Average braces costs in 2020 with and without insurance.
Dr. Todd Ehrler
Table of Contents
- Why Need Braces?
- Braces & Cost
- Location & Cost
- Insurance Coverage
- Health Care Competition
- Funding Options
When you think about braces, do you also think about dollar signs? It's natural to worry over the cost. Few families plan ahead for this dental expense, and most feel certain that insurance won't help to cover the cost.
On average, braces cost about $5,000 without insurance. But your costs may rise and fall due to your oral health, the type of braces you need, the length of your treatment plan, and where you live.
There are also alternatives to traditional braces that can reduce the overall cost of your bill. Aligners may be able to straighten your teeth for a fraction of the cost of braces.
Why do people need braces?
Braces pull your teeth into proper position. Orthodontists apply the gear, and they tighten it periodically until the teeth are tugged into the right spot.
The same type of braces could be used to treat many different oral issues. But sometimes, doctors must add to their basic braces plan, and those revisions can come with added costs.
Your orthodontist might recommend braces to treat:
Overbite (also known as "deep bite")
Type of braces and your bill.
Braces once came in one basic shape (rough) and one standard color (silver). A lot has changed.
As more adults are choosing to wear braces, and as social media sites encourage all of us to share our smiles with the world, patients demand more control. Companies have responded by creating a plethora of braces options.
Be aware that some of these alt braces types are more expensive than their traditional counterparts. But some of the alternatives could save you money.
Your orthodontist may choose to improve your smile with:
Doctor-Monitored At-Home Aligners
Location plays a role in your cost.
Orthodontist fees vary from coast to coast. Orthodontists can't control some costs, including office rentals. In some communities, high demand can translate into a larger patient pool and a higher fee.
Traveling for braces isn't reasonable. You must visit your doctor regularly for tightening, checkups, and maintenance. But understanding how your costs can vary can help you prepare to cover your fees.
Does insurance help cover the cost?
Health insurance companies use complex formulas to determine if procedures are mandatory (to preserve health or function) or elective (to improve appearance). Braces often fall into a grey area, and that means some policies won't help you pay your bill.
Research published in Pediatric Dentistry Today suggests that about 85 percent of orthodontic cases are considered aesthetic or optional. But there are exceptions. Your doctor might consider your braces medically necessary due to:
- Cleft lip or palate.
- Crouzon syndrome.
- Hemifacial hypertrophy.
- Parry-Romberg syndrome.
Your doctor works directly with your insurance company. Radiographs, test results, and notes from your appointment all head from your doctor's office to the insurance company. Reviewers notify both you and your doctor if the treatment is accepted as a medically necessary intervention. You'll also get notified if your claim is rejected.
If your braces aren't medically necessary, your insurance company may still step up and help with the bill. Some dental insurance plans offer coverage for orthodontics. In a review of plans, for example, experts found that one company in four offered orthodontic coverage. People with this plan got help with half of the bill through their plans.
But AAO points out that dental plans can come with limitations, including:
Health care competition and your benefits.
In the world of business, competition drives down price and boosts benefits.
Research from the Health Policy Institute says some states, such as Nevada and Oregon, are wildly competitive. On the flip side, these are the least competitive states:
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
What funding options can you try?
If you're planning to spend money to improve your smile, you're not alone. Researchers say spending for dental procedures rose 4.6 percent in 2018. Even if your insurance company can't help you, there are plenty of options to try.
Cover your braces bill with:
Your Health Savings Account (HSA)
How Much Do Braces Cost? CostHelper.com.
What Is a Crossbite? (November 2019). American Association of Orthodontists.
Malocclusion of Teeth. (January 2020). U.S. National Library of Medicine.
What Is a Deep Bite? (January 2019). American Association of Orthodontists.
Headgear Instructions. Riordan Orthodontics.
In Orthodontia, Sometimes It's Best to Start Early. (April 2011). Seattle's Child.
Dental Cost Estimator. Guardian Life Insurance Company of America.
Dental Braces. (May 2019). Mayo Clinic.
The Basics of Braces. (March 2016). Nemours.
How Much Do Braces Cost? Oral B.
Cost Matters. Delta Dental Plans Association.
Medical Necessity and Orthodontics. (September 2016). Pediatric Dentistry Today.
Medically Necessary Orthodontic Treatment. (January 2020). UnitedHealthcare.
Affordable Dental Insurance? DentalPlans.com.
Payment and Insurance. American Association of Orthodontists.
How Competitive Are Dental Insurance Markets? (November 2019). Health Policy Institute.
National Health Expenditures 2018 Highlights. (December 2019). Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.