How Much Are Braces in California?

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Many people around the world are looking for orthodontic treatments that straighten their teeth. Traditionally, orthodontic treatment for alignment problems involved the use of metal braces. But with the advent of new technologies there are now a variety of alternatives. 

One of the most important deciding factors for many people looking to straighten their teeth is cost. Most types of braces vary in cost quite dramatically. Prices depend on several factors – one of which is location. If you’re living in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, or anywhere in California, then braces generally cost more than if you’re living elsewhere in the United States. That’s because locations with higher standards of living usually have higher operating costs which impacts on the costs of treatment by an orthodontist or dentist.

Unlike braces, many clear teeth aligner brands offer fixed rates for treatment which means that your location (e.g. Los Angeles) won’t affect the cost of treatment. That makes them an increasingly popular alternative to braces like metal brackets. 

Below we explore several clear aligner brands that are an alternative to metal braces. We compare braces and aligners in terms of the average cost of braces and compared with the cost of aligners – and we look at other differences like flexibility and comfort. 

The average cost of braces in California 

The average cost of braces in California is above the national average and ranges from $3000 to $10,000. The exact price will vary depending on exactly where you live (with cities and more urban areas having higher costs), the complexity of your dental issues, and the type of braces you choose. For example, lingual braces and ceramic braces are generally more expensive than the metal ones.

Below we explore the different types of braces and what they cost on average.

The types of braces (metal, ceramic, lingual) and costs

Nowadays braces come in many forms – these include traditional metal braces, ceramic braces, and lingual braces. Metal braces are usually the most affordable of these 3 types, ranging from around $3000 to $5000. They are usually visible and made from stainless steel.

Ceramic braces are more expensive than metal ones (they can cost up to $8000) and the main difference is that they blend in with the colour of your teeth so they’re not as visible. They are more prone to breaking however.

Lingual braces are usually the most expensive option (which can cost up to around $10,000) of the three types of braces and are not visible as they fit behind your teeth.

Without dental insurance, braces cost between $3000 and $10,000. There are a range of factors that dictate the exact cost of braces. As mentioned, these costs are generally higher in California, more urban areas and also depend on factors like age, and whether or not you have a dental insurance plan.

Alternatives to braces: clear aligners 

Clear aligners are an alternative to braces, for correcting misaligned teeth. There are many different clear aligner brands that offer treatment for crooked teeth and bite issues. 

One major difference between aligners and braces is that the latter are able to treat complex cases whereas not all aligners can. However, for milder issues, there are a range of aligner companies that offer fixed prices that are generally much lower than that of braces. That makes aligners very attractive in terms of cost alone. But there are a range of other benefits to aligners which we discuss below.

What are clear aligners?

Clear aligners are plastic trays that you wear in your mouth. They fit over your teeth and can be removed easily at any time, which makes them flexible. Because they are clear, they are practically invisible. And because they can be removed, you can take them out to brush your teeth, to eat or if you want to smile for a photo without wearing them. Many people also find them more comfortable because they are not attached to your teeth.

What conditions can they treat?

Aligners usually treat mild cases of misalignment compared with braces, so they may not be suitable if you have complex dental issues. Some aligner brands (like Invisalign) are able to treat a much broader assortment of bit and alignment issues including overbites, underbites, crossbites, gaps in teeth, open bites and crowded teeth.

How do they work and what are the benefits? 

Aligners work in a similar way to braces and are custom-made to fit your mouth. They apply pressure that gently shifts your teeth into alignment based on a treatment plan. 

Aligners need to be worn either all day or all night and can be removed while you brush teeth, eat, or for short periods during the day. Not all aligner companies offer nighttime only aligners, and generally aligners will need to be worn for around 22 hours a day.

Following aligner therapy, most people will need to wear retainers at night to maintain their smiles. 

One significant difference between aligners and braces is that many aligner companies nowadays offer fully remote monitoring, which means even your checkups can be done online and remotely without needing to visit an office or dentist in person. 

What are some examples of clear aligners?

There are many different aligner brands. Here we’ll look at 6 brands in terms of price and affordability.

AlignerCo

This is one of the most affordable brands of aligners with a once-off fee of $1145, a SmileFlex monthly instalment fee of $86 a month over 12 months, or instalment payments of $96 a month over 11 months. The initial kit for making your dental impressions costs $75, and is refundable if they later find you’re not a candidate for their treatment.

NewSmile

NewSmile aligners cost $1195 as a once-off payment or $84 per month for 12 months with a  $295 deposit if you prefer to pay in instalments. As part of the treatment you will receive an impression kit worth $95.

Byte

Byte aligners are $1895 if you pay the once-off cost – or they offer a monthly payment plan of $83 per month with an initial deposit of $349. Their impression kit costs $95 and you can get a refund if you’re found not to be an eligible candidate for treatment.

SmileDirectClub

The single pay option costs $1950. Alternatively, the instalment plan is $89 a month for 24 months with a down payment of $250. The impression kit is $59, which is refundable if you’re not a fit for their treatment. 

Candid

Candid aligners cost $2400 as a once-off payment, or $99 a month for 24 months plus a $399 downpayment if you choose their instalment plan. Their impression kit costs $95 and they offer a refund if you don’t qualify for treatment. Instead of the impression kit, you also have the option of having a scan of your teeth made at a Candid Studio for free.

ClearCorrect

The price of ClearCorrect treatments vary depending on your exact dental issues. It will cost you around $4000 to $5500 for the full treatment, but if your dental issues are quite mild and you’re eligible for their limited treatment then that will cost less, at $2500 to $3500.

How do aligners compare with braces in terms of access and price?

In terms of price, aligners can be much more cost effective than braces. Because many aligner companies offer fixed prices, you know upfront what the costs will be. With braces and some aligner companies, you will need to get a customised quote of the costs and duration of treatment.

In terms of access to treatment – if you have quite complex alignment issues then you may not be eligible for aligners – in which case your option would be braces or perhaps an aligner brand like Invisalign which can treat quite complex cases. Many aligner brands offer remote monitoring which also enables greater access to their services.

Final thoughts on aligners vs braces

If you are looking to get your teeth straightened, then you can choose from a range of different types of braces or clear aligners. 

When deciding between alternatives, consider cost (including the costs associated with the initial scan or impressions and post-treatment retainers), flexibility, comfort, which dentists or orthodontists you would like to use, and how far you might need to travel for scans or checkups. 

The cost of your treatment will ultimately depend in part on the complexity of your dental issues, and in part on where exactly you live. As we mentioned, living in California increases the price you will pay for braces. By comparison, many aligner brands offer fixed pricing and teledentistry, so your location is not a factor in determining the rate you will pay.

The price you’ll pay also depends on the complexity of your dental issue. If you have a mild issue, and you’re an eligible candidate for aligners, then you may be able to save quite a bit in comparison with braces.

When it comes to costs, be sure to also take into account the costs of dental scans or impressions, and post-treatment requirements like retainers usually need to be replaced every 6 months or every year, depending on the brand. 

In terms of flexibility, consider if you are comfortable with having braces affixed permanently to your teeth or whether you’d prefer a solution that is removable like aligners. Linked to this, consider if you are looking for invisible braces, visible braces, or clear aligners.

Dr Fabin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Fabin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.

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