have orthodontic benefits.

The 5 most common types of braces include:

Traditional Metal Braces 

These consist of small brackets and wires that are fixed to the front of your teeth. They gently apply pressure to each tooth, pulling them into the correct position.

The brackets are metal and sometimes feature colored or clear elastic rubber bands. 

Traditional braces cost between $3,000 and $7,000.

Clear Braces

Also called ceramic braces, these are the same as metal braces except for the design.

Clear braces consist of tooth-colored brackets, which means they blend in with your natural teeth, making them less noticeable. The rubber bands and elastics are also see-through or white. 

Clear braces cost between $4,000 and $8,000.

Lingual Braces 

These work the same as standard braces. However, the brackets and wires are fixed to the back of the teeth (tongue side). 

Lingual braces cost up to $10,000.

Invisalign

A non-invasive and removable alternative to metal braces. Each aligner set is worn for one to two weeks (for 22+ hours a day) until your teeth are straight. 

Invisalign costs between $3,000 and $8,000.

At-Home Aligners

At-home aligners like Byte are a cheaper alternative to Invisalign. They provide similar treatment results but are only recommended for minor to moderate teeth misalignment.

At-home aligners cost under $2,000.

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: If you're considering an alternative treatment, look at the total cost and ensure it's 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.

Best Alternative to Braces: Clear Aligners

Here are some alternatives to braces:

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 $5,000 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

Byte

Byte provides customized invisible aligners. They claim teeth can be straightened in half the time as competitors, and they offer a lifetime guarantee.

byte impression kits



The cost is $1,895. It’s also possible to spread payment across 25 months for a total cost of $2,324.

Candid

candid starter kit

Candid offers clear aligners made of Zendrua thermoplastic. Patients say these aligners are more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing than braces.

Treatment typically takes, on average, six months, and costs $1,895.

NewMouth recommends Candid over any other at-home clear aligner treatment.

SmileDirectClub

smile direct club e1598562602831

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 $1,950 when paid in full upfront or for $85 a month for two years plus a $250 initial down payment.

SmileDirect offers FSA, HSA, and CareCredit. Some insurance plans offer reimbursement for Smile Direct aligners. 

Last updated on May 3, 2022
3 Sources Cited
Last updated on May 3, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Medicaid Adult Dental Benefits Coverage by State. www.chcs.org/media/Medicaid-Adult-Dental-Benefits-Overview-Appendix_091519.pdf.
  2. Medicaid Adult Dental Benefits: An Overview. www.chcs.org/media/Adult-Oral-Health-Fact-Sheet_091519.pdf. Accessed 24 Sept. 2020.
  3.  “Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Eligibility Requirements.” HealthCare.Gov, 2018, www.healthcare.gov/medicaid-chip/childrens-health-insurance-program/.
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