How to straighten your teeth for less money.

Medically Reviewed by a
Licensed DDS

Table of Contents

  1. Old Technology
  2. Braces Are Expensive
  3. Aligners Offer Freedom
  4. References

You want to straighten your teeth, but you balk at the high price tag that comes with braces and some aligners. It's understandable. While we all want an optimized smile, few families have thousands of dollars to spare.

Maintenance drives up the cost of traditional braces and some aligners. Hands-on, in-person visits require large offices with plenty of staff. That infrastructure costs you money.

Doctor-supervised, at-home aligners are different. These tools work on the same principles as braces, but eliminating routine visits means cutting overall costs.

Old technology and plenty of pain.

Braces seem new-fangled. A smile full of metal seems like something straight out of the space age. But in reality, modern braces are based on technology developed in the 1700s.

In 1728, experts say, a French doctor published a book about dentistry, and it contained one lone chapter about straightening teeth. Readers would learn how slow and steady pressure could allow ligaments to ease, and that could change the position of teeth. That chapter influenced teeth straightening for decades, with few variations.

For example, if you had a time machine, and you went back to the 1930s to visit someone hoping for a straighter smile, you'd probably see someone with:

  • Brackets. Experts need a way to differentiate each tooth. Brackets do the trick, and in modern braces, they hold all upper teeth or all lower teeth together.
  • Wires. These metal bits are tightened to apply pressure to teeth. In the early days, they wrapped around each tooth. Now they slide through or snap into brackets.
  • Bands. Rubber bits attach the upper and lower jaws together to change the bite.

Advances in braces appear throughout history, but they tend to be small. They include:

  • Shifting materials. Braces have been made of almost everything, including tin, gold, porcelain, and titanium.
  • Smaller sizes. Old brackets were massive, but newer versions are much more delicate.
  • Glues. Advancements in adhesives allowed doctors to affix things right to your teeth, instead of wrapping materials around them.

Treatment timeframes haven't changed. Most people wear braces for two to three years, experts say, and the devices are uncomfortable. Brackets pull on lips and teeth. Wires poke and prod. And tightening the wires means days of discomfort.

Despite the shifts in shape and size of braces, no one has figured out how to make them less uncomfortable to wear.

Braces use brackets and wires to push teeth to new spots. Aligners are different, and sometimes, they're less expensive.

Braces are expensive.

Medical devices are costly. They're made in sophisticated laboratories under pristine conditions, and they are administered by people who need years of specialized training. Whether you opt for braces or aligners, you will pay for that manufacturing and education cost.

But the administration and maintenance of braces make them very expensive devices. Some of those costs seem unnecessary.

Traditional braces cost between $3,000 and $7,350, researchers say. Your price will be at the top of this spectrum (or perhaps exceed it) if you:

  • Opt for unusual materials. Metal is the traditional braces material. Choose porcelain or another option, and you will pay more.
  • Have significant oral issues. Longer treatment times mean higher prices.
  • Ask for lingual placement. Brackets usually sit on the outside of your teeth. Ask your dentist to put them on the inside, and you will pay more.
  • Don't follow the treatment plan. Fees for missed appointments, broken brackets, and extended treatment add up.

Most teams offer package pricing. When you sign up for braces, your team tells you your expected total fee. Some experts also offer payment plans that spread the cost out over time.

Insurance can help soften the financial impact. But unfortunately, most policies cover only half the expected fee. The rest you must pay for yourself.

Aligners offer more freedom.

Apply consistent pressure to teeth, and they will move. Aligners consist of two plastic trays. They slide or snap over your teeth, and they're almost invisible. Take the trays out to eat, drink, or brush your teeth, but plan on wearing them at all other times. Each moment they sit in your mouth, they push your teeth.

Every few weeks, pull out the old trays and slide in new ones. Subtle changes between the old and the new trays force your teeth into new positions.

Orthodontists offer aligners, and when they do, they can be more expensive than braces. In fact, traditional aligners can be 50 percent more costly than braces, Colgate says.

That high cost is due in part to the appointments used by some orthodontists. You must visit the office to get your new aligners, and you must submit to an exam each time you need new trays. Each appointment adds to the total cost.

At-home, doctor-supervised aligners are different. A treatment program looks like this:

  • Assessment: You create models of your teeth using a kit the company sends to your home. You upload photos of your smile. A dentist looks over those materials and plans your new smile.
  • Aligners: All the trays you need come in one shipment. You change them on a schedule set by your doctor.
  • Conversation: Video chats keep you connected with the treatment team. All work is done at home, but a professional is in charge.

A program like this eliminates the cost of in-person visits. It also allows dental professionals to help more people, including those who live far from any established orthodontics practice. Those savings are passed to you.

Aligner companies like Byte can save you time and money. Byte offers at-home, doctor-supervised aligner treatment at a fraction of the cost of traditional braces. Byte has also created innovative aligner add-ons, like the HyperByte, which can significant shorten treatment times.

References.

History of Dental Braces. (February 2019). News-Medical.

How Do Braces Work? MedicineNet.

How Much Do Braces Cost? CostHelper.

Orthodontics and Cost—What You're Actually Paying For. Australian Society of Orthodontists.

How Much Do Braces Cost? (March 2019). Healthgrades.

How Much Are Braces With Insurance? Colgate.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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