Before you spend the time and money to straighten your teeth, here are some things you should know.
- Many dentists do braces for patients, but often they do not have enough training in tooth movement to handle complicated cases (open bites, severe overbites or underbites, etc). An orthodontist is a dentist who has extra years of training specifically in tooth movement and is usually your best choice for getting braces, or getting an opinion about whether you need braces.
- If you don’t already have an orthodontist, get recommendations from friends or your regular dentist.
- Dental chains (such as Western Dental or Aspen Dental) may offer very affordable prices for braces. However, ask whether the same orthodontist will be treating you for the entire process. In dental chains, you might see a different orthodontist every time you have an appointment. This might become a problem if you don’t like a particular orthodontist in their group (or if the orthodontists don’t all have the same years of experience).
- Sometimes dental insurance plans offer lower prices for orthodontic work, but you will be limited to their list of dentists. Be sure to ask your dental plan administrator for more information.
- Get at least three different opinions, if possible, as a “sanity check.” Orthodontists can vary in their treatment approach. If you don’t like what one ortho says, get more opinions until you reach a consensus of opinion — especially if extractions or jaw surgery may be involved. Consultations are usually free.
- How much do braces cost? Typically, around $5,000 (US dollars) for braces on upper and lower teeth for two years of treatment. This cost may be slightly lower or higher, depending on where you live.
- If you can’t afford braces from a private orthodontist, search the dental schools in your area. Many times, they provide low-cost orthodontic care. The orthodontists in training are under the watchful eye of their experienced professors, who are often orthodontists in private practice.
- Some discount dental plans offer lower prices on orthodontic work (it cannot be in progress; usually only new work is covered). One example of such a plan is DentalPlans.com, whose link is on the righthand side of this page. You are usually limited to their list of dentists.
- Research your health plan (or your spouse’s) to see if any of the treatment will be covered. Note that once you begin orthodontic treatment, many plans will not cover you! They only cover treatment that is not already in progress! So get your insurance straightened out before you begin! If you need any type of jaw surgery, this is usually covered under your medical insurance, not your dental insurance.
- Be realistic about your own expectations, and the impact of braces in your daily life. Are you ready to have them in your mouth and deal with them 24/7?
Questions to Ask the Orthodontist
- Will Invisalign or other “invisible aligner” braces work for me? If not, why?
- Could I get ceramic braces? On just uppers, or both uppers and lowers?
- Do you treat with Damon brackets? (Often these are a good alternative if extractions might be necessary. Sometimes by using Damon-type brackets, extractions can be avoided).
- (If you’re interested in braces behind the teeth) Do you do lingual brackets?
Will I need metal braces? On the uppers, lowers, or both?
- Will I need to use elastics bands to correct my bite?
- Will I need headgear or other appliances? If so, how long will I need to wear it, and how many hours per day? When, in the treatment process, would the headgear be introduced?
- Will any teeth need to be extracted?
- Will the treatment change my facial profile in any way? If so, how?
- Will I need jaw surgery? If so, when (before or after?) Where would the surgery be done?
- Will braces only straighten my teeth, or will they also improve my bite?
- How long (how many months/years) will the total treatment take?
- How often will I need to come to your office for adjustments? What do the adjustments entail?
- If I had a poking wire, could I just call and then drop in to get it clipped, or do I need to make an appointment for that?
- What is the total cost? Do you accept insurance? How is the cost broken down? What is your payment plan?
- How much pain and discomfort will I be in?
- Does the cost of my braces also include my retainers after treatment is finished? What type of retainers do you typically give your patients — Hawley, Essix, or bonded?