There is no doubt about it—dental work is expensive. This may be especially true for orthodontic work, which isn't covered by most dental insurance plans for adults. If you're looking to straighten your smile, options like braces can cost upwards of $6000.
There are some dental insurance plans that make it easier to pay for braces. But you need to know what to watch for—including policy exclusions and caps. With so much to consider, we put together a list of the best orthodontic options to consider, so you can flash those pearly whites without shelling out an arm and leg.
Best Overall : Delta Dental
Delta Dental insurance is the country's largest dental insurance provider. The company covers over 80 million people nationwide and its network includes 155,000 dentists. Delta Dental began in 1955. AM Best gave Delta Dental of California and its affiliates an "A" (Excellent) rating. Also, each region has a Better Business Bureau page, making ratings vary by location.
Delta Dental offers four options for orthodontic coverage:
- Delta Dental Premier®
- Delta Dental PPO
- DeltaCare® USA
- Delta Dental PPO Plus Premier
Delta Dental Premier® is a fee-for-service plan with the most coverage and largest network. Delta Dental PPO is a mid-range option, with lower out-of-pocket costs for in-network providers. DeltaCare® USA is a pre-paid plan and the cheapest option. This plan has set co-payments, no annual deductibles, and no annual maximums. Delta Dental PPO Plus Premier is a combination of the Delta Dental PPO and Delta Dental Premier. Annual and lifetime caps vary by policy, according to a representative.
The total cost for braces depends on the exact treatment you need. You will need a pre-treatment estimate from your dentist or orthodontist to get started. The coverage varies by plan and only applies when you are undergoing active treatment.
Delta Dental earns the top spot because the company has a large network of providers. According to a representative, pricing varies depending on the plan and where you live. In Massachusetts we were quoted plans with a great variety of price options.
Runner-Up, Best Overall : Humana Insurance
Humana Insurance is one of the largest dental insurance providers in the United States. The Louisville-based company, in business since 1961, began offering health insurance plans in 1984. Humana offers dental insurance in all 48 states and a network of over 260,000 dentists. The company has an A- (Excellent) rating with AM Best and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
Humana offers a variety of individual dental plans, depending on your state, including these:
- Loyalty Plus plan
- Dental Value plan
- Preventative Plus plan
- Dental Savings Plus plan
- Complete Dental
We like Humana as our second best because of their plan options and no waiting periods:
- Loyalty Plus: May receive a discount from participating orthodontists.
- Dental Value: No orthodontic coverage.
- Dental Preventive Plus: May receive a discount from participating providers.
- Dental Savings Plus: Up to 20% discount from the HumanaDental PPO Network.
- Complete Dental: No orthodontic coverage.
According to a representative, these plans are like a discount dental plan for orthodontic work, which means there are no annual or lifetime limits.
According to a representative, pricing varies depending on the plan and where you live. A quote for a California woman under the age of 50 offered plans with very affordable monthly rates.
Best Price : Aetna
Aetna is a national insurance company with 50 years of experience in dental insurance. The company has about 13 million members and you have access to more than 120,000 dental providers nationwide. They have an A (Excellent) rating with A.M. Best.
Aetna offers two individual plans—Aetna Dental® Direct and Aetna® Vital Savings Dental Discount Card. Aetna Dental® Direct doesn't cover braces. But you may get a discount—15% to 50% off retail, according to their website—on orthodontics through the Aetna® Vital Savings Dental Discount Card. This is a dental discount plan without waiting periods and there are no annual or lifetime limits, according to a representative.
Aetna® Vital Savings costs $7.99 per month for dental-only or $9.99 for their dental plus Rx card. It’s the cheapest option on our list, but the plan has average reviews. Aetna® Vital Savings has an A+ from the Better Business Bureau and 3.9 stars from 442 reviews from ConsumerAffairs.
Best Coverage Types : Spirit Dental
Spirit Dental & Vision is a nationwide online insurance option operated by Direct Benefits, Inc. They provide dental, vision, life, and disability insurance for employer benefit plans and also sell to individuals. Ameritas Life Insurance Corp underwrites the policies. It has an A+ rating through the Better Business Bureau and an A (Excellent) rating with AM Best.
Spirit Dental has two dental plan options—Spirit Network and Spirit Choice. Spirit Network and Spirit Choice offer coverage for orthodontic care to dependent children under age 19. Spirit Dental will cover 10% in year one, 25% in year two, and 50% in year three. The lifetime maximum coverage is $1,200 per child.
Spirit Dental earns recognition for coverage because of the company’s guaranteed acceptance, no waiting periods, and a $100 deductible. The monthly premiums will vary based on where you live.
Best Value : DentalPlans.com
DentalPlans.com is an online marketplace for discounted dental plans. The Plantation, Florida-based company has been offering an alternative to dental insurance since 1999. The company offers access to a network of over 140,000 dentists nationwide. They work with leading dental insurance providers like Aetna, Careington, and Cigna. While the company isn't accredited by the Better Business Bureau, they have an A+ rating.
Dental savings plans offered by the company may reduce the cost of braces by as much as 60%. Please note the discount offered by these plans can vary a lot. There are no waiting periods and no annual spending caps, according to a representative.
But it's important to read the fine print. The company has 3.5 stars from 104 reviews on ConsumerAffairs. According to several verified reviewers, the service may be difficult to cancel.
DentalPlans.com earned a spot on our list for two reasons—the companies they work with and the affordable price tag. According to Consumer Reports, you can expect to pay $80 to $200 per year for dental savings plans. You can pick a plan based on dentist, procedure, or savings.
Best for Low Deductible : Cigna
Cigna is another major insurance company. The company dates back to 1792 and has a network of over 93,000 dentists in more than 297,000 locations. The company has an A (Excellent) rating from A.M. Best. According to their website, they cover over 17 million people nationwide.
Cigna Dental 1500—the company's most comprehensive dental plan—offers coverage for orthodontic work. You have to pay 50% of the provider's fee after meeting a lifetime deductible of $50. There is also a twelve-month waiting period and a lifetime limit of $1,000.
Cigna's other two individual plans—Cigna Dental 1000 and Cigna Dental Preventative —don't offer coverage for braces. But if you're part of an employer's group plan, you may have more options for orthodontic work including braces and retainers. You can learn more by reviewing your plan materials or contacting your HR department.
Cigna made our list with the company's Cigna Dental 1500 plan. The plan's lifetime deductible of $50 is tough to beat. Like Delta Dental and Humana, the monthly premiums will depend on where you live.
Best for Adult Braces : Careington 500 Dental Savings Plan
Careington International Corporation is a Frisco, Texas-based company that offers discount dental plans nationwide. The company has been around since 1979 and has over twenty million customers nationwide. Careington has an A+ rating through the Better Business Bureau.
The Careington 500 Dental Savings Plan offers access to one of the country's largest networks of dentists and specialists. The plan also includes 20% off orthodontics, including braces, for both children and adults.
You can start using the plan immediately—which is a big perk. There are also no annual or lifetime caps. But not everyone is happy with the plan. The company has a 3.9-star rating on ConsumerAffairs, based on 427 ratings.
Careington earned a spot on our list because of the company's coverage for adult braces—which can be tough to find. The plans start at $8.95 per month or $89 annually. There is also a one-time, $20 processing fee when you join.
What Is Orthodontic Insurance?
Your health insurance plan is separate from your dental coverage. If you're looking for orthodontic coverage, you should learn about each of the treatment options—and which one may best suit your needs. These may include retainers, braces, or Invisalign®. The price will vary depending on what your dentist or orthodontist recommends.
What Does Orthodontic Insurance Typically Include?
According to eHealth, dental insurance plans with coverage for braces may include exams, orthodontic treatment, retainers, and post-treatment. Before signing up, you should watch for annual and lifetime caps which may reduce your benefits.
What Does Orthodontic Insurance Typically Exclude?
Every dental insurance plan is different. One of the biggest exclusions you may see is braces for adults. Any dental procedure for cosmetic purposes is also usually excluded. DIY, or mail order invisible aligners may also be excluded. Some plans also have a waiting period that you must adhere to before receiving orthodontic treatment.
What are the Expected Costs of Orthodontic Insurance?
The average cost of dental insurance—which may or may not include braces—depends on the type of plan and where you live. Discount dental plans will be the cheapest, costing just $80-$200 per year. Although national data for individual plans are difficult to find, group plans range from $15.81 to $20.86 per month, according to the National Association of Dental Plans.
Is Paying for Orthodontic Insurance Worth It?
It can be tricky to choose the right dental insurance plan for braces—especially when you're over 18. If your current plan doesn't offer coverage, you may consider a supplemental policy. But you need to read the plan summary before signing up. Watch for waiting periods, exclusions, and policy caps.
If you can't afford the plan you want, you may have other options. You may have access to payment plans, a health savings account, or a flexible spending account at work. You may also get a discount through a local dental or orthodontic school.
How We Chose the Orthodontic Insurance Companies
It's not easy to find a dental insurance plan that covers braces. We analyzed several factors to find the best options. We looked for established companies with a solid reputation. We also compared cost, coverage, nationwide availability, waiting periods, and policy caps.