People are always looking to improve their appearance. A new hairstyle, a wardrobe revamp or a new gym membership are all popular options. Some people desire to fix a smile that hasn't been smiling back the way they'd like, and braces are one option to consider. Whether you get braces as a child or as an adult, you should know what braces cost.
Braces straighten a misaligned bite by using gentle, constant pressure to shift teeth over a period of months or years. An orthodontist determines your braces treatment plan after first performing a comprehensive oral exam, usually with X-rays, full-mouth scans and dental impressions.
Besides specializing in straightening teeth, orthodontists are trained to understand and predict muscular and skeletal growth in the face and jaws. Their additional two to three years of additional study outside of dental school equips them to solve problems that an ordinary dentist can't (and that the average person with a rubber band and a mirror definitely cannot without putting their oral health in extreme danger).
Braces for Kids
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends an initial visit to an orthodontist for children when you first recognize an orthodontic problem, and by age 7 at the latest. A child typically has enough adult teeth by age 7 for an orthodontist to assess the developing teeth and jaws.
The orthodontist might conclude that your child should start treatment immediately, that orthodontic work can wait a year or two, or that no treatment is necessary. Besides braces, they might also recommend treatments or appliances like a palate expander.
Braces for Adults
Just because you're currently writing checks to your teenager's orthodontist doesn't mean that braces don't benefit adults, as well. Adults may not have received orthodontic treatment during childhood to fix oral problems, such as overbites and underbites, crooked and crowded teeth and jaw positioning issues. Those mouth conditions may cause problems, such as tooth decay, gum disease and speaking or biting problems, so fixing them can mean more than a cosmetic lift.
Regardless of your age, braces aren't one-size-fits-all. There are multiple brace types that your orthodontist might recommend.
Options for Braces
Also referred to as traditional braces, metal braces are ideal when it comes to tooth overcrowding. They give your orthodontist the ability to move teeth in small increments and are often less expensive than other cosmetic options or aligners.
If the classic metalmouth look doesn't appeal to you, lingual braces are secured to the back of the teeth. An important difference between lingual and ordinary braces is that lingual brackets must be customized to fit your teeth. An impression of your teeth is first taken and then sent to a dental lab to create customized brackets. After six weeks, the brackets are ready to be cemented to the backs of your teeth by an orthodontist. This extra fabrication means that lingual braces often cost more.
Ceramic braces have a similar design to metal braces but a more subtle appearance. The braces are made of transparent ceramic, and the wires can also be transparent. While traditional braces are ideal for crooked and overcrowded teeth, ceramic braces are geared toward patients with less serious alignment issues. Your orthodontist will be the one to determine if ceramic braces are the proper treatment option.
Staying on the custom-made theme, removable aligners are an alternative to traditional braces. Made of clear plastic and resembling mouth guards, you can easily remove them before eating and for cleaning purposes. Most treatment plans involve swapping them out for a new, slightly different set every few weeks to gradually shift teeth. Although clear aligners are available as mail-order kits on the internet, only an in-office visit with an orthodontist can tell you if your teeth, jaw and gums are healthy enough to support shifting with an appliance.
Braces Cost: A Comparison
No matter what option works best for you or whether you have them as a teen or as an adult, braces are not cheap. Bankratelists some average costs for various types of braces:
- Metal braces. Traditional metal braces and monthly orthodontic adjustments will run around $5,300.
- Lingual braces. These specialty braces designed to improve appearance range from $5,000 to $13,000.
- Ceramic braces. Yes, they're hard to see. But they can also break. Their average cost is $4,572.
- Removable aligners. A full treatment series of properly fitted aligners costs between $3,000 and $8,000.
Straightening your smile with braces is one thing. Paying for them is quite another. Not all insurance plans cover orthodontics, and those that do may not pay for the full treatment if it's considered an optional cosmetic procedure.
Just like finding affordable dental care, you can seek a variety of options for budgeting for the cost of braces. If your employee health insurance offers a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), take advantage of it. You can put pre-tax dollars in the account to help pay for what insurance doesn't cover. You can also talk to your orthodontist about a payment plan. Many orthodontic offices provide some type of financing options with the steep cost of braces in mind.