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How much do braces cost?

The cost of braces can definitely vary. Here's a look at the average cost of braces.

Jeff Craven
Contributing Writer

So you’ve looked at your teeth straightening options and decided to join the one in four adults seeking orthodontic treatment in the U.S. today.

 Maybe you want a straighter smile for an upcoming wedding, a new job, or finally are making enough money to have your teeth straightened—something you or your parents couldn’t afford in your teens. Whatever the reason, it’s time to find an orthodontist, look at prices, and—

 Wait a second. How much do braces cost, anyway? Can the price be different based on where you live, what orthodontist you visit, and the type of braces you wear? And how much are braces if you have dental insurance?

 The answer, unfortunately, is it all depends. How much braces cost varies based on a long list of factors, including:

-       Where you live

-       The difficulty of your specific case (Is it just teeth shifting, or do your teeth need to be rotated, or an overbite/underbite corrected?)

-       The type of braces you choose

-       The orthodontist who develops your treatment plan

-       The number of times you need to visit the orthodontist while you’re wearing your braces

-       Whether your dental insurance covers braces, and how much they cover; and

-       Whether you’re a child, an adolescent or an adult

 Straightening your teeth is a very individualized process, and ultimately the orthodontist you visit is the one who can tell you exactly how much your braces will cost.

 What we can do is get as close as possible to what it might cost for braces so you know what to expect when you make your first visit to an orthodontist.

 Let’s explore some of the factors that change the cost of braces, and what you can do to lower the price.

 

Cost can vary based on your state or region

 The average cost of braces varies across the country. The American Dental Association released a survey of dental fees in 2018 that can help figure out how much braces cost based on where you live in the United States [1]. The term the survey uses for braces is a catch-all phase, “comprehensive orthodontic treatment,” which is what the orthodontist would charge for the full procedure.

 As you might expect, the highest average fees for comprehensive orthodontic treatment were in areas of the country like the Mid-Atlantic ($5,730.46) and the West ($5,730.89) where big cities like New York and San Francisco are located. In the Midwest, you can expect to pay a little less for comprehensive orthodontic treatment ($5,386.11), and the lowest average cost was in the middle of the country in states like Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska ($5,376.43).

 But these numbers are only the average of the cities and states for each region. For example, Mid-Atlantic in the ADA fee survey refers to New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The average fee for an adult to get braces in the Mid-Atlantic region ($5,730.46) is going to be much different than the fee an adult would pay for the same procedure in Manhattan in New York City ($11,559.86) [2].

 Cost of braces is also different based on your age. In the AAO survey of dental fees, the average cost of comprehensive orthodontic treatment for adolescents was $5,748.17, while it was nearly $400 more for braces for adults, at $6,100.21. The ADA fee survey differentiates between adult patients, adolescents who have all their adult teeth but are not done growing, and transitional dentition—children who are in the transition period between losing their baby teeth and having their adult teeth come in.

 The website Bracesinfo.com uses information from the U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics, the ADA, and American Chamber of Commerce Research Association to calculate the price of braces by U.S. city, and is a great resource for you to look up the average cost of orthodontic procedures in your area, and by age (child, adolescent, or adult).

 

 Costs are also different based on the type of braces

 If you’re looking at different prices for braces, you also need to consider the type of braces you’ll be getting, as the cost can vary based on which option you pick [3].

 Here is a quick refresher on the types of braces currently available (all prices listed include out-of-pocket costs):

 

Metal braces are what you normally think of when imagining braces—a metal bracket with wires held on by elastic ties.

Average price: $4,397

 Self-ligating, or Damon braces are like traditional metal braces, but they use a sliding device to hold the wire instead of elastic ties.

Average price: Between $3,800 and $4,800, according to one manufacturer [4].

 

Clear braces, also called ceramic braces, are clear or colored to match your teeth.

Average price: $4,572

 

Finally, lingual braces are braces placed on the back of the mouth, rather than attached to the front. Not offered by all dentists.

Average price: Between $5,000 and $13,000

 

 Does insurance cover braces?

 Some, but not all dental insurance covers braces. In the U.S., braces are still considered a cosmetic treatment and is not seen as a medically necessary expense, and carrying orthodontic insurance is not required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

 If your employer offers dental insurance and you’re enrolled in it, you can request a plan brochure to see what services are covered. If you are enrolled in an ACA plan, you can look at your plan brochure on Healthcare.gov.

 And if you don’t have dental insurance, but want it specifically to cover braces, there are resources available to help you out. First, Medicaid will cover braces for children under the age of 21 if they are deemed medically necessary [5].

 There are also independent insurers that will sell you insurance that covers braces. Some companies, like DeltaCare, cover orthodontics through their DeltaCare USA Individual/Family Dental Program, but they don’t always offer it in all areas. (For example, the DeltaCare USA Individual/Family Dental Program is offered in Pennsylvania, but not in Delaware, where I live.)

 Another option is a dental savings plan, which is not dental insurance, but offers discounts against dental procedures. DentalPlans, an online marketplace for these plans, is a good resource for searching for plans that can help you save some money against the cost of braces.

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