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What are Braces?

Braces are a commonly used orthodontic treatment. They typically consist of small brackets fixed to the teeth along with wires that connect the brackets. The wires put pressure on the teeth, shifting them into the correct position. 

The procedure corrects issues with crooked teeth or gaps and with jaw or bite alignment. The treatment aims to achieve a straighter, beautiful smile.


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The Different Types of Braces

There are various types of dental braces that orthodontists may recommend to improve teeth' alignment and appearance. Each type has advantages and disadvantages that must be considered:

Traditional Metal Braces

Traditional braces consist of metal brackets and wires. These brackets and wires are attached to the teeth and can be altered as necessary. Sometimes the brackets are paired with colored elastic fittings, which are more popular among children and teenagers.

metal braces on teeth

Metal braces are typically the least expensive choice. However, they are extremely effective in straightening teeth and fixing alignment issues. They are one of the most common types of braces used today. 

Traditional metal braces are also the most noticeable option. Wearing metal braces may make some people feel self-conscious about their smile. It is possible to improve the appearance of braces by using different colored bands over the braces. However, these bands are still noticeable.

Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces are like traditional metal braces in terms of size and shape. However, they are made from a ceramic material that matches the natural color of your teeth. This material makes the braces less noticeable.

teeth with ceramic clear braces

These braces are just as effective as metal braces at shifting the teeth into the desired position. However, they are much less noticeable due to their color. This makes them more favorable for many people.

Ceramic braces are typically more expensive than metal braces and may become stained if they are not cared for properly.

Lingual Braces

Lingual braces are like traditional braces in that they are produced from metal. However, they are attached to the inside of the teeth. They are not visible from the outside.

lingual braces graphic

These braces have the advantage of not being visible to others because they are hidden behind the teeth. However, they often take longer to shift the teeth into the correct position and are less effective. Lingual braces may also be uncomfortable to wear as they have direct contact with the tongue. Additionally, lingual braces are more challenging to clean.

Invisalign

Invisalign braces do not consist of brackets and wires. Instead, they are a series of custom-made, clear plastic aligners. The aligner trays are worn over the teeth to straighten them.

invisalign aligners

These aligners are simple to remove and replace. Patients meet with an orthodontist in person to map out a personalized treatment plan. Then, they receive a new set of aligners every two weeks throughout the treatment process. Most people require between 18 and 30 clear aligners during treatment to achieve the desired result.

Invisalign aligners are attractive to many people because they are almost invisible. Plus, they enable greater freedom for eating and drinking. 

However, when compared to other types of braces, Invisalign can be more expensive. Additionally, Invisalign clear braces can only correct minor to moderate dental issues in teenagers and adults.

Direct-to-Consumer Clear Aligners

Direct-to-consumer clear aligners involve the patient receiving a mail-order impression kit. The patient sends the impression kit back to the company where an orthodontist assesses the patient’s bite. Then, they produce a custom set of clear aligners based on their review of their teeth.

Various companies are offering direct-to-consumer clear aligners. Some popular brands include Candid, Byte, and SmileDirectClub.

How Much Do Braces Cost (Average Costs)?

The total cost of braces can vary significantly for each type. The cost of treatment can depend on where you live. Orthodontists based in more rural areas are often less expensive than those in bigger cities.

  • Traditional Metal Braces —$3,000 - $7,000
  • Ceramic Braces — $4,000 - $8,000
  • Lingual Braces — $8,000 - $10,000
  • Direct-to-Consumer Clear Aligners —$1,700 - $5,500
  • Invisalign —$3,000 - $8,000

Does Insurance Cover Braces?

If you have health or dental insurance, it may cover the cost of braces. It is best to check with your insurance provider to determine if the treatment is covered.

Most dental and health insurance plans do not pay for orthodontic care and treatment for people over 18 years old. However, most partially cover children under the age of 18.

If your health or dental insurance treatment plan does not include orthodontic cover, you can also purchase supplemental orthodontic insurance. When choosing a plan, always ask about the percentage they cover and the lifetime maximum. The coverage amount differs significantly, but a typical figure is 50 percent coverage with a $1,500 lifetime maximum per child.

It is also suggested that you keep the same dental care insurance plan during your orthodontic treatment. Most orthodontic protection will not cover braces if they have already been applied before the plan's effective date. This would be counted as a pre-existing condition and becomes an out-of-pocket fee.

Other Ways to Pay for Braces 

If you do not have dental insurance, there are various other payment options for braces:

Will Medicaid Cover the Cost of Braces? 

If considered medically necessary, Medicaid will cover dental braces for children. In some states, Medicaid will cover adult braces if there is a medical need. Ask about the percentage of insurance coverage and the lifetime maximum.

Dental Discount Plans 

Dental discount plans are a type of membership providing discounted prices on dental health services. It is essential to understand that dental discount plans are different from dental insurance.

Members pay an annual cost upfront instead of monthly installments or premiums like typical dental insurance. They then receive a dental discount card to present to each dentist for lower prices on services.

Dental discount plans do not reimburse dentists and orthodontists like regular insurance does. Instead, patients must pay the dentist directly.

It is essential to use a dentist in your plan’s network to receive any discounts. Otherwise, you’ll pay full price.

Payment Plans (Monthly Payments)

Dental insurance plans work with a third-party finance company. Many dentists and orthodontists have arrangements with particular insurance companies. 

Payment plans are not any form of insurance. They are a way to spread the cost of your dental treatment to make it more affordable. You borrow the money required for treatment and make monthly payments.

Resources

Braces Have Changed, From Metal to Tooth-Colored to Clear, United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA), June 2017, https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/braces-have-changed-metal-tooth-colored-clear 

Dental braces and retainers, Health Direct, August 2018, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dental-braces-and-retainers 

Dental coverage in the Marketplace, Healthcare, https://www.healthcare.gov/coverage/dental-coverage/ 

The scoop on dental discount plans, Humana, https://www.humana.com/dental-insurance/dental-discount-cards

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Updated on: December 23, 2020
Author
Ellie Swain
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Medically Reviewed
erica medical reviewer
Dr. Erica Anand
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