girl with braces smiling

Cost of Braces

“How much do braces cost?” is a question that is searched an average of 10,984 times a month according to Google Trends. That means that there are a lot of people out there who are interested in getting this orthodontic treatment but are worried about the cost. If you are one of these people, you may have researched for a good 10-20 minutes and then logged off because the prices vary all over the place and the ones that are inexpensive seem too good to be true.

Before reading any further, you should know that the only way to get a real price is to actually go to an orthodontist in your area and get a consultation. But for your reference, the average cost of comprehensive adolescent orthodontic treatment in the United States is $5687 and $5,977 for adults (Source: ADA 2016 Survey of Dental Fees)

There are several factors that are taken into consideration when an orthodontist gives you a quote for your treatment:

1.) What your “braces cost” actually means

In your orthodontic treatment, the actual cost of “braces,” meaning the actual brackets and wires used on your teeth, is not the main cost. In-fact, the brackets and wires account for only a few hundred dollars. Braces are merely just a tool used by an orthodontist to address your orthodontic needs, just like the surgeon needs a scalpel and sutures to perform the surgery.

An orthodontic treatment is a medical service meant to treat patients, not a commodity. Thus, when you are looking to see how much “braces cost,” you need to remember that you are not “buying” braces. Rather, you are seeking a professional medical service to improve your esthetics and bite issues.

As such, the cost largely depends on the level of expertise and the care you will receive from the provider. So in general, If you are seeking an orthodontic treatment from a novice orthodontist/ dentist that can be found in a dental school setting, or you go to a corporate chain type of high-volume practice, the treatment fee will be relatively low. On the other hand, if you are at a boutique practice and you are receiving a personalized service, this will command a higher fee.

Of course, there are exceptions just like in restaurants where you can find a hidden gem where you can have an excellent meal at an affordable price or pay a hefty amount of money for bland food at a high-end restaurant.

One of the most controversial “braces” in the market currently is Do-It -Yourself type of clear aligners, such as Smile Direct Club, Candid, Byte, etc. These typically range from $2000-2500 depending on the brand, and there are usually no office visits. Before signing up for these however, there are many limitations and difficulties about these products. Most importantly, the goal of the treatment using these products is not the same as traditional orthodontics.

These aligners are designed for minor teeth alignment and are not geared towards bite correction. Orthodontics is not just about teeth – it deals with jaw growth and facial harmony along with the correction of bite issues such as overbites, underbites and crossbites. Without the ability to use tools such as palate expanders, rubber bands, attachments or IPR, these aligners do not have the same treatment goals. That is why these companies often advertise short treatment times.

Considering that even professionals sometimes struggle to get a good mold of your teeth, expecting a well-fitting custom appliance with great results from these products may be unrealistic. If you are considering these products, visit your orthodontist first.

Oftentimes, orthodontists may be able to treat minor cases for similar pricing if not lower than the DIY aligner brands. The plus side to going to an orthodontist is the piece of mind you get from having experts to talk to should you have any questions or concerns.

2.) Your Orthodontic Issues

The issues with your teeth won’t be the same as the person that came in the door before you and that has a major effect on price. Oral issues that are more difficult to fix include severe bite issues such as deep bite, overbite, underbite, crossbite and open bite, impacted teeth such as impacted canines, missing teeth, and severe crowding or spacing issues.

These sorts of orthodontic issues typically require a longer treatment time and more adjustments to achieve the desired results. Most orthodontic treatments that deal with fixing issues with the jaw will fall in this category as well because shifting the jaw is a lengthy process and in some cases requires additional treatment tools such as a palate expander or TADs (Temporary Anchorage Devices). Because of this, if you are diagnosed with any of these issues, the cost of orthodontic treatment would be on the higher end.

There’s also the flipside, where if you have minor issues such as: small gaps, minor crowding, minor bite issues and slight tooth rotation, you won’t need to pay nearly as much. The treatment duration will typically be shorter and require less office visits. For these reasons, the price of braces would be on the lower end.

3.) Insurance for Braces

Insurance coverage in orthodontics varies widely. Depending on the insurance company, an orthodontic treatment can be viewed as a cosmetic treatment and it’s harder for adults to get coverage compared to kids. There are also many orthodontic practices that don’t accept certain insurances.

This is because the dental insurance companies often place terms and conditions for the orthodontist that makes accepting such an insurance plan less desirable. For instance, the reimbursement for the state-funded Medicaid orthodontic treatment is around half of the market rate.

On top of that, the office of the orthodontist must file paperwork on a periodic basis. In addition, sometimes insurance companies deny an insurance claim which creates an unpleasant situation for the orthodontist; If the claim is either denied or terminated the doctor’s office will now have to ask the patient to pay the difference. So with the lower reimbursement and added administrative burden, many orthodontists choose not to participate in certain insurance plans.

When shopping for an insurance plan for your orthodontic treatment, it is important to read all the details of the policy. Just like any other company, there are insurance companies that are easy to work with whereas some are not. Some of the helpful tips include:

A. Does your insurance policy cover orthodontics? Even in the same insurance company, there are different insurance plans and some plans do not cover orthodontics.

B. Does your new insurance policy have a waiting period? Sometimes insurance plans require you to wait before you can make a claim. For example, if you have orthodontic insurance coverage of $1500 life time benefits, but have a 3 month waiting period and started your insurance claim before that 3 months was over, the insurance company will not pay towards your treatment.

C. What is the age limitation? Many dental insurance plans cover orthodontic treatment, but with an age limit. For example, if your parent’s policy says you are covered up to age 21, anyone over that age limit will not qualify. Moreover, if you start treatment and you go over the age limit while you are in treatment, you may not get your full benefit.

D. Orthodontic insurance benefits are almost always paid overtime. Just because you have an insurance plan that has $2000 orthodontic benefit, it doesn’t mean that all that benefit will be paid out all at once. Oftentimes they are paid every quarter, every month, or twice a year. So if your insurance policy is paying for a part of your treatment, make sure you continue with the insurance coverage or else you will be liable for any unpaid portion.

E. Perform cost-benefit analysis. Most private orthodontic insurance plans have lifetime benefits of about $1500- $2000. This means your insurance company will pay $1500- $2000 towards your treatment. There are plans with higher benefit amounts but are rare.
However, keep in mind that you must be current on your policy throughout the whole treatment time. If your sole purpose on purchasing your insurance policy is to help with orthodontic treatment, make sure your monthly premiums are worth the benefit.

As a rule of the thumb, assuming a typical orthodontic treatment takes 2 years to complete, an insurance premium over $60/month needs more careful consideration as the savings you gain from the benefit payment will be negated by the monthly premium you will be paying.

4) In-Office financial plans/discounts

The last factor that will determine your cost of braces is the financing options that an orthodontic practice may provide. Depending on where you choose to proceed with the treatment, they might provide book-keeper’s courtesy if you pay in full or if you put a certain percentage as downpayment.

Some might be running seasonal promotions as well or have year-round courtesy for family members, veterans…etc. Many offices that specialize in orthodontics usually have in-house financing programs where you can make payments with 0% interest, usually up to the treatment time length. There are also third-party financing programs that extend payment lengths, but these usually have some interest cost.

As you can see there are many different factors that go into the cost you will pay for braces. It’s important to see an orthodontist for a consultation to get an accurate price for your custom treatment plan. If price is something that is a priority for you when looking for an orthodontist, it’s a good idea to go to several places and get different quotes.

Most orthodontic practices are understanding and even offer their consultations at no cost to you. If you would like to set up a consultation with Yang Orthodontics During these times we have also added our virtual consultations that are available for anyone that feels safer speaking with Dr. Yang from the comfort of their home.

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