Follow us:
  1. Home
  2. Health and Fitness
  3. Cost of Braces

Cost of Braces in 2021

Most people pay $4,250 to $6,750 on average

SmileDirectClub, Byte and Candid
boy getting braces

Whether you’re in the market for yourself or your child, braces can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $13,000. That’s a big range, but your total cost largely depends on your preferred type of braces, your location and your overall treatment needs. There are also ways to make your braces more affordable.

  • Traditional metal braces cost $5,000 to $6,000 on average, but prices vary considerably for different types.
  • Starting costs for clear aligners are about $1,000 to $3,000.
  • If your orthodontist deems the braces medically necessary, your dental coverage may cover up to 50% of the costs.
  • In addition to upfront costs, after-treatment retainers can cost $150 to $1,200.

The right type of braces for a given situation depends on the wearer’s teeth and jaw. After performing a thorough examination and taking images or impressions, your orthodontist can let you know which options should provide your desired results. You can then choose one that aligns with your preferences and budget.

Average cost by type of treatment

While traditional braces cost $5,000 to $6,000 on average, prices vary considerably by type. Since lingual braces require precise placement and extra care, these cost the most by far. At-home clear aligners are often the most affordable option because they are relatively cheap to make and don’t require orthodontic visits.

Your orthodontist will assess your treatment needs and help you decide between all your options, including standard metal braces, self-ligating braces, ceramic braces, lingual braces and clear aligners.

Standard metal braces

If your orthodontist recommends standard metal braces, your price should generally fall in the $3,000 to $7,000 range. Average treatments cost $5,000 to $6,000, including the placement of the braces, any adjustments and removal at the end of treatment.

Standard metal braces use brackets and archwires to gradually pull your teeth into the proper positions. The metal brackets attach to the front of the teeth using glue/bonding cement and firmly hold the wires in place. These wires are then tightened at each appointment to pull your teeth into the right positions across the treatment period.

Out of the currently available options, standard metal braces work the fastest. You can expect a standard treatment to take between one and two years, depending on how far out of position your teeth are. The main drawback of metal braces is that they are difficult to hide when you smile, but many people find the quick fix well worth it.

metal braces

Self-ligating braces

Since they’re largely the same as standard metal braces, self-ligating braces also cost $3,000 to $7,000 on average.

However, instead of holding the archwire onto the metal brackets with a rubber band, self-ligating braces use brackets with a spring-loaded door. The brackets are much less visible as a result, especially when you select the clear option. They are also easier to keep clean, helping reduce your risk of cavities throughout the treatment process.

Otherwise, they work the same as traditional metal braces, which means most people can expect to get straight teeth in one to two years. They aren’t for everyone, however. If you need larger teeth rotated or moved in precise ways, then you’re likely better off getting standard metal braces.

self ligating braces

Ceramic braces

Ceramic braces are a bit pricier at $4,000 to $8,500, depending on how often you have to come in for bracket replacements. The total cost includes placement of all brackets and wires, scheduled adjustments and removal at the end of treatment.

Ceramic braces are a popular choice because they use tooth-colored or clear brackets instead of metal ones. However, they are a bit slower than metal braces, with cases often taking 18 to 36 months.

Since they’re made from ceramic materials, the brackets are prone to breakage, too. Often, orthodontists may replace a couple of broken brackets without an extra charge, but if it happens too often, you could have to pay more.

ceramic braces

Lingual braces

Lingual braces, which attach to the backside of your teeth, can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $13,000. This includes the creation and placement of custom brackets and wires.

Lingual braces are a great option if you want a discreet treatment for personal or professional reasons. They’re also a good idea for people who play high-impact sports or wind instruments. Their biggest drawback, besides cost, is that lingual braces cause a lot more initial discomfort than the other options.

lingual braces

Headgear braces

Orthodontic headgear and braces can cost up to $9,000. However, in cases where just the headgear is necessary, you may only need to pay around $1,000.

Most headgear users need to wear braces at the same time to eliminate their underbite or overbite while optimizing the position of their teeth. The headgear gently adjusts the jaw while the braces move the teeth into place, resulting in proper alignment within one to two years.

Headgear isn’t common in orthodontic treatments anymore. The process is usually only viable for children because they’re still growing — adults who need major bite correction usually have to undergo surgery instead. However, headgear can still serve as an anchor when moving particularly stubborn or wayward teeth.

Clear aligners

Prices for clear aligners (also called invisible braces) vary by brand, with most companies starting at between $1,000 and $3,000. Prices can go up to $8,000, depending on your treatment needs.

The total cost includes the 3D digital scan, your aligners and regular orthodontist visits. This is why at-home aligners typically cost much less than aligner programs that require orthodontist visits.

Most patients need anywhere from 20 to 30 aligners, although your treatment could take up to 50 if you need extensive orthodontic work. The number of trays you need also greatly influences how long treatment takes. Invisalign patients use the aligners for 12 to 18 months on average.

Unlike traditional braces, clear aligners are virtually invisible. They’re also removable, so you can eat, drink and clean your teeth without any brackets or wires in the way. One drawback is that you have to commit to wearing the aligners for 20 to 22 hours per day — otherwise, you likely won’t get the results you seek.

clear aligner

For more, compare the differences between Invisalign and traditional braces.

Average starting price*Customer satisfaction
invisalign logo$3,000Read reviews
candid logo$2,400Read reviews
smiledirectclub logo mini$1,950Read reviews
byte mini logo$1,895Read reviews
alignerco logo mini$1,145Read reviews

*Costs are as of time of publishing. Terms and conditions may apply.

invisalign logo$3,000Read reviews
candid logo$2,400Read reviews
smiledirectclub logo mini$1,950Read reviews
byte mini logo$1,895Read reviews
alignerco logo mini$1,145Read reviews

Clear aligners can be the most affordable option for braces since the process doesn’t always require visiting an orthodontist. In fact, beyond the initial assessment of your 3D scans or impressions, you might not need to consult with an orthodontist at all.

To get started, at-home aligner companies may have your teeth scanned at a mobile clinic or one of the company’s dental partners. Some companies will even send you an impression kit you can do at home.

An off-site orthodontist should then create a custom treatment plan and send the clear aligners to your home. Since these systems are designed for patients with mild to moderate orthodontic care needs, treatment times can be as brief as three months.

For more, compare clear aligners on costs, results and reviews for various brands here:

Average cost of braces after insurance

If your orthodontist deems your braces medically necessary, your dental coverage may cover some of the costs, often up to 50%. Insurance that covers braces is more common for children than adults, though. Either way, most plans only offer coverage for standard metal braces, although you can sometimes pay the difference for more expensive types.

In order to make a claim, you must have orthodontic coverage listed in your dental policy or carry an add-on plan. Since this is quite rare, especially for adults, it’s best to review your policy documents before you start shopping for braces. Consider your annual coverage limits and any deductibles that may apply, too.

Average price of braces after 50% insurance coverage

Type of bracesAverage cost (with insurance)
Standard metal$1,500 to $3,500
Self-ligating$1,500 to $3,500
Ceramic$2,000 to $4,250
Lingual$2,500 to $6,500
Clear aligners$575 to $4,000

If you don’t have private insurance, Medicaid sometimes covers braces and other orthodontic care. Medicaid coverage is frequently available for children that have had braces deemed medically necessary. In some states, Medicaid even offers orthodontic coverage to adults if the treatment is used to help with certain medical conditions, including sleep apnea or osteoporosis.

Overall cost of Invisalign by state

The cost of Invisalign varies considerably from state to state. For example, the average cost in Mississippi is $2,500 less than in New Jersey.

State-by-state overview of the cost of Invisalign

StateEstimated price range
Alabama$2,500 to $6,000
Alaska$4,500 to $7,500
Arizona$4,000 to $6,500
Arkansas$3,000 to $6,000
California$4,500 to $9,000
Colorado$4,000 to $6,000
Connecticut$5,000 to $7,000
Delaware$4,500 to $6,500
Florida$4,000 to $6,500
Georgia$4,000 to $6,500
Hawaii$5,500 to $8,000
Idaho$4,000 to $6,000
Illinois$3,500 to $7,000
Indiana$3,500 to $6,000
Iowa$3,500 to $6,000
Kansas$3,500 to $6,000
Kentucky$3,000 to $6,500
Louisiana$3,500 to $6,000
Maine$4,000 to $6,250
Maryland$4,000 to $7,000
Massachusetts$4,000 to $8,000
Michigan$4,000 to $7,000
Minnesota$4,000 to $6,500
Mississippi$3,000 to $5,500
Missouri$3,000 to $6,000
Montana$4,000 to $6,500
Nebraska$3,500 to $6,000
Nevada$4,500 to $6,500
New Hampshire$5,500 to $7,500
New Jersey$5,000 to $8,500
New Mexico$4,000 to $6,500
New York$4,000 to $9,000
North Carolina$4,000 to $6,500
North Dakota$3,500 to $6,500
Ohio$3,500 to $6,000
Oklahoma$3,000 to $6,000
Oregon$4,500 to $7,000
Pennsylvania$4,500 to $7,000
Rhode Island$4,500 to $7,000
South Carolina$3,500 to $6,500
South Dakota$3,500 to $6,500
Tennessee$3,500 to $6,000
Texas$3,500 to $6,000
Utah$3,500 to $6,000
Vermont$4,500 to $7,000
Virginia$4,000 to $7,500
Washington$4,500 to $7,000
West Virginia$3,500 to $6,000
Wisconsin$4,000 to $6,500
Wyoming$4,000 to $7,000
Alabama$2,500 to $6,000
Alaska$4,500 to $7,500
Arizona$4,000 to $6,500
Arkansas$3,000 to $6,000
California$4,500 to $9,000
Colorado$4,000 to $6,000
Connecticut$5,000 to $7,000
Delaware$4,500 to $6,500
Florida$4,000 to $6,500
Georgia$4,000 to $6,500
Hawaii$5,500 to $8,000
Idaho$4,000 to $6,000
Illinois$3,500 to $7,000
Indiana$3,500 to $6,000
Iowa$3,500 to $6,000
Kansas$3,500 to $6,000
Kentucky$3,000 to $6,500
Louisiana$3,500 to $6,000
Maine$4,000 to $6,250
Maryland$4,000 to $7,000
Massachusetts$4,000 to $8,000
Michigan$4,000 to $7,000
Minnesota$4,000 to $6,500
Mississippi$3,000 to $5,500
Missouri$3,000 to $6,000
Montana$4,000 to $6,500
Nebraska$3,500 to $6,000
Nevada$4,500 to $6,500
New Hampshire$5,500 to $7,500
New Jersey$5,000 to $8,500
New Mexico$4,000 to $6,500
New York$4,000 to $9,000
North Carolina$4,000 to $6,500
North Dakota$3,500 to $6,500
Ohio$3,500 to $6,000
Oklahoma$3,000 to $6,000
Oregon$4,500 to $7,000
Pennsylvania$4,500 to $7,000
Rhode Island$4,500 to $7,000
South Carolina$3,500 to $6,500
South Dakota$3,500 to $6,500
Tennessee$3,500 to $6,000
Texas$3,500 to $6,000
Utah$3,500 to $6,000
Vermont$4,500 to $7,000
Virginia$4,000 to $7,500
Washington$4,500 to $7,000
West Virginia$3,500 to $6,000
Wisconsin$4,000 to $6,500
Wyoming$4,000 to $7,000

Information courtesy of Smile Prep

If you live in an area with elevated orthodontic costs, it might be cost-effective to get Invisalign somewhere else. Just remember that you’ll have to return for adjustments and in the event of any problems with your braces. Travel costs may eat away at any savings you find, and if you encounter a problem, you might have a long, uncomfortable trip to get it fixed. Realistically, this may be a better option for people that already split their time between different states, but it’s worth considering.

Additional associated costs

In order to protect your investment, you’ll likely need to wear retainers at night after getting your braces off to keep your teeth from shifting back into their original positions. Traditional options include Hawley (removable), Essix (clear and removable) and bonded (permanent) retainers.

When buying a set of retainers, expect to pay:

  • Hawley: $350 to $600
  • Essix: $150 to $500
  • Bonded: $150 to $500 (may be included with the cost of braces)

If you decide to go with Invisalign, a set of its Vivera retainers will cost you anywhere from $200 to $1,200, depending on your needs.

With proper care, Essix and Vivera retainers should last a few years, while Hawley retainers can stay in great shape for up to 10 years. Bonded retainers are theoretically permanent.

Other expenses associated with braces for kids

Braces for kids are typically cheaper since their teeth move more easily. Costs can add up, however, if your child doesn’t follow the care recommendations for their braces.

If they have standard metal braces, for example, they must avoid crunchy, chewy and sticky foods or risk breaking their brackets and wires. Many orthodontists will fix a couple of issues at no extra charge — but probably only if the patient is properly caring for their braces.

Children must also practice due diligence in properly brushing and flossing as recommended. Otherwise, they could end up with cavities that could cost hundreds of dollars to fix.

Additional costs when getting adult braces

Braces for adults usually cost more than orthodontic treatments for kids since most adults need to wear braces for longer to see results.

Also, because adult teeth are often more worn and damaged, restorative dental work might be necessary before getting braces, too. If any of your teeth have been missing for some time, you might even need bone grafts and implants done prior to the tooth alignment process. This can add thousands of dollars to your final cost and extend the treatment period.

Paying for braces

Even if you can’t save up the money to pay upfront, it’s still possible to work the costs into your budget and get your desired results without breaking the bank. Consider the following options to make paying for braces more manageable.

Office payment plan

Many orthodontists offer in-office payment plans to make it easier to pay for braces. They may break up the total cost into three or four smaller payments or even let you pay a little bit each month. You may have to agree to a payment processing fee or an interest rate, but this could be worth the extra expense if you can’t pay upfront.

Tax-exempt savings account

In many cases, braces are not a time-sensitive treatment, so you can take some extra time to gather up your funds. One good way to do this might be with a tax-exempt savings account.

A health savings account (HSA), for example, lets you save tax-free funds for medical and dental expenses. You must have a high-deductible insurance policy to qualify for this type of fund, however.

If you don’t, you can use a flexible savings account (FSA) instead. You will need to use the money you saved within one year or risk losing most of it, so be sure to have a treatment plan ready to go once you save up the money.

Zero-interest credit card

Many credit card companies allow you to make your initial purchases interest-free as long as you pay back the balance within the given amount of time. But beware: If you don’t make your payment on time, you will get hit with all the prior interest charges. To avoid that scenario, verify that you can easily pay back the balance within the given time limit before buying your braces on credit.

Ways to save on braces

Whether your braces cost $1,000 or $13,000, it makes sense to save money when you can. Check out the following options to see where you can cut costs without compromising on quality.

Explore all treatment options

Start by exploring every treatment option available. You can still take your preferences into account, but it helps to at least know what’s on the table. If you prefer saving money more than you prefer keeping your braces low-key, skip lingual braces in favor of standard metal braces.

Don’t forget to look at cheaper aligners if you only need a mild adjustment to get your smile in good shape, too.

Get a second opinion

Consider getting a second opinion from a different orthodontist to see if they have any other ideas on how to correct your bite and straighten your teeth. You may be surprised to learn what other treatments can help.

Let your orthodontist know that you’re looking to save money — they’ll likely have a few tips.

Sign up for dental insurance

Explore your dental insurance options and calculate how much you could save by getting coverage. Pay close attention to waiting periods as you do so, though. Many insurers have you wait up to a year before making claims.

Look for local dental schools

If you’re not terribly attached to your current orthodontist, think about checking out a dental school for discount braces. Their costs are often lower since students do the work, but they should have a fully licensed orthodontist sign off on all the treatments.

Follow all treatment recommendations

By following all the treatment recommendations, you can finish the tooth straightening process on time and save money in the long run.

Behaviors that can extend your treatment time and cost you more money may include:

  • Missing or delaying adjustment appointments
  • Breaking your braces with crunchy, sticky or hard foods
  • Forgetting to wear your aligners at least 20 hours per day

Also, remember to brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day using a soft-bristle brush and the recommended floss. Otherwise, you could need fillings and other dental work, which could extend the treatment process and increase your costs.

Full-payment discounts

If you do have a lump sum available for payment, ask if your orthodontist offers any incentives for paying ahead. Even if they don’t have an official policy related to lump-sum payments, they may agree to drop the price if you pay before treatment starts.

Bottom line

Crooked teeth can leave you feeling less confident, and you may even have trouble speaking and eating if your teeth are far outside their ideal positions. Fortunately, you can resolve these problems by getting braces — even if you’re an adult.

If orthodontic treatment is important to you, but the cost seems unmanageable, explore your treatment and payment options to find the right solution for you. You may be surprised at how affordable it can be.

Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. To learn more about the content on our site, visit our FAQ page.
  1. National Library of Medicine, “The impact of orthodontic treatment on quality of life and self-esteem in adult patients.” Accessed July 12, 2021.
  2. U.S. News, “The Average Cost of Braces and How to Save.” Accessed July 12, 2021.
Did you find this article helpful? |
Share this article

The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.