How much do adult braces cost?
Talk to your orthodontist about options for braces, like Invisalign (pictured), along with cost. (Photo by Brandon Smith)
Braces effectively position and align your teeth by consistently exerting pressure to move them. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, treatment for braces begins between ages 9 and 14. But an increasing number of adults are getting braces, too.
The following four factors can affect the cost of your investment in braces.
Types of braces
If you have dental insurance, the cost of braces for adults will depend on your specific coverage.
• Regular stainless-steel metal braces are still popular because they are affordable and durable. Metal braces are the most visible, and they can stain your teeth. According to CostHelper.com, the average cost of metal braces in the U.S. is about $4,900 without dental insurance and $3,400 with dental insurance.
• Ceramic braces blend in with your teeth and aren't as visible, but they can break. CostHelper.com puts the average cost for ceramic braces at about $4,600 without insurance, and nearly $2,600 with insurance.
• Lingual braces are concealed behind your teeth and cost more than stainless steel and ceramic but require a skillful orthodontist to install. They don't work well on small teeth and get in the way of your tongue, so they can potentially cause speech problems and tongue injuries. Expect braces installed behind teeth to cost $5,000 to $13,000, but note that many dentists don't offer them.
• The company that makes Invisalign braces estimate treatment costs ranging from $3,500 to $8,000. However, the national average is $5,600 with insurance, it says. With insurance it estimates out-of-pocket costs at about $2,100. These braces are mostly invisible and are best for people with minor alignment issues.
In addition to getting braces and having them adjusted (usually once a month), dental preparation is often needed and will affect your overall cost. Sometimes you'll need standard dental work—like a deep cleaning or filling replacement—before the orthodontist puts your braces on. In some cases, you'll require teeth extractions to facilitate the movement of your teeth.
If you need to wear headgear before brackets and wires are put on your teeth, this will increase the cost. You may also need to buy a retainer after the braces are removed to keep your teeth from returning to their original spot.
Length of service
The more preparation and dental work you require, the longer the process will take to complete, and the more you'll pay. Simply put, more office visits means more bills. The average treatment time for braces is 23 months, but it can take significantly more time or less, so talk to your orthodontist. Once your braces are on, you typically have to see the dentist once a month to have the braces adjusted.
Not all orthodontists charge the same prices for their services. Things such as operational overhead will affect how much they charge. After all, they are running a business. For example, if the lease of the building where one dentist operates is higher than of a dentist a town over, chances are the orthodontist with the more expensive rent will charge more.
That's why it's important that you shop around before making a choice. If the dentist accepts your insurance (and assuming your insurance covers a portion of the cost), you can end up paying significantly less.
You may not realize that the price of braces is often negotiable. Check the price in your area with Healthcare Blue Book, a free online guide that lists fair prices for healthcare services. The fair price is what a health service provider typically allows from insurance companies as full payment, which is substantially less than the billed amount.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story that originally posted October 12, 2012.