The Cost of Braces: a detailed look at the price of a perfect smile

One of the questions we hear most often is ‘how much do braces cost?’ While the price can vary depending on your individual needs, on average a 18 month treatment plan is likely to range between $3,500 to $9,000. This is a significant investment, and it’s entirely understandable that parents and patients want to know exactly what it covers.

The good news is that most orthodontists are happy to provide all-inclusive treatment quotes. That means that everything from the initial fitting of the braces and regular adjustment visits to the removal of braces, retainers, and post-treatment follow-up for 1-2 years are all included in the overall fee. As well as there is no hidden expenses along the way, many orthodontists offer payment plans to help you comfortably spread out the cost.

To help you understand what you can expect from your orthodontic treatment plan, we’ve broken it down below, with and exactly what you’re paying for, and factors that affect the treatment cost:

The type of treatment

Whether you’re looking to get standard metal braces, ceramic braces, lingual braces, or have your heart set on a series of clear aligners, there will be variations in cost depending on which option you go for. This is due to the cost of the materials and the amount of customisation required.

For example, while metal braces and lingual braces might use similar materials and methodology to straighten your teeth, lingual braces generally need to be custom-made to ensure they fit snugly along the inside of your teeth to limit the impact on your speech. Standard metal braces, on the other hand, use pre-formed brackets and archwires that come in a variety of sizes which the orthodontist then selects and custom fits for each individual patient. An increased level of customisation generally increases the cost of treatment.

The Braces

One of the expenses the orthodontic fee will cover is the cost of the braces themselves.

Braces are quite intricate, with three parts that work together to achieve noticeable results.

There are the brackets, which are attached to the individual teeth with a special glue and are made of surgical quality stainless steel or tooth-colored ceramics; the archwire, which engages into each bracket and provides the gentle and consistent forces used to guide the teeth into place; and the ligature elastics or bracket “gates” which lock the archwire into the brackets.

As well as your braces, you might also need adjunct appliances such as a jaw expansion plate or a bite correction appliance as part of your orthodontic treatment. These are high-quality pieces of precision equipment that are custom-made.

Cost-influencing factor: treatment duration

Orthodontic treatment can last anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, depending on the particulars of your case. The duration of your treatment is determined by the specific problem which needs fixing and the type of tooth movement required. For example, rotating a single tooth may be achieved in a few short months, but guiding a tooth down and pushing it into alignment with the rest of your teeth may take longer. Correcting jaw alignment and fixing your bite may also take longer to correct. It is common to see very positive changes during the first 6-12 months of treatment, however, it does not mean that the ongoing subtle changes are any less important.

The number of appointments you need

While many people may have braces on for up to two years, the number of visits they need to make to the orthodontist in that time may vary. This can differ based on the complexity of your case, how your treatment progresses, if you have any risk factors that need to be closely monitored, or if you have trouble looking after your appliance and require additional monitoring. Your orthodontist will be able to advise you of how frequently you should be booking in for an adjustment or assessment throughout your treatment, which will help you work out your budget for the course of your treatment.

It might be tempting to skip an appointment here or there, but these regular check-ins and adjustments are crucial to ensure that your treatment progresses smoothly. Whether changing a wire, adding an attachment for clear aligner treatment or providing elastics to improve your bite, these appointments are needed to safely guide your smile where it needs to be.

Retainers and follow-up appointments

Your orthodontic journey doesn’t stop when your braces come off. It’s likely you’ll need around two years of scheduled reviews to make sure your teeth remain aligned and don’t slip back towards their previous positions.

The follow-up treatment will initially involve fitting you with retainers to give your teeth the best chance of staying put, all of which is generally included in the original treatment fee.

Your specialist team

Once your braces are fitted, you’ll need to visit your orthodontist regularly for them to check your braces are working as they should and make any necessary adjustments. On average, you’ll visit your orthodontist every 6-10 weeks for a check-up whilst the braces are on, and then every 3-6 months whilst you are wearing retainers. That often adds up to more than 10-15  appointments over course of your treatment, all of which are covered in your treatment fee.

There are also the less-obvious costs associated with the running of a high-level orthodontic practice, such as maintaining strict health and safety standards, state-of-the-art digital technology and sterilization equipment as well as highly-trained staff. As well as undergoing five years of training to become a dentist, a specialist orthodontist has completed an additional three years of full-time specialist training (over 4000 hours) to become an orthodontist. In addition to orthodontists, there is also a highly skilled support staff of hygienists, lab technicians, therapists, and office staff, all working together to ensure your successful treatment outcome.

Treatment plans and risk-management

Choosing a seemingly “cheaper” option often results in more exposure to clinical and financial risk. Clear aligners (particularly mail-order clear aligners) are one such alternative – however, the success of which relies completely upon an accurate diagnosis and treatment planning, in addition to consistent wear of the aligners.

Some mail-order aligner companies do not use x-rays and often do not have any clinical examination prior to starting the treatment. This can be extremely risky if problems are not adequately diagnosed. Many resulting problems with such mail-order aligner treatment could have been prevented with appropriate pre-treatment examination and monitoring by a real-life orthodontist.    

Many orthodontic practices offer affordable payment plans that divide up the total fee to make treatment costs manageable throughout the timeframe of the treatment. Ask your orthodontist about payment plan options available to you.

Specialist orthodontists have the highest level of training, safety standards, professionalism, and equipment, all of which greatly reduce the risk of a poor treatment outcome.

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