Whether you've just learned that your child needs braces or looking to improve your smile as an adult, determining how much braces cost depends mainly on the type of treatment and length of time you or your child will wear the braces. However, taking into consideration those variations, insurance, and location, the average cost of braces for children could be between $4,685 and $6,500, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). The average cost of braces for adults is $4,800 to $7,135.
Remember, while the cost of braces may seem daunting, a healthy smile can make a huge difference in confidence for both kids and adults. Luckily, braces have improved a lot in the past couple of decades. Technology has made them more comfortable and attractive than the braces most parents remember wearing.
Braces for Kids
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends an initial visit to an orthodontist by age seven at the latest. A child typically has enough adult teeth by then to assess the developing teeth and jaws. During the initial assessment, the orthodontist will take a panoramic x-ray and evaluate the bite and dental impressions to determine what treatment the patient will need. You will schedule a second appointment to discuss the treatment plan and decide the steps to take for orthodontic treatment. Additional treatment could include a palatal expander or other appliances if the orthodontist feels that it's necessary to correct the bite.
Braces for Adults
While childhood may be the ideal time to remedy cosmetic or bite problems, adults can still look forward to achieving great results by seeking orthodontic treatment. In fact, according to the American Association of Orthodontists, one in four orthodontic patients are over 18. If you're thinking about orthodontic treatment as an adult, there are few elements to consider:
- Bone maturity: Adult bones have stopped growing, making them denser, so surgery may be needed for structural changes.
- More prolonged treatment: It may take longer than it would for a child or teen. The length varies, on average, treatment lasts about two years.
- Additional dental specialist: Depending on your age, your orthodontist may refer you to a periodontist to evaluate if there are any issues regarding gum tissue or bone.
Types of Braces
Braces straighten a misaligned bite by using gentle, constant pressure to shift teeth gradually. An orthodontist determines a braces treatment plan after first performing a comprehensive oral exam. This exam includes taking panoramic (full picture of head) and cephalometric (side view of head) x-rays and dental impressions.
- Traditional braces: Metal braces hold the wires between the brackets in place and are ideal for correcting 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. Traditional metal braces which include orthodontic adjustments usually every 6 weeks will range in price from $3,000-$5,000.
- Self-Ligating Braces: The braces are attached to the tooth, and a metal door on the bracket holds the archwire freely into place. This helps to move teeth naturally as they straighten. Unlike traditional braces, there is no need for rubber bands or elastic rings to hold the orthodontic wire to the bracket. There are self-ligating ceramic braces for those seeking a less noticeable option. Still, both metal and ceramic versions deliver a constant, gentle force to align teeth to the desired position. Typically, they’re more expensive initially, but because the braces are self-ligating, you'll pay for fewer dental appointments.
- Lingual braces: If the classic metal mouth look doesn't appeal to you, lingual braces secure to the back of the teeth. An important difference between lingual and ordinary braces is that lingual brackets must be customized to fit the teeth. This extra fabrication means that the cost could range from $5,000 to $13,000 depending on the number of teeth that the lingual braces are attached to.
- Ceramic braces: While the design is similar to metal braces, this type of braces are made with a transparent ceramic that matches the color of the teeth, creating a subtler appearance. Ceramic braces are well-suited for many patients without severe misalignments. Your orthodontist will let you know if you're a good candidate for these braces after examining your teeth. Their average cost is $2,000 to $5,000.
- Removable aligners: These are an alternative to traditional braces and fit over teeth similar to a mouthguard. They can be easily removed before eating and for cleaning purposes. The removable aligner treatment plan includes wearing many aligners during your orthodontic treatment. The old aligner will be removed each time you visit the orthodontist, and a new aligner will be replaced to move your teeth. Meet with your orthodontist to determine if clear aligners are a good choice for you. A full treatment series of properly fitted aligners costs between $1,000 and $5,000.
Ways to Pay
If you have insurance, it might cover a portion of the cost, particularly the dental appointments needed. The treatment is usually eligible for a flexible savings account (FSA) reimbursement. If you can handle it without financial aid, pay in advance for some or all of the treatment which typically qualifies you for a discount.
Keep in mind, it's not just about asking, "how much do braces cost?" Your orthodontist will diagnose and determine the correct treatment at the right time, to help you or your child achieve a great smile. The costs for each type of treatment plan noted above will vary depending on location, orthodontist, age, and specific diagnosis.