How Much Do Braces Cost?

Orthodontic costs vary widely depending on the severity of the problem and the type of treatment, and federal law prohibits orthodontists from advertising their fees in order to prevent price fixing. A survey in the November 2001 issue of the Journal of Clinical Orthodontics pegged the average cost of full treatment for children under 18 at $4,150.

American Association of Orthodontists trustee Don Joondeph sets the average cost at about $5,000, which could be broken into two installments of $2,500 if treatment is completed in two phases.

Pediatric dentist and orthodontist Jeffrey Ahlin says the cost of the braces phase depends on whether the treatment takes one, two or three years. A patient who follows all directions and keeps all appointments may be able to save money, he notes.

Dental insurance generally pays for 50 percent of the total cost, up to $1,500. A few policies pay up to $2,000. Most orthodontists offer payment plans with fees paid over the course of active treatment. Joondeph notes that parents may be able to set aside pretax flexible spending accounts (or “cafeteria plans”) to use for medical and dental expenses, including orthodontics.

Another option you may want to explore is local dental schools with graduate orthodontic programs. These programs usually offer treatment to a limited number of patients at a reduced cost. Call your local university or contact the American Association of Othodontists (see Resources) for more information.

Drs. Joondeph and Ahlin both say that treatment does not cost more if early dentofacial treatment is followed by a second phase with braces. “In my practice, the price is comparable,” Joondeph says. “If patients wait to come in later, it’s going to be a bigger deal all at once.”

Although healthy teeth can be moved at any age, delaying treatment can be more expensive, especially if surgery is needed. “As individuals mature, untreated orthodontic problems continue to worsen,” says AAO president Dr. James Gjerset.

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