How to Get Cheap Braces Without Insurance

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Are you wondering how to get cheap braces without insurance?

Straighter and more attractive set of teeth, better bite, and confidence in your smile. These are just some of the few things braces can offer which can really make a lasting impact on your life.

Unfortunately, it can also make a lasting impact on your wallet too, especially if you don’t have insurance. So you might be wondering, are there ways to get cheap braces without insurance? This entry will help you explore all available options to find affordable braces and get that beautiful smile you deserve.

Quick facts about braces

Before you get further down the rabbit hole, here are some important facts you need to know about getting braces and their benefits.

Braces treatment is an orthodontic treatment used to straighten your teeth and fix your bite. They are commonly used for youths to correct their misaligned teeth, overbite, or underbite, since their jaws are still growing. The American Dental Association says they are typically given to children eight to 14 years old. In the past couple of decades however, more and more adults are getting their teeth fixed with this dental treatment.

How much do braces cost?

Braces are tested and proven in treating various dental problems. They are however, have always been traditionally expensive. Prices for braces treatment differ significantly depending on where you live. Generally however, the average cost for the whole braces treatment ranges from $3,000 to $5,000.

Also, prices can differ from one person to another. Depending on the scope of the problem that needs to be fixed, how long you need to wear them, and of course, the type of braces you choose. As a rough estimate, you can expect to pay up to $10,000 for the whole treatment process.

The cost of braces is traditionally cheaper for children, since on average, they do not need to wear them as long as adults. Generally, the longer you wear them, the more expensive the treatment can get.

While expensive, in cases where they are actually medically necessary, opting to forego this braces treatment can lead to more serious and costly dental problems in the future.

Braces are often less expensive for children, since on average they do not need to wear braces as long as adults. The longer you wear the braces, the more expensive they can get since that means more visits and readjustments from the orthodontist.

Since adult jaws are fully formed, their teeth cannot move so easily. This is why adult braces are a little more expensive than children’s braces, as it will take longer for the braces to fix the bite.

Subsequently, most insurance providers do not cover the cost for braces treatment for adults than children.

Does insurance pay for braces treatment?

Yes, but not all insurance pays for braces. Check your insurance policy to see if it includes coverage for said orthodontic treatment. Some policies provide coverage for at least a percentage of the orthodontic care and support for the prescription products such as anticavity fluoride rinse. This is a must-have aftercare once the braces are removed.

Patients with insurance generally pay around $3,407 out of pocket for the traditional metal braces, per CostHelper 2021 reports. Typically, insurances pay for the downpayment and spread the rest of the cost for the duration of the treatment. The total covered amount is typically subject to the maximum benefit of your policy, thus check it is best to check it with your insurance provider to determine your ceiling coverage.

The average cost of braces without insurance

The average cost for braces treatment without dental insurance is around $3,000 to $7,350 for traditional metal braces, per CostHelper reports. The monthly payment again, varies from different factors, such as the type of braces, treatment duration, severity of the bite and positioning problems, and payment plan.

Traditional metal braces are usually the cheaper option, while lingual braces are the most costly. Subsequently, the length of treatment and some issues which may take longer to correct (straighten the teeth), will require more appointments for maintenance and adjustments with the orthodontist. Each visit carries its own cost.

To get a more precise quote, it is best to schedule a consultation with your partner dentist or orthodontist.

Consequently, in some cases the dentist may recommend additional dental procedures such as cavity fillings or cleaning, which could add up to the cost too.

Different types of braces

As said earlier, the prices for braces treatment can be influenced by the type of braces you get. Here are the different types of braces in the market today:

Traditional metal braces

Also referred as standard metal braces, these braces use wires and metal brackets to realign the teeth for months, if not years. They are the least expensive option in this list, but they are noticeable.

Prices for standard metal braces can range from $3,000 to $7,500 for the whole treatment. The average cost for adults is at $5,300.

Ceramic braces

Ceramic braces work similarly as its conventional counterpart. But instead of using metals for the brackets, this braces treatment uses clear transparent or tooth-colored ceramic material that are way less noticeable.

Ceramic braces tend to be slightly more expensive, with price ranging from $2,000 to $8,000. The average cost for adults is at $5,500.

Self-ligating braces

Most braces are painful and uncomfortable, especially at the beginning part of the treatment. Self-ligating braces on the other hand, offers a gentler treatment as it uses a slide mechanism instead of elastics that connects to the archwires. This technique provides faster noticeable results that require fewer visits to the orthodontist, as the teeth moves on their own without requiring manual adjustments.

The average cost for adults for this orthodontic treatment is at $5,500.

Invisible aligners

Also known as invisalign braces, these are the clear type or custom plastic aligners that fits over your teeth like a mouthguard.

An orthodontist will create an impression of your teeth by taking a mold of your bite to make a pair of custom invisalign braces. As with other types of braces, invisaligns works by putting pressure against certain parts of the teeth to slowly force them to move to their ideal position over time.

The best part about this treatment is, they can be removed for eating and cleaning (while brushing your teeth). However, for it to work effectively, it must be worn as much as possible.

The cost can range from $3,000 to $7,000. While the average cost for adults can go as high as $5,700. Your orthodontist may also recommend other brands of invisible aligners which may affect the total cost for the treatment.

Lingual braces

Lingual braces work similar as traditional braces. But instead of being attached to the front, the metal brackets and wires are attached to the back of your teeth, hiding them and making them unnoticeable. They are nearly invisible, but they are also quite expensive, with prices ranging from $5,000 to $13,000.

The average price for adults is at $12,000 for the whole treatment.

Additional dental procedures commonly associated with braces treatment

As said earlier, there are cases where the dentist may recommend additional dental procedures, especially aftercare treatment. Each procedure comes with its own cost, some of the most common procedures are:

• Initial cleaning

• Filling before brace fitting

• X-rays (to determine the biting position and teeth development)

• Dental cast (plaster model) to assess the alignment of the bite

• Possible tooth extraction for overcrowded teeth

• Jaw surgeries (for extreme cases)

• Retainers (to keep the teeth in their new position after braces treatment)

Obviously, there are no one-size-fits-all treatment plans for braces treatment. Your dentist/orthodontist will create a personalized course of treatment to suit your unique needs.

Other factors that contributes to the average for of braces for adults

As said earlier, prices for braces vary on a lot of factors, including:

• Location (city and state)

• Age

• Type of braces

• Duration for the whole treatment

• Orthodontist’s expertise and experience

• How far your teeth need to move

• How well you take care of your braces

How to afford braces without insurance

If your insurance coverage doesn’t include coverage for braces treatment, or you don’t have dental insurance, then fortunately for you there are ways to get cheaper braces, or at least find ways to pay less. Here are some things you might want to consider.

  • Choose the more affordable options – Since you are paying out of your own pocket, then it is best to opt for the cheaper option. While lingual braces and Invisalign sounds cool, since they are barely noticeable, they come with a hefty price tag. Ask your orthodontist for the best option for you money-wise, chances are you can get the traditional metal braces. You may also need to consider the option that require fewer visits to your dentist and are made with cheaper materials.
  • Try dental school clinics – Rather than going straight to your nearest orthodontist or your preferred dentist, consider dental schools in your area. Part of dentistry students’ education is to conduct supervised treatments with their faculty members. You may want to check it with their programs, they offer reduced fees. Typically, you will only have to pay for the material and equipment costs. Obviously, you need to check the school’s accreditation as well.
  • Ask for a payment plan – Most dental clinics offer payment plans for people without insurance. This is because they often partner with financing companies to provide flexible payment options for a less compared to traditional credit financing. They are plans with little to no interest and can typically to up to 24 months. These are great options for both adults and kids.
  • Finance your braces – You can actually use regular credit finances such as credit cards and personal loans for braces treatment. Interest may be higher, but you can spread the payment for a long as you want (negotiate this with your bank). In some cases, there are also discount programs available through your dental office that can greatly reduce the overall cost. Some orthodontic clinics offer financing options that covers the cost for the braces treatment but accumulates interest. Make sure you consider the pros and cons for the monthly payments.
  • Use Flexible Spending Account – If your dental plan doesn’t offer braces treatment coverage, then you may want to use your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA). The money you have in this account isn’t taxed, meaning it can go further. Pay your contribution and use it to pay for expenses not covered by your insurance policy, including braces and other dental treatments that may come with it, as well as other deductibles. Depending on the FSA or HAS rules, you may get reimbursements for co-pays or dental clinic visits as well.
  • Check for dental assistance programs – Most states offer dental assistance programs for low-income families to get their much-needed dental care and treatment. There are also many non-profit organizations that provide assistance for the cost. You can also check out clinics run by medical and dental volunteers. Some may offer grants to cover costs.

Tips to save money on associated cost for braces treatment

While braces can be expensive, there are actually ways to lower the cost. Here are some ways to save money on your braces treatment:

• Get a dental or orthodontic insurance policy that includes braces treatment coverage

• Shop for quotes from different orthodontic clinics

• Get braces from dental schools that offers more affordable treatment

• Avoid bigger and more expensive treatment by getting braces early

• Take good care of your braces to avoid expensive repairs

• Make use Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA)

• Many clinics offer discounts for full payments, thus If possible, pay the full price upfront

• Ask about the clinic’s different payment plan options

Get a dental savings plan

Also known as dental discount plan, a dental savings plan is designed for individuals, families, or groups of people looking to save money on their oral health needs, particularly for orthodontic treatments. It can significantly reduce the cost of any dental treatment once you have reached the yearly maximum insurance or lifetime cap on coverage for the braces treatment. Subsequently, if the insurance does not cover braces, a dental savings plan can help.

Plan members can get 10 to 60% savings on typical dental care, treatments, and restorative care with dental savings plan. Participating dental care clinics have agreed to accept plan holders for a discounted price. All you have to do is show your membership card at any participating plan provider to receive your dental services at a discounted price. You will then only pay the discounted rate straight to the dentist or orthodontist.

Why you actually need to get braces, even without insurance

While they often come with a hefty price tag, braces can benefit both your oral health and appearance, making it a worthy and valuable investment. Aside from straighter teeth and more beautiful smile, here are some of the undeniable benefits of braces:

• Improves oral health – by straightening misaligned teeth, braces can contribute greatly in keeping your teeth and gums healthy and preventing gum disease, cavities, and periodontal diseases.

Gum diseases are infections in the soft tissues that surround and hold the teeth in place. These can be categorized as gingivitis or more severe periodontal disease. Crooked or misaligned teeth make it easier for food particles to get trapped in between teeth. This makes it easy for bacteria to grow and multiply. By straightening the teeth, braces makes it difficult for bacteria to find spots to flourish. Along with regular brushing and flossing, you can improve oral health with braces.

Subsequently, braces can prevent development of tooth decay by minimizing the overlap and uneven wear and tear of the teeth. Uneven bite caused by misaligned teeth makes teeth more prone to wear and tear that leads to tooth decay. Bacteria trapped in the surfaces of the teeth eat the enamel of the teeth causing decay.

Also, crooked and misaligned teeth have higher risk of damage. Unevenly spaced teeth caused by overbite or underbite makes uneven distribution of bite force every time you bite or chew your food. Overtime, the teeth that get the most pressure will start to crack and break. Similarly, protruding teeth break easier since it doesn’t have a stable support on their base. Braces can easily solve this problem by correcting your bite and aligning the teeth.

• Aids in digestion – Misaligned teeth (including underbite and overbite) make it difficult to chew food effectively. As a result, your digestive is forced to work extra harder and longer to properly digest your food. This can make you feel bloated for longer period of time. In many cases, this leads to irritable bowels, intestinal distress, and difficulty feeling sated after meals. Straight teeth with optimal alignment helps you chew food efficiently and improve digestion by reducing the number of improperly chewed food from entering the stomach.

• Prevents jaw bone erosion – Bacteria doesn’t only affect teeth and gums, it can also cause damage to the jaw bone that holds the teeth in place through bone erosion.

Each tooth is supported by a long root that embeds in the jaw bone. If bacteria penetrate the enamel of the tooth down to the gums all the way to the bone, it can eat up the bone and cause it to erode. Jawbone erosion is commonly caused by misaligned teeth that put extra force to the teeth and gums, creating tiny spaces for bacteria to hide and penetrate. Braces on the other hand, straightens the teeth to ensure there are no pockets of spaces for bacteria to build up and cause damage to the teeth, gums, and bones.

• Improves speech – Teeth misalignment, better known as malocclusion, can cause chronic speech problems. This is because misaligned teeth can cause you to make whistling sounds each time you say certain words. Braces can improve your speech by correcting your teeth alignment.

• Improves comfort – Misaligned teeth, overbite, and underbite are undeniably uncomfortable. People with this kind of oral problem often bite their tongue, insides of their cheeks, and damage their gums. Subsequently, the teeth are constantly in an unstable position which leads to pain, as the gum tissues are pulled in different ways.

Braces can improve comfort by pulling teeth back to their natural, ideal, and comfortable positions. This will reduce the likelihood of accidentally biting your tongue and insides of your cheeks, but more importantly, reduce the strain in the jaw and minimize the risk of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.

• Boosts confidence and improves mental health – Outside of its health and physical benefits, braces can absolutely bring confidence and improve one’s mental health in so many ways. People who struggle with crooked and uneven teeth often find it difficult to show their smiles or talk to people. This affects their self-esteem and can even lead to social anxiety. Braces can help correct the physical flaws, making anyone feel more comfortable in showing off their beautiful smile.

Do braces hurt?

Yes it does. It takes an hour or two for an orthodontic to properly put on the braces. After a few hours, you may experience some discomfort, pain, and even soreness in your gums and teeth. This is completely normal. This is because the braces are pulling your teeth to their desired places, constantly putting pressure on your gums. The pain however can only last for week or until your mouth properly adjust to the braces. Most people become used to their braces in about four weeks.

Any discomfort and pain associated with wearing braces can be managed with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. However, make sure you avoid chewing on chewy food for at least a week. Rather, eat soft food like porridge, yogurt, soup, ice cream, etc. Also, choose beverage high in calcium and low in sugar.

Tips to manage braces pain

Ice pack

Ice can numb the mouth and minimize the inflammation, providing quick pain relief. You use ice pack or gel outside your mouth for pain relief.

Oral anesthetics

Anbesol and Orajel are oral anesthetics that are applied directly to the sensitive gums and teeth using your finger or cotton swab. These substances works by desensitizing the gums and teeth so you won’t feel discomfort and pain from the pressure caused by the braces.

Dental wax

After attaching your braces, your orthodontist may recommend using firm and stretchy dental wax for the tough metal parts of the braces. The dental wax will minimize friction and rubbing against the sensitive areas of the mouth, reducing pain in the process.

Gum massage

Another quick and easy way to manage the pain is to use your fingers to gently massage your gums in a circular motion. This will help relax the gums and promote blood circulation, especially if the gums are swollen.

Warm rinse

Warm water with salt can provide relief for your gums. This is extremely beneficial especially if you have cuts and sores in your mouth caused by the braces. Gargle with warm salt water a couple of times a day for quick relief and to promote healing.

Frozen teething rings

Another good tool you can use to manage braces pain is teething rings. Chewing on teething rings and moving them to specific spots the hurt can gradually alleviate pain by numbing the area.

Quick Q & A: Braces cost without insurance

Q: How long do I have to wear the braces?

A. Each case is different, and there is no fixed answer as to how long you have to wear your braces to straighten your teeth. The duration of the treatment depends on lots of different factors, from the type of braces you choose, severity of the misalignment, etc. Typically, metal braces take around 12 to 24 months. Invisaligns could take 12 to 36 months. In most cases, dentists prescribe removable retainers when after the treatment.

Q. How often should I visit my dentist for follow-up and adjustments?

A. Again, this is a case to case basis, and you dentist can provide you the best answer. Generally however, appointments for necessary adjustments are every few weeks. Adjustments are actually important part of the whole treatment process, as your teeth moves towards the desired positions.

Subsequently, the number of visits for adjustments depends on the type of braces you get. Lingual braces require the most adjustments.

Q. Are there any discount programs for braces if I don’t have insurance?

A. Some clinics offer discount programs for patients without an insurance or braces coverage in their insurance policy. Talk to your orthodontist about their discount program and payment options.

Q. How to know if Medicaid will pay for my braces treatment without insurance?

A. The coverage for Medicaid differs from one state to another. Children are covered with dental care in their Medicaid per federal mandate, as long as it is considered as medically necessary.

For children, all states must cover:

• Teeth restoration

• Dental treatment for infections and pain relief

• Medically necessary orthodontic treatment (this includes braces)

There are also states that provide coverage for braces treatment for adults for special medical conditions. To be sure, you can check Medicaid’s website.

Parting tips

While braces can be expensive, they offer tons of benefits that greatly outweigh its price. Consider it as an investment for yourself. Additionally, there are ways to save on your braces treatment. Take time to explore your options and shop around for the best deals. Invest in your teeth and get that beautiful smile you rightfully deserve!

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin 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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