Do You Need Braces? Are They Worth It?

Braces are a great way to straighten permanent teeth in older children, teens, and adults. Dental crowding and bite issues are the most obvious during the teenage years. If left untreated, teeth misalignment will get worse with age. 

The most common age to get braces is between 10 and 14 years old. All permanent teeth have grown in by this age, but the jaw is still not fully developed. This makes it possible to fix complex issues with headgear, palate expanders, or space maintainers

Older teens and adults are also candidates for braces. But they are typically not candidates for other devices like headgear because the jaw fully develops by age 16 to 20. Clear aligners (a removable and invisible alternative to braces) are often the better option for adults. 

It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons to determine if braces are right for you.

The pros of braces include:
  • Decreased risk of cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and other oral health issues (straight teeth are easier to clean)
  • Improved chewing and speaking
  • Reduced risk of teeth grinding and chips
  • Precise and accurate tooth movement 
  • Reduced risk of trauma from protruding teeth
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence 
The cons of braces include: 
  • Not suitable for everyone
  • Expensive
  • Often invasive and lengthy treatment
  • Challenging to clean (not removable)
  • Wires and brackets are apparent (unless you choose ceramic or lingual braces)
  • Uncomfortable at first 

Summary

Braces can vary with age because some children in transitional dentition need early orthodontics. These devices enhance your smile, boost your confidence, and improve your oral health. But they are not suitable for everyone and can be expensive. 

4 Different Types of Braces & Average Costs

The four most common types of braces include:

  1. Traditional metal braces 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.
  2. Clear braces, also called ceramic braces, are the same as metal braces except for the design. These 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.
  3. Lingual braces 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.
  4. Invisalign (clear aligners) are non-invasive and removable alternatives to metal braces. Each aligner set is worn from one to two weeks (for 22+ hours a day) until your teeth are straight. Invisalign costs between $3,000 and $8,000.

Summary

There are four types of braces to choose from, including traditional, clear, lingual, and Invisalign. Traditional braces are the most visible, while clear and lingual braces are more discreet (but pricier). Invisalign is a brand of invisible aligners that costs about the same as metal braces. 

How to Find Affordable Braces

In many cases, patients are hesitant about getting braces because of the cost and inconvenience (especially adults). However, there are ways to pay for braces without going over budget:

Braces Discount Programs

Smile for a Lifetime and Smiles Change Lives are nonprofit organizations that offer affordable braces to low-income families. Depending on where you live and your treatment case, the braces may be fully covered. In most cases, though, you’ll end up paying up to $500 out-of-pocket. 

Medicaid/CHIP or State-Sponsored Insurance

Some low-income families and individuals qualify for Medicaid, state-sponsored insurance programs, or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP). 

Some states cover children up to 18, while others cover them up to age 21. In addition, your child must have an orthodontic condition that is considered “medically necessary.”

Dental Savings Programs 

Dental discount plans, also called dental savings plans, work like a club membership. You’ll pay an annual fee and save on oral care services (including braces) throughout the year.

After signing up, you’ll gain access to a nationwide network of dentists that offer 10 to 60 percent savings on preventive and restorative treatments.

Discount dental plans do not require time-consuming paperwork or claim filing. There are also no pre-existing condition restrictions.

DentalPlans offers cost-effective dental discount plans from more than 30 of the most trusted insurance companies in the U.S., including Aetna and Cigna. They are also accepted by more than 140,000 dentists and orthodontists across the country. 

Summary

Braces can be expensive. Fortunately, there are ways to find low-cost braces and alternatives. Braces discount programs (nonprofits), Medicaid, CHIP, state-sponsored insurance programs, and dental savings plans (like DentalPlans) are a few options. 

Cheapest Way to Straighten Teeth: At-Home Aligners

Braces consist of metal brackets and wires, which are visible and cannot be removed. If you are looking for a more discreet teeth straightening option, at-home aligners could be a good fit. 

Aligners are a nearly invisible and removable alternative to braces designed around convenience and comfort. They can be removed at any time for cleaning, eating, and brushing. 

Aligner trays are made of clear, BPA-free, medical-grade plastic. They are molded to the shape of your teeth and gradually move them into the correct position. Each custom-made aligner is worn for about two weeks at a time (22+ hours a day). The length of treatment depends on your plan and the severity of misalignment.

At-home aligner treatment is monitored 100% remotely, which means you will not visit an orthodontist for in-person checkups. Instead, you will send in progress photos through an app to ensure your teeth are moving safely and accurately. 

Summary

At-home aligners are the safest and most effective alternative to conventional braces. They cost thousands less and are more convenient. Keep in mind: remote aligner treatment is not monitored as closely, so there is a slightly higher risk for error. They are also only recommended for patients with minor to moderate bite issues

4 Cheapest Teeth Aligner Brands

Here are the four cheapest at-home aligner brands that cost thousands less than braces

1. Candid

Every Candid treatment plan is overseen by a highly qualified orthodontist with at least 20 years of experience. This ensures that you receive high-quality care from start to finish.

The onboarding and remote monitoring process are also more detailed than other remote aligner brands. 

Candid Wordmark

Candid aligners cost $2,400. While more expensive, Candid places patient satisfaction at the forefront. The brand also does not sacrifice clinical oversight over quick results.

More specifically, Candid doesn’t have a ‘night aligner’ option and treatment tends to take longer than other brands. This is because there is no proof that night aligners are effective; they may actually do more harm to your teeth than good. And moving teeth too fast may increase the risk of tooth loss, future bite problems, and poorer results. 

According to Stephen Belli, a board-certified orthodontist who has treated over 15,000 patients, “if you move a tooth too fast, you can actually cause damage to the bone and gums. And if you don’t put the tooth in the right position, you could throw off your bite, leading to additional damage and wear on the teeth,” (Washington Post).

In addition, Candid treatment is monitored 100% remotely through the Candid App. This app is a complete ‘teledentistry service’ that allows you to connect to a Candid orthodontist at any time

** No other aligner brand has an in-depth teledentistry platform like Candid.

Read our full review of Candid here.

2. NewSmile  

NewSmile is a newer brand of aligners that take between 4 and 10 months to straighten teeth. They are also the only brand that offers a video call service with an impression specialist.

NewSmile logo multicolour 410x

NewSmile aligners do not touch your gums. The trays are trimmed to sit along your gum line in a ‘scalloped fashion.’ This design results in less irritation and makes the aligners even more invisible

NewSmile aligners cost between $1,195 and $1,295. 

Read our full review of NewSmile here.

3. Byte

Byte aligners can straighten teeth in under 6 months (most cases) with consistent HyperByte use. This is a unique acceleration device that safely moves teeth faster with HFV (high-frequency vibration).

Byte Logo

Byte's All-Day Aligners can straighten teeth in 3 months, while the At-Night Aligners straighten teeth in about 6 months (while you sleep).

Byte aligners cost between $1,895 and $2,245. 

Read our full review of byte here.

4. ALIGNERCO

ALIGNERCO is one of the most affordable at-home aligners on the market. The aligners cost between $1,145 and $1,345, which is up to $1,000 cheaper than leading competitors. They also offer night aligners. 

ALIGNERCO is typically a great option if you are on a budget, only have minor teeth misalignment, and do not require hands-on care.

Read our full review of ALIGNERCO here.

alignerco logo

Summary

The most affordable alternatives to braces include at-home aligners like Candid, NewSmile, byte, and ALIGNERCO.

Traditional Braces vs. At-Home Aligners: Which is Right for You?

To determine whether braces or at-home aligners are right for you, read the comparisons below: 

1. Braces Can Fix Complex Issues, At-Home Aligners Cannot

Traditional braces can fix complex orthodontic issues like overbites, underbites, crossbites, and open bites. This is because braces can move teeth individually, while aligners move all of your teeth at once. 

At-home aligners are only recommended for minor cases of teeth misalignment. In some cases, moderate misalignment issues may qualify. 

2. At-Home Aligners are Best for Adults, Braces are Best for Children

At-home aligners require consistency. They must be worn for 22+ hours a day and can be removed at any time. Because of this, remote aligners are only recommended for older teens and adults. 

Braces are fixed to your teeth, so they cannot be removed. Many children also require add-on treatments like headgear and palate expanders. These treatments are not possible with at-home aligners or Invisalign.  

3. At-Home Aligners are More Affordable Than Braces

At-home aligners cost between $1,145 and $2,400. Braces, including Invisalign, cost between $3,000 and $10,000. Braces may be the only option in many cases (especially if you have severe misalignment issues). 

4. Braces are Monitored in Person, At-Home Aligners are Monitored Remotely 

With braces, you have to visit your orthodontist for an initial consultation. After the braces are fixed to your teeth, you’ll see them every few weeks to check progress and adjust the brackets. 

With at-home aligners, treatment is 100% remote from start to finish. You’ll order a kit online, take the impressions yourself, and then send them back.

If you’re a candidate, the company will create your aligners and send them back to you all at once. You’ll send in progress photos/videos via an app throughout treatment. 

5. At-Home Aligners are More Comfortable & Easier to Clean Than Braces

Since at-home aligners are removable, they can be taken out at any time for eating, drinking, and brushing. However, you have to brush and floss your teeth before putting the aligners back in. This ensures the aligners stay clean and plaque-free. 

Braces are difficult to clean between and require special flossing tools. This can be inconvenient for many people. 

Summary

Traditional braces are more expensive than at-home aligners (but treatment is more intensive and accurate). At-home aligners are cheaper and more convenient (but treatment is not monitored as closely). Remote aligners can also only treat minor/moderate bite issues. Braces can fix complex orthodontic problems. 

Affordable Braces: Common Questions & Answers

Why are braces so expensive?

Braces are expensive because treatment is monitored closely by an orthodontist. Treatment also takes longer than other orthodontic services. In addition, many patients require add-on treatments like spacers and headgear, which can raise the cost significantly. 

What is the minimum cost of braces?

The minimum cost of braces is $3,000.

Can I pay for braces with a payment plan?

Yes. Many orthodontists allow patients to pay with a payment plan. Speak with your provider for more details. 

Can I get braces for free?

Some patients are eligible for free braces through Medicaid or nonprofit programs. 

How long will braces take?

Braces take between 12 and 24 months. 

Who is eligible for at-home aligners?

Only minor to moderate teeth misalignment cases are eligible for at-home aligners. If you have severe bite issues, braces or Invisalign will be necessary. 

What is the cheapest teeth aligner available? 

NewSmile is the cheapest teeth aligner available (under $1,300). 

Resources

Blue Ocean Publishing Group. The Million Dollar Smile, Changing Lives with Cosmetic Dentistry. 2018.

Proffit, William R., et al. Contemporary Orthodontics. Elsevier/Mosby, 2019.

Verblio. “Is Teeth Straightening at Home Safe?” ALIGNERCO.

Verblio, and Alignerco. “Teeth Straightening: Invisible Aligners.” ALIGNERCO.

Why Candid?,” Candid Co

Why Byte?,” Byte

How NewSmile Works,” NewSmile

Werner, Alison. “Accelerating Aligner Therapy.” Orthodontic Products, 23 Sept. 2019.

Hyperbyte: The Technology Behind Faster Invisible aligner results, byte.

Weir, T. “Clear Aligners in Orthodontic Treatment.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 14 Mar. 2017

Candid. “Discover the Candid Difference.” Candid.

Tamer, İpek, et al. “Orthodontic Treatment with Clear Aligners and The Scientific Reality Behind Their Marketing: A Literature Review.” Turkish Journal of Orthodontics, Turkish Orthodontic Society, 1 Dec. 2019. 

Home.” Free Braces.

Smiles Change Lives: Discounted Braces Program For Kids.” Smiles Change Lives | Bracing Kids for a Better Future, 27 May 2020.

How to Qualify for Free Braces.” Diamond Braces.

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