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Guide to Types & Costs of Braces

August 30, 2019
The 3 Most Common Questions About Getting Braces
For many, braces are a rite of adolescence. Shifting teeth into better alignment is easiest while childhood bones are still growing. But adults can benefit from braces, too — in fact, 20 percent of orthodontic patients are over the age of 18, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. Regardless of age though, anyone considering braces is likely to have similar questions: How will they help me? What should I expect while wearing them? How much will I have to pay?
How Will Braces Help Me?
Braces use slow, constant pressure to move teeth so they align more properly. In the process, they also reshape the jaw’s bone structure to ensure teeth stay in place once the braces are removed. Adults can benefit from braces as much as teens, but the teeth-straightening process might take longer for someone who’s older.
While a more pleasing smile is one reason people get braces, there are also important health concerns. When teeth are crowded, they can be difficult to keep clean, so tooth decay and gum disease can become problems. And if your teeth don’t line up properly when you close your mouth, chewing and swallowing problems can result. You might even have problems saying some words or making certain sounds if your teeth don’t line up well.
Your orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in looking at tooth alignment and recommending treatments. You might have several types of braces to choose from, including:
  • Traditional metal braces. That’s right, the traditional metal brackets and wires are still the most frequent choice for orthodontists. However, the brackets are smaller than they used to be. And newer wire material responds to body heat in the mouth to create consistent pressure on the teeth, so monthly adjustments by the orthodontist don’t hurt as much.
  • Ceramic braces. These are the same size and shape as traditional metal braces, but the brackets are clear or tooth-colored, so they blend in better and are  less noticeable.
  • Lingual braces. For complete invisibility, these braces are attached to the inside surface of the teeth. However, they can be more difficult to get used to, and monthly adjustments are more difficult and take longer.
  • Invisalign. These custom-made, clear plastic aligners are more like retainers than braces. They are replaced as teeth move through the course of treatment. They’re nearly invisible and easily removed for meals, but they might not work as quickly as traditional brackets and wires.
What Should I Expect While Wearing Them?
Once your braces have been attached, you’ll likely be seeing your orthodontist monthly to see how your teeth are moving and to make any needed adjustments. In between those visits, some people are given small rubber bands called “elastics” to hook onto the brackets of specific upper and lower teeth. If needed, a headgear device may also be used to align the upper teeth.
You’ll need to pay attention to what you eat while wearing braces. Certain foods just aren’t a good idea while brackets and wires are attached to your teeth. Some foods to avoid:
  • Foods you bite down on, like apples or corn on the cob
  • Chewy foods, like caramels or gum
  • Hard foods, like hard pretzels, nuts and raw carrots
If you’re wearing braces, you also should spend more time cleaning your teeth. Food can get trapped behind and between wires and brackets, leading to possible tooth decay. A Christmas tree–shaped toothbrush can fit in between the teeth and get into tight spaces, so it’s a good idea to use one in addition to regular tooth brushing and flossing.
How Much Will I Have to Pay?
It’s difficult to pin down how much you might pay because the cost of braces depends on what kind of braces are used, the severity of the case and even where you live. According to Bankrate, a broad average across the U.S. for metal braces is $5,300.
Dental insurance typically does not cover orthodontic work for adults, but some dental plans do offer some benefits. But many of these policies have a cap (limit) on maximum yearly benefits. This means you are responsible for dental costs, including braces that go over this cap. Check your plan details or call the number on the back of your card to see what your plan covers. Also, Orthodontists generally recognize that braces can strain the budget, so ask about payment plans that might make the cost more affordable.