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Braces are orthodontic devices that straighten crooked and misaligned teeth with a system of metal brackets and wires.
When people think of orthodontics, braces are typically the first thing to come to mind. Dental braces are used for aesthetic and functional reasons, not only to correct a patient’s smile but also to realign their jaw.
Braces are available for people of all ages, although children between 10 and 14 are the most common age group to undergo treatment.
There are many different types and over a hundred brands of braces to choose from.
For adults, there are more aesthetic options available for those who don’t want visible metal braces. For example, clear ceramic braces mirror the size and shape of metal braces but are actually made of porcelain.
Four common types of dental braces include:
Traditional metal braces are the most effective and affordable orthodontic treatment option.
They fix overcrowding, align the teeth, and reposition the jaw. An orthodontist easily moves the teeth in small increments during routine check-ups. For children and teens, traditional braces are the most popular option. Options for adults are also available if they do not mind visible metal brackets.
Traditional metal braces may cost between $3,000 and $7,000.
The main difference between the two types is that ceramic braces have tooth-colored brackets, which means they blend in with natural teeth and are less noticeable. The rubber bands and elastic components of clear braces are also see-through or white. Invisible braces are ideal for teens and adults.
You can expect to pay a little more for clear or ceramic braces. They may cost between $4,000 and $8,000.
Lingual braces are a lesser-known alternative to traditional metal braces. The main difference is that the brackets and wires are placed on the backs of the teeth, allowing them to be effectively invisible to others.
Aside from being placed behind the teeth rather than in front of them, lingual braces use the same hardware and methods as traditional “outside” braces.
Lingual braces are more challenging to place, so they’re on the high end when comparing expenses. Expect a price between $8,000 and $10,000.
Self-ligating braces are like traditional metal braces, with one key difference: instead of using elastic or metal ties (ligatures), the brackets keep the wires in place on their own.
Traditional braces will generally have their ligatures changed at each adjustment visit. Self-ligating brackets act as their own ligatures, so they can be adjusted without replacing anything.
These specially designed brackets can be either active (putting pressure on the wires) or passive (simply sliding in place). Either way, they can make visits to the orthodontist shorter. They may also make oral cleaning easier and cause less discomfort than traditional braces.
The cost of self-ligating braces is comparable to that of traditional braces, but they can be slightly more expensive. Expect to see a price in the range of $3,000 to $8,000.
They may cost the same as traditional metal braces, but sometimes cost much less, especially in the case of at-home aligners. Patients must wear each custom aligner for up to three weeks.
With clear aligners, teeth move a fraction of a millimeter at a time and require fewer in-office visits. Aligners are a popular option for teens and adults, especially if their teeth alignment issues are less severe.
Clear aligners vary widely in cost depending on the brand, quality, and treatment model (in-office vs. at-home). Direct-to-consumer aligners for at-home treatment may cost less than $1,500, while more expensive aligners (especially in-office) may cost as much as braces ($3,000 or more).
Orthodontic treatment differs for every patient depending on their needs, jaw and bone structure, and age. There are five main components of braces that connect to realign teeth and create a healthier smile over time, including:
The most popular dental braces use brackets, which are small square pieces of metal or ceramic. They are placed in the center of each tooth and are staggered depending on the patient’s needs and how their teeth are aligned.
A metal archwire fits through the center of the brackets and applies ongoing pressure to the teeth. The wire gradually shifts teeth into their ideal positions.
Ligatures go around each bracket to ensure the archwire stays in its slot. Typically, they’re made of elastic, consisting of little rubber bands that encircle each bracket.
Elastic ligatures also help guide teeth into their correct positions. The elastics come in a variety of sizes and colors and are replaced during every orthodontic adjustment appointment.
There are two common alternatives to standard elastic ligatures:
Note that self-ligating braces don’t require ligatures since the self-ligating brackets keep the archwire secure on their own.
Coils, also called coil springs, are positioned between two brackets when the teeth are too close together (overlap). Coils separate the teeth and restore a patient’s bite.
Rubber bands are attached to hooks and connect the top and bottom brackets. They ensure the teeth line up properly and help reposition the jaw. Rubber bands are placed and removed daily by the patient.
The following are general price ranges for the options we’ve discussed in this article:
Dental insurance that includes orthodontic benefits may reduce the average cost of braces by as much as 50%. Dental insurance for braces is required for children in some states. For adults, however, insurance might not cover much of the cost.
Policies vary between individuals and insurers, so check with your provider to be sure how much coverage you’re offered.
Several things can factor into the overall cost of braces treatment:
As we’ve already noted, the cost of braces treatment can vary widely depending on type. More advanced technology, greater comfort and convenience, and more extensive care will all be more expensive.
This is why ceramic and lingual braces cost more than traditional metal braces and can make self-ligating braces a bit costlier too. Clear aligners also vary significantly in price because many brands offer different levels of quality and care.
Another factor in the overall cost of braces is whether or not your dentist includes certain additional charges. For example, your dentist may charge you separately for:
The cost of braces can also be affected by:
There are several ways to pay for orthodontic treatment:
Dental insurance generally offers partial coverage for braces and other orthodontic treatments. It’s unlikely to provide full coverage, especially if you are an adult.
Some policies, however, don’t cover any orthodontic work. Even ones that do may not cover more discreet and convenient (in other words, expensive) options like lingual braces or clear aligners.
However, a dentist can deem braces medically necessary in certain circumstances. This may allow you to get coverage even if your insurance policy doesn’t normally cover orthodontic work.
Look at your insurance policy to know what is and isn’t covered. Check with your provider if you aren’t sure.
You may be able to use tax-free funds from a health savings account (HSA) or flexible savings account (FSA) to cover the cost of braces. Check with your account administrator to be sure.
You may be able to get braces at a more affordable rate by going to a dental school. Supervised dental college students can perform many of the same services as a private practice and generally offer them at a significantly lower price.
You may also qualify for discounts based on income. You can check with practices in your area to find out if any of them will offer an income-based sliding pay scale.
Orthodontic headgear is a term for appliances that can treat various bite problems.
The appliances attach to your face or head with a neck strap. Treatment is usually only necessary if a child has an overbite, underbite, overjet, crossbite, or open bite. Most cases of mild to moderately crooked teeth can be straightened with braces alone.
Headgear can only be used in combination with braces. Braces move teeth, while headgear is capable of influencing jaw growth. Only children are candidates for headgear because their jaws are not fully developed.
Dental braces are the most common type of orthodontic treatment. While they are often associated with children and teenagers, adults can also get braces.
There are several kinds of braces, which can vary greatly in comfort, convenience, and quality. Because of this variety, as well as other factors such as age, location, and insurance coverage, braces have a wide possible range of costs.
Talk with your dentist or orthodontist about your orthodontic needs and concerns. Research your options and examine your insurance policy to help determine what’s best for your situation.
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