Adult Braces: What Are Your Options, and How Much Do They Cost?
Many people canceled medical appointments during the pandemic, and at least one dental specialist has seen an increase in patients seeking orthodontic work (that’s the practice of diagnosing, preventing, and straightening out teeth and jaws). “We’ve seen a big uptick in adults pursuing orthodontics in the last year or so, which I’ve dubbed the ‘Zoom meeting effect,’” says Katie Larson, D.D.S. She’s an orthodontist at Larson Orthodontics in Wisconsin.
If the thought of wearing braces as an adult makes you feel uncool, you’ll be glad to know that today’s options are a lot better looking, says Dr. Larson. Here’s a look at five teeth-straightening options.
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1. Metal Braces
Metal braces have small metal brackets that your orthodontist cements to your teeth, which are then realigned with applied pressure. The braces are connected to one another by a wire, which is tightened by your orthodontist every eight weeks to shift your teeth and jaw over time.
Metal braces are the most common type of braces, and they’re what you’ll remember children wearing when you were younger. Thankfully, today’s metal braces are smaller and less visible than the ones your classmates had in school, says Dr. Larson.
While metal braces are usually the cheapest choice, they’re not always the best one, notes Kami Hoss, D.D.S. He’s an orthodontist and dentist in San Diego. Metal braces often take years to straighten teeth, while types that use newer technology can take just months, depending on the treatment. Metal braces also often require more visits to your orthodontist and more discomfort.
2. Ceramic Braces
Ceramic braces work in the same way as metal braces, but because they’re made to match the color of your teeth, they’re less visible. But since they’re harder than tooth enamel (the white part of the tooth), biting on them can wear down the enamel over time, Dr. Hoss says.
3. Self-ligating Braces
Self-ligating braces work the same way traditional braces work and come in both metal and ceramic types. The main difference is that self-ligating braces have clips that hold the wires in place on your teeth, rather than metal or elastic ties. “These automatically adjust as your teeth straighten, so they require fewer in-office appointments than traditional braces,” Dr. Hoss says.
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4. Lingual Braces
While traditional braces sit on the top of your teeth, lingual braces go behind them. That’s a plus if you want to hide that you’re wearing them in the first place. But orthodontists don’t normally offer them. That’s because they’re often uncomfortable, and you usually have to make more appointments and spend a longer time being treated for these braces, explains Dr. Larson.
“Since they’re behind the teeth, they can actually be quite uncomfortable at first and cause tongue irritation,” says Dr. Larson. “You may also notice a slight lisp.” While the discomfort, irritation, and lisp usually resolve over time, it can take weeks to months to get used to this type of braces, says Dr. Larson.
5. Invisalign and other clear aligners
Invisalign and similar products have become popular among adults for several reasons. They are transparent, removeable, and you’re able to easily brush and floss your teeth with them, says Mariya Malin, D.D.S. She’s a dentist and owner of Wilton Smiles in Wilton, Connecticut.
“These are a really good option for patients who had braces as teens and just need a touch-up or have milder orthodontic problems like misaligned teeth or an overbite,” says Dr. Malin. They also usually require fewer appointments than braces. But if you have a more complex problem, you’re better off with braces, adds Dr. Malin.
Consult your dentist or orthodontist, and consider a dental plan
Now that you’re familiar with some of the options out there, you may be wondering how much this will all cost you. You can start by asking your dentist or orthodontist for estimates. Estimates will vary because the cost of braces and aligners can vary significantly depending on where in the country you live and what type you choose, says Dr. Hoss.
You should be aware, though, that your health plan won’t likely cover braces or aligners. But you can find a separate dental discount plan that may offer discounts for adult orthodontia. You may also want to think about using a health savings account or a flexible spending account, says Dr. Larson.
Ready to find a dental discount plan that has orthodontic coverage? Explore plans online, or call a licensed insurance agent at (800) 827-9990 today.