The Average Cost of Braces

Boy with braces laughing with friends

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Misaligned teeth can cause a great deal of difficulty with eating and keeping your teeth clean, and they can even lead to speech difficulties in some cases. If you or a child need braces to correct misaligned teeth, you may be concerned about the cost and whether it's covered by your dental insurance.

Prices will vary depending on the type of braces and treatment, where you live, and what type of insurance you have. The total treatment cost for braces can range from $3,000 to $10,000 on average, but let's look at how this breaks down by type of treatment, along with insurance factors.

Types of Braces

The type of treatment you choose will have a significant impact on the total cost of your orthodontic treatment. Here are the most common options:

  • Traditional metal braces: Traditional metal braces are constructed of stainless steel and, although some people avoid metal braces because they are so visible, they are still a very popular choice for braces because of their affordability. The estimated cost of metal braces is $3,000 to $7,000.
  • Ceramic braces: Ceramic braces blend in with your natural teeth and are not visible. However, there is a danger of these braces breaking. They run on average from $4,000 to $8,000.
  • Lingual braces: Lingual braces are custom made and are not visible. They fit behind your natural teeth. The price for lingual braces can be quite expensive, anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000. Not all orthodontists offer lingual braces.

Alternatives to Braces

Some providers offer a clear plastic alternative to braces called “Invisalign.” Invisalign braces are designed for people with minor alignment issues, and the cost will depend on how many trays are needed, along with how much care.

  • Clear aligners: An alternative to traditional braces, these removable, transparent inserts are designed to be worn for around 20 hours per day. You will have to go through several different sets, depending on how much movement your teeth require. Costs range from $4,000 to $7,000
  • At-home clear aligners: There are at-home versions of these clear inserts that can work well for patients who don't require as much orthodontic work and won't need as many replacement trays. These will typically cost between $1,500 and $3,000.

Some dental plans consider Invisalign braces a cosmetic treatment and do not cover the cost. If Invisalign treatments are not covered, you may want to consider using a Health Savings Plan option such as an HSA or FSA to pay for the cost.

Are Braces Covered by Insurance?

Finding insurance to cover the cost of braces can be tricky. Many dental plans do not cover orthodontic treatment. If your dental plan does not cover braces, you can purchase a supplemental orthodontic dental plan to help pay for the cost.

Orthodontic insurance plans are set up differently than most insurance plans in the way the maximum insurance benefit works. Most insurance plans have a yearly maximum amount that will be paid. With orthodontic insurance, there is typically a lifetime maximum benefit. This means that once you have used the maximum amount payable for orthodontic procedures, there is no more coverage. It is important to learn what the lifetime maximum benefit is for an orthodontic plan before purchasing the policy.

If your existing dental plan will pay for part of the cost for braces, the supplemental orthodontic policy will kick in and pay the difference in cost up to the lifetime maximum benefit allowed.

Typical Coverage

Most orthodontic insurance plans will pay for these services (after co-pay and deductible):

  • Pre-orthodontic treatment exam
  • Treatment planning
  • X-rays
  • Tooth extractions (as recommended by the orthodontist in the course of treatment)
  • Retainers
  • Invisalign (some plans do not provide coverage, considering Invisalign a cosmetic procedure)

Orthodontic plan benefits will vary based on the provider and the options available in your state. If you purchase an orthodontic insurance plan, read the policy coverage details carefully before scheduling any orthodontic treatments.

Do not schedule any orthodontic treatments until you have found an insurance plan to cover the cost. If your plan has a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), you could realize significant savings on the cost of braces by using an orthodontist in the preferred provider network.

What if you do not have insurance and still need braces for yourself or a family member? If you or a child need braces but find the cost prohibitive, you may be able to work with an orthodontist to come up with a payment plan that will fit your budget. Many orthodontists offer plans that will allow you to make payments on braces for up to five years. It certainly does not hurt to ask for assistance if you need help in paying for your orthodontic work.