Medically Reviewed by Greg Grillo, D.D.S.
Tooth misalignment is a structural dental issue that can be more problematic than a mere cosmetic issue. People suffering from a “bad bite” — also referred to as a malocclusion — may experience difficulty when eating and speaking. By correcting bite abnormalities with orthodontic treatments such as dental braces, Invisalign, ClearCorrect or even TMJ treatment, alignment problems can be managed with the added benefit of smile enhancement.
Braces and Occlusion
Malocclusion is the most common dental concern to prompt braces treatment. Occlusion is defined by the American Association of Orthodontists as the contact relationship between the upper and lower teeth. The interaction of occlusal surfaces affects the functionality and health of your teeth and smile. Misaligned teeth can cause muscle pain in the head and neck, jaw pain (potentially TMJ disorder), jaw clicking, headaches, abnormal wear and tear of the teeth, etc. Failure to correct malocclusion usually makes these problems worse.
What causes malocclusion? There are several factors that may contribute to misalignment. Some of the more common factors affecting bite include supernumerary teeth (extra teeth; also called hyperdontia), missing teeth, tongue thrusting, thumb sucking and jaw function problems.
Malocclusion is often treated with braces. Depending on the extent of misalignment, orthodontic treatment may require several years of traditional wire and bracket braces treatment. On the other hand, minor cases of malocclusion allow more treatment options, such as the use of removable clear aligners like Invisalign and ClearCorrect.
A braces solution can help correct malocclusion, improving the functionality and esthetics of the mouth and smile. Over time, braces help to re-position the teeth and corresponding roots. Before treatment can begin, a thorough evaluation must first be conducted to determine the severity of the problem and any additional oral health considerations. (Oral health issues such as gingivitis, tooth decay, gum disease, must be treated.)
Your initial braces treatment consultation may include an oral, facial and functional examination, intraoral and facial photos, X-rays, bite/teeth impressions and more. During a second visit, a formal treatment plan may be discussed, including various phases of treatment, their duration and cost. Typically, braces treatment requires an average of two years, although treatment can be much longer or involve more than one phase. Braces recovery may require the use of a removable appliance for an additional period for optimal results.
Keep in mind that everything from the cost to the duration of orthodontic care varies on a case-by-case basis. Today’s braces offer some advancements to traditional treatment, including the potential for reduced treatment time, more comfortable treatment, and better esthetics.
Cost of Dental Braces
Considering dental braces as the orthodontic solution for your crooked smile? The good news is that today’s dental braces are advanced well beyond their orthodontic predecessors and offer patients a variety of faster and more esthetically flexible options. The not-so-good news is the relatively high cost of dental braces.
Braces for teeth are used for the correction of various functional and esthetic concerns relating to bite relationship (occlusion). Some of the more common dental issues corrected with dental braces include crowding, protrusions, misalignment, irregular spacing, and crooked teeth. Other restorative options may be available for consideration, though such options may not be any cheaper or more beneficial.
Factors That Affect Your Cost
Dental costs are affected by a variety of external factors. This includes the type of dental insurance coverage you have, the location where the procedure is being performed and the dentist/orthodontist performing the treatment. Braces prices can vary from one provider to the next, especially from region to region.
The average nationwide cost of dental braces ranges between $3,000 and $7,000. In addition to the aforementioned factors, your cost can be impacted by the extent of orthodontic treatment required and your overall oral health. For example, braces for teeth that are severely crooked or misaligned will be more expensive than braces for teeth that are minimally crowded. This is because a longer treatment period and additional adjustments will likely be required for more severe cases. Similarly, if you suffer from other oral health issues, such as decay or gum disease, you will need to remedy the issues before orthodontic treatment can begin.
Dental Braces Financing
There are various financing opportunities available to help offset the potentially high cost of dental braces. Your dentist/orthodontist may offer financing plans directly through their practice. However, it is more common for practices to enlist the services of a third-party financing company like Care Credit or Capital One. These flexibly options allow patients to choose a customized payment plan that best fits their unique financial considerations.
Cost of Braces vs. Clear Aligners
Traditional dental braces is one of several orthodontic solutions that may be available for consideration. Removable dental retainers and clear aligners (such as Invisalign and Clear Correct) may serve as a braces alternative.
On average, dental retainers range in price from $500 to $1,000 (with replacement costs ranging from $150 to $300). The cost of Invisalign, ClearCorrect, and other clear aligners usually ranges from $3,000 to $5,000.
Compared to the cost of dental braces, the cost of removable orthodontic appliances may be lower, but this depends on your unique orthodontic condition. Some clear aligner systems offer multiple choices depending on the severity of your case. Keep in mind that costs associated with lost or damaged removable appliances will increase the overall price of treatment.