Braces For Adults
We tend to think of braces as a dental treatment for adolescents, but that’s changed in recent years. From 2012 to 2014, adults seeking treatment from orthodontists in the U.S. and Canada increased 16 percent, resulting in a record high of 1,460,000 patients ages 18 and older, according to the American Association of Orthodontists’ (AAO) report “Economics of Orthodontics.”
Adults choose to get braces for medical and cosmetic reasons. Correcting problems such as misaligned or crooked teeth may make people more confident about their smile. And in some cases, braces may be required as part of a treatment plan before getting dental implants or other restorative work.
For others, the focus is on addressing issues that can contribute to or cause tooth decay, ear and jaw pain, and difficulties in eating, sleeping and speaking.
Orthodontic Treatment For Adults
Both adults and children can expect the same benefits from orthodontic treatment – straighter, well-aligned teeth. But obtaining those results can take more time and money for adult patients.
Children’s jaws are still growing, which makes it easier to manage issues such as overbites and underbites. Generally, children will need to wear braces for 18 months to two years while adults typically wear braces for 18 months to three years. Both children and adults may need to wear a retainer at night for several years to preserve the results of treatment after braces are removed.
Additionally, adults tend to have existing dental work which may complicate their orthodontic treatment. Younger people may also have healthier teeth and gums than adults. For successful orthodontic treatment, the tissues and bones that support teeth must be strong, stable and healthy. periodontal disease and other dental health issues need to be addressed before getting braces.
Types Of Braces
There are more choices for braces than the clunky metal orthodontics devices worn by kids a few decades ago.
- Metal braces (traditional braces) are lighter and less obtrusive than they used to be, but adults tend to pass on traditional braces in favor of more discreet devices. In some cases, though, metal is the only choice for specific treatment needs. Metal braces are the least expensive of the various orthodontic options, and cost from $3,000 – $7,000.
- Ceramic braces, blend with the color of teeth, though a thin metal wire is visible. This type of device may offer the best compromise between aesthetics and cost for adults, but ceramic material may not have the force needed to move adult teeth, and can be more prone to chipping and breaking due to the brittle nature of ceramics. Check with your dentist or orthodontist to see if this type of braces are right for you. They cost about $1000 more than metal braces, around $4,000 -$8,000.
- Invisalign® aligners, clear plastic devices that fit over teeth and can be removed temporarily when the wearer chooses, cost $4,000 – $7,400. As with ceramics, Invisalign may not work for all treatment needs. You are advised to wear the aligners for 20-22 hours a day, so don’t assume you can wear them only at home/at night. In some cases, you’ll need to add “attachments,” (also called “buttons” or “bumps”) and elastics to your aligners. These add-ons may be visible – which can be an issue for those who are hoping for a completely invisible orthodontic solution.
- Lingual braces, which are made out of metal but are bonded to the inside surface of teeth, are virtually invisible when the wearer smiles. They are the most expensive option, costing $8,000 – $10,000. Special technical skills are needed to install lingual braces, so check that your dental professional has the appropriate experience.
In addition to the prices above, you should factor in the additional costs required to prepare your teeth for braces. These treatments may include fillings, cleanings, and – occasionally for adults – extractions to open the space required for your teeth to move into their desired new position.
Depending on the type of braces that you get, you’ll also need to see the dentist – typically once a month or so over a two-year period – to have the braces adjusted. And after your braces are removed you’ll almost certainly need to have a retainer made, in order to keep your teeth from returning to their original position.
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Insurance for Adult Braces
Dental insurance generally partially covers the costs of braces for children under the age of 18. Adults may not be covered by orthodontic benefits, so check your plan’s coverage carefully. Also, if you have just joined the dental insurance plan, be aware that there may also be a waiting period of six months to a year before orthodontics coverage is available to you.
Dental insurance typically covers orthodontics up to a lifetime maximum of $1,500 for each eligible member of the plan. The average cost of adult braces is between $5,000 and $6,000, so it is likely that a significant percentage of the cost that will be paid out of the patient’s pocket. One benefit of traditional insurance is that plan providers probably have negotiated lower rates with dentists/orthodontists in their networks. Even if the plan doesn’t cover much of the cost of braces, you may benefit from getting a lower rate overall.
Dental savings plans, sometimes known as dental discount plans, are particularly well-suited to making orthodontics affordable. Many plans on dentalplans.com offer an average savings of 20%-25% on orthodontics, on average. Savings vary based on plan member’s locations, the average rate for dental care locally, and the savings negotiated by plan providers. Unlike insurance, savings plans have no annual limit. A plan member can use their plan to reduce their costs at the dentist as often as they wish. Many dental savings plans offer orthodontics savings to adults as well as children.