How Much Do Braces Cost?
Written by: Dr. Laura Edwards, Orthodontist
Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Oleg Drut, Orthodontist and Diamond Braces CCO
Cost of Braces by Type
Traditional Metal Braces
How to Save Money on Braces
According to a 2018 survey by the American Dental Association, the average cost of braces for children, regardless of treatment type, ranges from $4,685 to $6,500, while the price for adults is slightly higher, $4,800 to $7,135.
Braces cost varies widely depending on a variety of factors:
- The severity of your case and your specific diagnosis
- The orthodontist and practice where you seek treatment
- The orthodontic appliance used for your treatment
- The region where you are treated
As shown above, the type of orthodontic appliance used also contributes greatly to the cost of braces. If you are looking for the most cost-effective braces treatment, traditional metal braces are generally the lowest price. They are the original form of braces treatment and still one of the most commonly used to straighten teeth and create smiles.
Other braces treatments cost more due to factors such as more complex treatment methods, higher-cost materials, and a lower volume of patients treated with that method.
What is Included in The Price of Braces?
The cost of braces generally includes both the treatment and the orthodontic care, including pre-treatment exams, x-rays and imaging, office visits, emergency care, and all adjustments.
Depending on the provider, the up-front cost may include follow-up retention care, and the price of the retainers, but for some providers, this cost is considered extra and will be charged separately when the retention phase begins.
Cost of Braces Emergencies
Depending on the orthodontic providers, emergencies during your braces care may be covered in the cost of visits. Braces emergencies are often easy to treat from home, but some issues may require an office visit, such as a snapped archwire, a loose molar band, or a broken bracket. Emergency visits may also be covered by insurance.
The cost of the orthodontic emergency depends on the treatment required to correct the issue.
If emergency visits are not covered in the cost of your braces and you are paying costs out-of-pocket, here are the price ranges of some common orthodontic emergencies:
Broken Bracket: $25-$50
Lost bracket replacement: $50-$75
Broken archwire: $25-$100
Replacement metal molar band: $50-$75
Using Insurance or Health Savings Accounts to Pay for Braces
There are many ways to save money on braces, but insurance is generally the most effective method to avoid high costs.
If you have dental insurance, you may be able to use it to cover a portion or all of the cost of braces. This depends on the coverage policies of your insurance provider as well as the type of braces treatment you get.
If your dental insurance does not cover payments for orthodontics, you may also be able to purchase supplemental orthodontic insurance that can help cover some braces treatment costs. There are often long wait-times after purchase of orthodontic insurance, which can increase your out-of-pocket expenses, so be sure to gather plenty of information about supplemental orthodontic insurance before you purchase.
With dental or orthodontic insurance, be sure to look into the lifetime maximums offered compared to the cost of your braces. Once the maximum is reached, you cannot use more insurance money and will have to pay the rest out of pocket. Also be sure to check age limits: some insurance companies offer benefits only for children up to 19 years of age and not for adults.
You can also use employer-based health savings accounts to help pay for orthodontic care: Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Limited Purpose FSA, and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRA) can all help cover the cost of braces.
Using Medicaid or CHIP to Pay for Children's Braces
Medicaid, CHIP, and state-subsidized insurance plans often fully cover traditional metal braces treatment for qualifying children and young adults, but are less likely to cover the same treatment for adults. In order to qualify, the braces treatment must be deemed medically necessary, rather than cosmetic, so you’ll need to visit an orthodontist for a consultation (usually complimentary or covered by Medicaid) to determine whether your child's case can be covered by Medicaid/CHIP.
Other Money-Saving Tips for Braces
Whether or not your insurance covers braces, there are a variety of ways to lower the costs of straightening your teeth:
Monthly payment plans. Many orthodontic providers allow you to pay for your orthodontic care in low, flexible monthly payments, rather than up-front. Look for an orthodontist with an interest-free payment program, so you don't have to pay interest on your costs.
Up-front payment discounts. If you can afford to pay for your braces up-front, you may be offered a discount for doing so. Ask your provider if they offer this kind of savings option.
Care Credit Cards. Healthcare credit cards offer a special line of financing to help you cover the cost of medical care, and can usually be used to pay for orthodontic care. This is a good option if you require immediate financial assistance to pay for your braces. You’ll need to be approved for a care credit card; your orthodontist's administrative team can help you learn more.
Office promotions and seasonal savings deals. Look to see if an office near you is running any offers on certain types of braces, or seasonal deals like back-to-school or holiday discounts. Many offices also offer family discounts, so if you’re getting treated with another family member, or have several children that need braces, you can save on treating more than one at a time.
Get treated by a licensed orthodontist, not a dentist. While dentists can straighten teeth with orthodontic appliances, orthodontists receive further specialized training to master the art of orthodontics. For that reason, orthodontists have the most specialized experience, and the most skill, which generally leads to shorter treatment times, and lower costs for you. In addition, because they don’t offer the wide range of dental services that general dentists do, they can keep costs lower by only treating orthodontic patients.
Larger orthodontic practices have higher patient volumes and lower prices. The more patients an orthodontic practice sees, the lower the cost per patient for the materials, instruments, and sophisticated machinery used in straightening teeth. A larger orthodontic practice will generally pass those savings onto the consumer. Plus, larger orthodontic practices are staffed with more orthodontists, so you have more flexibility in scheduling office visits.
Check what's included in your cost. Make sure retainers and follow-up visits are included. Retainers are a necessary part of orthodontic care, because after treatment you’ll still need retainers to keep your teeth from shifting back. Ask your orthodontist about what’s included in the price of braces.
Find out about costs for emergency visits. Accidents can happen, even for the most disciplined braces patients. Broken brackets, lost rubber bands, loose archwires are all some common issues that may require an emergency visit. Many orthodontic providers include all emergency visits as part of the cost, but they may be extra at some orthodontic practices. Find out before you select a provider.
Look into Lifetime Guarantees for your smile care. Many offices offer some kind of post-treatment guarantee, such as a Lifetime Smile Maintenance Guarantee. This can help save you money later on. Ask about any lifetime guarantees from your orthodontic provider.
Adult Braces Cost vs Kids Braces
According to the American Dental Association study mentioned above, adults braces tend to cost slightly more than children's braces, from $4,800 to $7,135. The exact cost of braces varies widely depending on the specifics of your orthodontic condition, where you seek treatment, and the region where you live.
Adult braces tend to come with a higher price tag because adult teeth are more permanently settled in their positions than children’s teeth, which makes them more difficult to move. This can lead to longer treatment times or more complex orthodontia.
Furthermore, adults looking to straighten their teeth tend to be interested in the more discreet orthodontic options, such as clear braces or Invisalign clear aligners, rather than traditional metal braces, which are very noticeable when worn. Less visible forms of orthodontia tend to be more expensive, which raises the price of the care.
Finally, insurance may be more likely to cover children’s braces than adult braces. State-subsidized plans and Medicaid/CHIP, in particular, generally offer partial or full coverage for traditional metal braces for children and young adults, but are less likely to cover these services for adults.
However, orthodontic treatment for adults has risen in popularity over the last 50 years: according to research by the American Association of Orthodontists, 1 in 3 orthodontic patients is now over the age of 18. Orthodontists are committed to helping patients straighten their teeth affordably, so there are now more options than ever for achieving great smiles without stretching your finances.
Ways to Pay for Braces Treatment
There are many options for paying for braces. While some practices require payment up-front, the vast majority of orthodontists allow you to pay in monthly installments, and offer support in acquiring coverage from insurance, securing finance through a care credit card, and more. Below are some common ways to pay for braces.
Monthly payment plans
Working with your orthodontist’s administrative staff, you will find a regular monthly amount that you can afford to pay once a month, cutting the full cost of your braces into manageable monthly installments. Many practices offer plans with no money down, so you can start treatment right away and get billed monthly only for the installment sum. Be sure to find out if the practice offers monthly payments with or without interest, as this will make a difference in the final cost of your care.
Healthcare credit cards
These credit cards, such as CareCredit or Wells Fargo Health Advantage, offer special financing just for medical procedures, which can be helpful, especially if you want to pay for all your treatment up-front. Be sure to check the interest rates and have a repayment plan prepared. You can also use a regular credit card to pay for braces treatments.
Medicaid or CHIP
Children under 21 with qualifying orthodontic diagnoses can generally have their traditional metal braces fully covered under Medicaid or an alternative state-subsidized insurance plan. Only 5-15% of orthodontic cases are medically necessary, however: if your child's orthodontia is considered cosmetic, Medicaid may not be able to cover the cost. Your child's orthodontist will determine their diagnosis in an initial consultation, often complimentary.
Insurance and HSA/FSA Plans
If you have dental insurance or supplemental orthodontic insurance, you may be able to use this cover the cost of your braces. Employer-based health savings accounts can also be used, including HSA, FSA, LCFSA, and HRAs. Talk to your insurance provider, your employer, and your orthodontist about how to use this coverage to help you pay for your braces.
Can You Get Braces for Free?
Orthodontic treatment is never “free”, because orthodontists must be paid for work and the high-quality medical equipment costs must be covered. However, it is possible to get out-of-pocket expenses covered for braces.
This is true only for certain patients with specific circumstances: generally, state-subsidized insurance plans or full coverage like Medicaid or CHIP will pay for traditional metal braces for children under 21 with a qualifying medical diagnosis.
However, most braces treatment is to correct cosmetic issues rather than medical issues: only 5-15% of braces wearers actually have a dental condition that qualifies for Medicaid coverage. If your child does qualify, however, Medicaid or CHIP will fully cover the cost for treatment, including x-rays, imaging, office visits, the appliance, and follow-up care and retainers.