How much does orthodontic treatment cost?
This page can give you an idea of the relative cost of some types of orthodontic treatment. It includes:
This page also contains information about dental insurance coverage for braces.
Fees for Invisalign®.
Related content: What is the Invisalign® system? How does it work? >>
[Invisalign and Invisalign Express are registered trademarks of Align Technology, Inc.]
The fee that a dentist charges for a case that they treat with Invisalign® will probably be about the same as what they charge for traditional braces. In some cases, it might be more. It's unlikely that it would ever be less.
The Invisalign® website (April 2012) states that the usual cost for treatment is typically $3,500 and up, with an average cost being in the neighborhood of $5,000. We would anticipate, therefore, that the majority of cases would be priced somewhere between $3,500 and $8,000.
The exact fee would be based upon both the complexity of the case (which can only be determined after an examination by the treating dentist) and the location (geographic region and city) in which the dentist practices.
How did we come up with this estimate? / Cost estimates for other dental procedures.
How much does your dentist pay for an Invisalign® case?
The per-patient fee that a dentist pays to Align Technology, Inc. for the Invisalign® system can be expected to be more than the cost of those supplies and materials they would use when providing traditional braces treatment. One of Align Technology, Inc.'s websites suggests that the typical price a dentist pays, per patient case, is on the order of $1,550 (2010).
A part of the strategy of ClearCorrect, Inc. (makers of an Invisalign® equivalent) seems to be the pricing of their product. That means dentists who use this system for patient treatment may be able to charge less.
Fees for Invisalign Express®.
In a nutshell, Invisalign Express® is essentially a scaled down version of the standard Invisalign® system. It provides a way for a dentist to minimize their costs so they can, in turn, treat less complex orthodontic cases at a lower price.
By definition, each Invisalign Express® case only involves the use of ten or fewer sets of aligners (standard cases typically involve twenty to thirty sets) and it's only intended for treating simple cases. Because a fewer number of aligners are involved, the dentist's costs are reduced.
Invisalign Express® pricing.
The fee that a patient pays for Invisalign Express® orthodontic treatment could be expected to run on the order of $2,500 to $4,500. According to one of Align Technology, Inc.'s websites, a dentist's cost for the Invisalign Express® system is roughly $900 per case (2010), a little more than half the cost of standard Invisalign®.
AOA Orthodontic Laboratory, Inc. manufactures three invisible braces products that are can often be used to treat cases similar to those treated with Invisalign Express®. They are the Simpli 5®, Red White & Blue®, and RW II® systems.
These products cost the treating dentist less than Invisalign Express®, so in those cases where they can be used, the patient's costs might be reduced. For more information, use this link: Simpli 5® / Red White & Blue® / RW II®
Invisalign® doesn't always make the best treatment choice. After an evaluation, your dentist may determine that one of the following types of braces offers benefits that removable/invisible aligners cannot.
Fees for traditional metal braces.
From a standpoint of appearance, the most basic form of dental braces is one where brackets are bonded onto the front side of the patient's teeth. The brackets and wires that are used are silver in color.
Certainly the patient's costs will depend on treatment complexity but, as a ballpark range, you might expect that treatment for a case running 12 to 24 months in duration might cost on the order of $4,000 to $7,000, with an average being around $5,500.
Fees for Lingual braces (Incognito®, iBraces®, In-Ovation® L, Harmony®).
Related content: What are lingual dental braces? / Advantages and disadvantages. >>
Why do lingual braces cost more than traditional dental braces?
Having orthodontic treatment using lingual braces costs more than conventional braces, usually about twice as much (Ling 2005). One reason why is due to the cost of the materials and lab services involved.
The brackets and wires that are used with conventional braces are mass-produced, stock items. In comparison, with modern lingual systems the hardware used is custom made for each individual patient by a dental laboratory using sophisticated computer aided cad/cam technology and robotic wire-bending technique. Obviously, the dentist will need to pass these additional laboratory costs on to their patient.
A cost-cutting alternative.
If the option is offered by their dentist, as a way of saving money some patients may choose to have lingual braces placed just on their upper teeth and then conventional ones on their lowers. As a general rule, a person's lower teeth are usually less visible to others than their upper ones.
Using this approach, (less noticeable) lingual braces are utilized with the teeth that show the most. Then, (more obvious but less costly) traditional braces are placed on the teeth that are more difficult for others to see.
Fees for Ceramic braces (Clear braces).
Related content: What are ceramic braces? What are clear braces? >>
Why do ceramic braces cost more than metal dental braces?
You can expect that choosing ceramic braces (clear braces) will increase the cost of your treatment. One reason for this is due to the fact that some brands of ceramic brackets cost several times more than their stainless steel equivalents. With other brands, however, this difference may be quite small.
Beyond this point, there are other considerations that the orthodontist must factor in. This includes the possibility that the case will require a longer treatment time or involve increased treatment difficulties (such as the inconvenience of replacing broken brackets).
As a cost-cutting measure, some patients may decide to have ceramic brackets only placed on those teeth that show the most. This may mean just their upper teeth, possibly even just their center six.
Those teeth that don't receive tooth-colored brackets will get metal ones. And while the idea of this mismatched configuration may be a concern for some initially, once it's demonstrated to them how comparatively little the teeth with the metal brackets will show during normal function, they are usually fine with it.
Ask if "coated" arch wires will be used.
White-colored "frosted" or "coated" arch wires can help ceramic braces to blend in even better. If this option is chosen, you can expect that your expenses will be somewhat greater.
Gold braces / Fashion brackets.
Your orthodontist will probably charge more for any case that involves the use of any type of metal specialty orthodontic bracket (like gold or uniquely shaped fashion brackets). That's because these types of brackets typically cost more than their traditional stainless steel counterparts.
As a cost-cutting measure, fashion brackets are usually only placed on a patient's center four or six upper front teeth. Gold brackets may just be placed on selected teeth too, like the upper and lower front ones. After all, why dress up teeth that are hard to see?
You'll have to ask exactly how much added expense is involved. And it may not be as much as you might think. Specialty brackets can be several times as much as their standard counterparts but this isn't always the case ("generic" equivalents do exist). And even so, when compared to their overall cost of providing treatment, the orthodontist's expense for brackets is usually relatively small.
It's also a one-time expense and, unlike when choosing ceramic braces, metal specialty brackets shouldn't significantly affect or complicate your treatment process.
Will gold arch wires be used with your gold braces?
Dental insurance coverage for braces.
Dental insurance policies vary greatly, so it's impossible for us to provide any type of definitive answer regarding coverage for orthodontic treatment. However, what you often find is as follows.
How some insurance policies read.
Many policies state that they'll pay 50% of the cost of orthodontic treatment per covered individual up to a maximum limit (which is often on the order of $1500 to $3000). There may be an age-limit restriction that applies (as in coverage is provided for children but not adults). The "maximum limit" is typically a lifetime one, meaning that once benefits have been exhausted there are no further benefits available for re-treatment later in life.
Are Invisalign®, lingual braces (iBraces®), ceramic / clear braces, gold braces or fashion brackets covered by insurance?
In regard to non-tradition treatment approaches (such as Invisalign® and lingual braces (iBraces®)) and treatment variations (such as ceramic/clear braces, gold braces or the use of fashion brackets), if an insurance policy does provide coverage for "orthodontic treatment," there is typically no limitation about which specific technique is utilized (so, yes, you can anticipate that benefits will apply).