Why Do Braces Cost So Much in the US?

Why Do Braces Cost So Much in the US?

Why Do Braces Cost So Much in the US?

  • Published Date: 09 Oct 2021
  • Updated Date: 09 Oct 2021
  • Reading Time: 11 min

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Parag Mathur D.D.S

Treatment costs often seem like the biggest barrier to enjoying a beautiful new smile. Traditional braces have a reputation for being expensive—and for good reason. The average cost of traditional metal braces is around several thousand dollars.

If you are wondering how much braces cost, we’ll explain the cost factors that go into placing traditional braces. One cost-effective alternative, Low cost braces from ALIGNERCO, can save your hard-earned money.

Types of Braces Available in the U.S.

The market for braces offers a wide range of treatment options. Each type of braces comes with unique cost factors. There are several options for braces.

Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces are a type of traditional braces that puts ceramic brackets on the front of teeth. A guiding archwire then connects the ceramic brackets and pulls teeth into better alignment.

Unlike traditional metal braces, which use metal brackets, ceramic braces are less noticeable. Dentists match the color of the ceramic to the natural color of enamel.

While the treatment option is more aesthetically pleasing, ceramic braces are often more expensive than traditional braces. The material is also prone to discoloration, which can require strict dietary restrictions.

Lingual Braces

Lingual braces use brackets, wires, and attachments just like traditional metal braces. Unlike traditional braces, dentists put lingual braces on the back of teeth. The advantage to this type of braces is that no one will see them.

Some patients find the contact between their tongue and braces distracting. The specialized type of braces comes with a cost premium. Lingual braces are one of the most expensive types of braces on the market.

Traditional Braces

Traditional metal braces have been around for decades. Modern braces are less clunky than they were in the past.

An orthodontist puts titanium or stainless steel brackets on the front of the teeth. An archwire is then passed through each bracket.

As the dentist tightens the wire, the archwire pulls teeth toward cosmetically pleasing positions. Plastic bands are typically used to hold the wire in place.

Self-Ligating Braces

One variation of traditional braces, self-ligating braces, uses clips rather than bands to hold the archwire in place. Self-ligating braces are easier to clean and maintain. They are also slightly more expensive than traditional braces.

Clear Aligners (Clear Braces)

There are many manufacturers of clear aligners. The concept works similarly for each company. Clear aligners are clear trays that are custom-made to fit over teeth.

The trays fit snuggly over one or both arches. When regularly cleaned, the trays are effectively invisible.

While traditional braces use wires to pull teeth, clear braces make direct contact with teeth. They gently nudge teeth into better alignment over time.

How Much Do Braces Cost in the United States?

How much are braces? Dr. Howard Fine, an orthodontist in New York, recently told U.S. News & World Report that the minimum braces price is around $5,000. Those figures, he said, vary depending on factors like the provider and geography.

A 2020 survey by the American Dental Association found that the average cost for adult braces is $6,000. U.S. News & World Report broke down the average cost of different types of braces.

    • Clear aligners ($4,000 – $7,400)
    • Traditional metal braces ($3,000 – $7,000)
    • Ceramic braces ($4,000 – $8,000)
    • Lingual braces ($8,000 – $10,000)

These figures are just an average and may not apply everywhere. Braces tend to be more expensive in large urban areas where the general cost of living is higher.

Clear aligners are often advertised as a cost-effective alternative to traditional braces. But clear braces can still cost several thousand dollars, depending on the company you go with.

If cost-related factors are holding you back from enjoying the benefits of a beautiful smile, consider using our SmileFlex plan. You can receive advanced clear aligner treatments for only $86/month.

Why Do Braces Cost So Much?

The two largest cost factors for braces are the material costs of the treatment and the medical costs of working with dental professionals.

Dentists earn an average hourly wage of $88 per hour, according to Salary.com. Orthodontists can earn twice that hourly rate. Each time that you visit the dentist or orthodontist for adjustments, you are paying for their time.

You are also paying for the time of staff and assistants every time you visit the dentist or orthodontist. Office overhead is also factored into treatment costs.

Those fees add up. Traditional braces can require multiple years of visits to the orthodontist.

Initial Consultation and Exam

Putting on braces is a lengthy and costly procedure. Before you become a candidate for ceramic, lingual, or traditional braces, your orthodontists will determine if you are a good candidate for braces in general.

Then, your orthodontist will determine if your teeth and gums are healthy. Your orthodontist will then use x-rays or other forms of imaging before setting a date for placing your braces. The consultation and exams are all factored into your overall expenses.

Putting On Your Braces

Attaching braces can take up to two hours. Before that step, you may need to have spacers placed. Spacers create adequate room between teeth for tooth movements.

Your orthodontist will prep your teeth. Then, brackets will be attached using special dental cement. Once your brackets are ready, your orthodontist will run the archwire through the brackets.

Once you begin orthodontic treatment, you will have to purchase special cleaning devices to care for your teeth.

Adjustments and Repairs

Throughout your orthodontic treatment, you will need to visit your orthodontists for check-ups and adjustments. Your doctor will visually inspect your braces to make sure your teeth are moving smoothly.

Your orthodontist will also check the condition of your braces. Any brackets, wires, or bands that are damaged or broken will need to be repaired.

In many cases, you will have to pay for repairs. The cost of replacing ceramic brackets, for example, may be costly.

Removal of Your Braces

Your journey to enjoying straight teeth will end with a final visit to the dentist to remove the hardware. This process can take up to two hours to complete. Losing your removable braces may lead to more fees, so consider buying a mouthguard case to store your retainers in.

Can You Get Braces For Free?

For the most part, orthodontic treatments are considered cosmetic. This means that they are not eligible for programs like Medicaid, but there are a few exceptions.

Depending on what state you live in and your child’s eligibility, some programs like Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) and other programs for low-income families are eligible if the teenager needs braces for medical reasons.

Medical reasons that a minor may require braces include:

    • Excessive overjet
    • Cleft palate
    • Difficulty chewing
    • Jaw alignment problems
    • Severe underbite, crossbite, or overbite
    • Impacted teeth
    • Hyperdontia or other congenital tooth problems

This list is by no means comprehensive. Your dentist will diagnose any medical conditions that may allow your child to qualify for free braces.

While free braces may not be a reality for most people, you can ask your dentist or orthodontist about discounts. Some dental offices offer discounts for veterans or for orthodontic treatments that include multiple children.

How You Can Save Money While Getting Braces

If you are still considering going the traditional braces route, there are several steps that you can take to reduce the cost of braces.

Shop Around

You probably have a dentist or orthodontist that you regularly use. That shouldn’t stop you from calling around area offices to price shop. Pricing can vary considerably, even within the same city.

Choose Low-Cost Braces

Ceramic braces may be more attractive, but any type of braces can deliver drastic cosmetic results. Prices vary, but no-frills metal braces can be found for under $5,000.

Visit an Orthodontic School Clinic

Dental and orthodontic schools need a steady supply of patients. The procedures will be supervised by an accredited dentist. The treatment fees are often considerably lower than at private practices.

Buy Dental Insurance

Dental insurance will not likely cover everything, but it may be worth the investment. Most dental insurance programs  cost around $40 a month, depending on the type of coverage you are seeking.

Dental insurance may pay for a percentage of your treatment or it may cover the cost of the initial exams.

Start Saving

Having an exciting goal (like a beautiful smile) can be a great motivator to set aside a few dollars here and there. With a modest savings of $50 a month, you can afford one of our treatment plans in just over a year.

Sign Up for Tax-Exempt Savings Plans

health savings account offers a tax-exempt way to cover medical expenses. This can be a great help if your dental insurance has a high deductible. If the dental procedure qualifies as a medical expense, you can withdraw funds without having to pay taxes.

If your braces are medically necessary, you may be able to deduct those expenses from your taxable income. Be sure to keep records of all costs related to your braces if that treatment was performed for medical reasons.

Seek Services from a Dental School

Dental colleges allow students to perform procedures under the watch of medical professors. The schools help dental students gain valuable experience. Patients also benefit from treatments that often cost a fraction of the market rate.

Watch for Special Discounts

Private dental practices frequent run promotions. You can watch for those deals on social media or the dentist’s website. Visiting the websites of area dentists can also reveal discount programs.

Ask About Payment Plans

Most dentists understand that not everyone has $7,000 on hand. Don’t hesitate to ask about payment plans. ALIGNERCO offers payment plans that divide your treatment cost into 11 or 12 easy monthly payments.

Community Health Centers

The Health Resources and Services Administration manages community health centers that provide affordable dental treatments. Fees are typically based on your income. You can find more information at the HRSA.gov site.

Apply for Financial Assistance

There are several government programs that may help cover part or all of your braces. Medicaid funds vary by state. The federal program is designed to help adults who have low incomes.

Medicare is meant to financially help individuals who are over the age of 65. CHIP is a federal program that subsidizes medical costs for children.

Most states have a CHIP program. Typically, it covers children up to age 19.

Take Proper Care of Your Braces

One cost-saving measure simply involves taking care of your braces. Broken brackets and wires may add additional costs.

Keep oral hygiene in mind as well. Cavities that form while you wear braces may lead to costly restorative treatments later on.

If you have metal braces, avoid eating sugary or hard foods. Brush your teeth regularly. A water flosser can help remove plaque.

Clear aligners are easy to clean. Be sure to remove the clear braces twice a day to brush and floss. You’ll want to gently brush your clear aligners using a toothbrush and warm water.

Does Insurance Cover Braces?

Typical dental insurance plans won’t cover the cost of getting braces. The main reason is due to the cosmetic nature of braces. While some adults and teens seek braces to improve chewing ability or to correct jaw issues, most people are simply keeping a more symmetrical smile.

Children’s dental insurance plans are more likely to include some level of orthodontic treatment. If you aren’t sure, call your provider.

Another option is to purchase supplemental orthodontic coverage. This type of insurance is specifically designed to cover treatments using braces. Be sure to ask about the percentage of treatment covered and the lifetime maximum.

Purchasing a policy with a $1,500 lifetime maximum won’t be of much help with an $8,000 treatment, for example.

Is There an Affordable Alternative to Braces?

Traditional metal braces are no longer the only orthodontic treatment available. Clear aligners have revolutionized cosmetic dentistry. ALIGNERCO’s online braces have further reduced the cost of teeth straightening.

Avoid Costly Visits to the Dentist

Invisalign offers clear braces, but those treatments require regular visits to the dentist. As we described earlier, each visit to the dentist adds considerably to the overall cost of treatment using clear aligners.

Order from the Convenience of Home

ALIGNERCO’s cost-effective clear aligners do not require visits to the dentist or orthodontist. Simply order our convenient impression kit. Once we receive your impressions, one of our dental experts will customize a treatment plan.

Forgoing the need to see a dentist allows our company to pass those savings on to our customers. ALIGNERCO’s treatments also save you time.

Enjoy the Same Orthodontic Treatment as Expensive Competitors

Your clear trays will arrive in the mail soon after. Simply wear the trays for 22 hours a day and watch how your smile begins to transform.

ALIGNERCO’s clear aligners work similarly to expensive treatment options like Invisalign. Each new tray is slightly straiter than the last tray. With each new tray placement, gentle pressure will be put on specific teeth.

Over time, gentle micro-movements nudge teeth into better alignment. Depending on the extent of your cosmetic issues, your treatment may last a few months or several months. Some teeth alignment problems can take more than a year to correct.

How Much Do Clear Aligners Cost?

If you are wondering how much do braces cost, the answer may come as a pleasant surprise. ALIGNERCO offers multiple treatment options that are designed to meet your cosmetic and budget needs.

SmileAdvantage is our most affordable plan. At $945, the treatment includes a retainer and free teeth whitening kit. SmileFlex can be paid for through 12 payments of $86.

If you aren’t ready to commit, consider ordering an impression kit for $39.99. Shipping is free.

Once we received your impressions, our technicians will show you a preview of what your new smile will look like. Once you see your smile preview, you can continue the journey by ordering one of our cost-effective treatment plans.

Can You Use HSA and FSA to Get Clear Aligners?

ALIGNERCO proudly accepts HSA (Health savings account) and FSA (Flexible Spending Account) payments. A Flexible Spending Account, which is sometimes called a flexible spending arrangement, is an account that is used for specific out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

You won’t have to pay taxes on funds that are withdrawn from your FSA account. Some employers contribute to FSAs.

An HSA allows users to set aside money on a pre-tax basis. The funds can only be used on qualified medical costs.

Benefits of Clear Aligners Over Metal Braces

ALIGNERCO’s clear braces offer cost-savings advantages over traditional metal braces. Customers who undergo our convenient and affordable treatments can enjoy numerous additional benefits.

  • A predictable treatment timeline
  • No dietary restrictions
  • No need to visit the dentist or orthodontist for adjustments
  • Comfortable treatments that don’t require wire tightening
  • No need for uncomfortable attachments

ALIGNERCO’s clear braces are discreet. When properly cleaned, few people will be able to tell that you are wearing the aligners.

You can easily remove the clear braces when needed. If you are eating or having a photo taken, simply remove the braces and place them later.

Unlike metal braces, our clear aligners are easy to clean and maintain. Simply brush the trays twice a day using a toothbrush and warm (not hot) water.

FAQs About Braces Cost

The decision to undergo orthodontic treatment requires careful consideration. These FAQs can help answer any questions that weren’t covered in the article.

Yes, clear aligners are considered an orthodontic treatment. Most orthodontic treatments are covered by FSA and HSA accounts.

In that case, simply pay the difference using another form of payment. If you have further questions, feel free to email one of our team members at team@alignerco.com. Someone will provide options to pay your remaining balance.

Properly aligned teeth are easier to clean and maintain. Once your treatment is finished, it will be easier to brush the surfaces of your teeth. This can lead to a lower risk of cavities and gum disease.

Absolutely. We proudly offer two plans: SmileFlex (require a soft credit check) and SmileFlex Easy (no credit check). For details, please visit our pricing section.

We offer worry-free protection for your smile. Our extended plan offers a new retainer every six months. The plan also includes on-demand replacement retainers.

We sure do. Visit our coupon page for new deals and discounts.

We accept all major forms of credit cards. We also accept Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal.

Yes, we are grateful for the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces. Active duty members of the military and veterans can enjoy an additional $50 off our prices.

Take the First Step Toward a Beautiful Smile Today

Don’t let worries about treatment costs keep you from enjoying a beautiful smile. Now that you know how much braces cost, you understand the advantages of using ALIGNERCO’s high-quality and cost-effective clear aligners.

Whether you are a teenager or an adult, we look forward to welcoming you to our ALIGNERCO family. To start the process, take our free online assessment. From there, a member of our team will guide you through the next steps.

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Hourly Wage for Dentist Salary in the United States. (n.d.). Salary.Com. Retrieved October 9, 2021, from https://www.salary.com/research/salary/benchmark/dentist-hourly-wages

Facts about Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate | CDC. (2020, December 28). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/cleftlip.html#:%7E:text=What%20is%20Cleft%20Palate%3F,of%20the%20palate%20are%20open.

Publication 969 (2020), Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans | Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.). IRS. Retrieved October 9, 2021, from https://www.irs.gov/publications/p969

Health Care Options, Using a Flexible Spending Account FSA. (n.d.). HealthCare.Gov. Retrieved October 9, 2021, from https://www.healthcare.gov/have-job-based-coverage/flexible-spending-accounts/

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Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Parag Mathur D.D.S

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