Many people consider braces to be a cosmetic treatment, but for many people, it's necessary for their dental health. Those who have dental insurance can expect their insurance companies to cover some of the cost, but many policies don't cover the treatment entirely. Those without insurance must pay the total cost.
So how much do braces cost? There are several factors to consider, so there's no single answer.
Types of braces
Medical and scientific advancements have improved upon older designs of braces. Even the braces available prior to the 1970s seem primitive in comparison to the orthodontic devices available today.
Back then, orthodontists had to wrap wires around each tooth individually to anchor the brackets to the teeth. With the introduction of dental adhesives, this time-consuming and painful process is no longer necessary. Instead, most people can choose from four main types of braces.
These traditional braces have stainless steel brackets that attach to the front of the tooth. They are durable and affordable, which is why many people still opt for this type, despite the issues with appearance. Patients must visit the orthodontist regularly -- about once per month -- for adjustments. The average cost for metal braces is $5,300.
Made from stainless steel or ceramic, these braces attach to the back of the teeth rather than the front. Installing them this way improves the appearance, but causes other issues. The two main problems associated with lingual braces are tongue injuries and speech problems. The cost range for lingual braces is $5,000 to $13,000.
Ceramic braces blend in with your teeth and aren't as visible, but they can break. CostHelper.com says ceramic braces have an average cost of $4,572.
Clear aligners are best for minor tooth alignment adjustments. Rather than brackets, one maker uses multiple clear plastic trays to move the teeth. The trays are easy to use, have a subtle appearance and require fewer office visits for adjustment. The cost for this treatment is $3,000 to $8,000.
Factors contributing to cost of braces
One of the biggest factors contributing to the cost of braces is the number of office visits required. Traditional metal braces require the most visits because they do not align on their own and require frequent adjustments. Patients must pay for each office visit.
The number of visits is dependent on how long the patient needs to wear braces for the teeth to straighten.
In minor cases, treatment can take just one year. In other cases, treatment requires several years. The average length of time required for treatment is 18 to 36 months.
Additional charges may apply if brackets break and need to be repaired, or extra visits are needed.
In some cases, orthodontic care requires more than just the braces themselves. The patient may require tooth extraction or other dental work to repair teeth before being able to get braces.
Headgear may be necessary to correct spacing issues with the teeth. Once teeth are aligned, patients must wear a retainer to keep teeth from moving back to their original position. All of these accessories come at an additional cost.
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Many parents cringe at the thought of paying for braces for their kids. In many instances, braces are purely for cosmetic purposes, in which case insurance may not cover the cost of the treatment, leaving patients to pay the total cost.
Even if braces are considered medically necessary, insurance companies rarely cover the entire cost. While there are several types of braces to choose from, patients can expect to spend several thousand dollars for treatment, regardless of which option they choose.
Fortunately, many orthodontists are willing to work with patients to come up with payment options that fit within their budgets.
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