If you are an adult with crooked teeth, you probably have some questions about adult braces: How much do braces cost for adults and teens? Are there any free braces programs for adults? Are braces worth it?
If you're considering having your teeth straightened or you have a teenager who may need orthodontic work, this guide is for you. We'll cover the following points:
- Brace types
- Different brands
- Braces costs for adults
- Cheap braces for adults without insurance
- Braces for low-income adults
- How braces work
We'll also talk about the average cost of braces for adults with and without dental insurance that covers braces, as well as options for affordable braces for low-income adults. To see all of our articles on dental health, visit our homepage.
Table of contents
- 1 How do braces work?
- 2 How do you know you need braces?
- 3 Different types of braces
- 4 How much do braces cost for adults and teens?
- 5 Finding a good orthodontist near me
- 6 Braces alternative
- 7 Adult braces: before and after
- 8 Do braces hurt?
- 9 Eating restrictions
- 10 How do I know if I need orthodontic work?
- 11 Conclusion
- 12 FAQs
How do braces work?
Braces correct problems with dental alignment by exerting constant, slight pressure on your teeth throughout the day, for months and in some cases years. There are several different types of braces used in modern orthodontics, and each one works in a slightly different way, but the main aim of braces for teeth is to straighten teeth.
How do you know you need braces?
There are various reasons why your dentist or orthodontist may recommend that you have dental braces fitted:
- Your teeth are crooked, crowded or protruding and need to be straightened
- You have gaps between your teeth, or diastema, that need to be closed
- You have a malocclusion, (e.g. overbite teeth or underbite teeth, opened bite), meaning your upper and lower teeth don't meet properly and this is affecting your bite
- Your teeth are misaligned because of a birth defect, e.g. a cleft palate or cleft lip
You may find that the cost of braces is worth it, because if these problems are left untreated they can lead to:
- Difficulty eating
- Difficulty cleaning teeth properly, resulting in further dental problems
- Increased chance of damage to prominent teeth
- Headaches from jaw and muscle strain
- Speech impediments
When to get braces
Teeth straightening works best when the teeth and jaw are still growing, but treatment won't usually begin until most adult teeth have come through. This means the ideal age to start wearing dental braces is usually around 10–14 years old.
However, getting braces can still be effective at any age. The American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) has plenty of information on their website for adults who may be considering getting braces. AAO orthodontists treated over 1.5 million adults in 2016.
Braces aren’t just for kids anymore. More than 20% of people with braces are now adults and 1.4 million Americans over the age of 18 have braces – a 40% increase since the late 80s.
Adults are getting braces for a variety of reasons: to achieve a better smile or to fix the effects of conditions like gum and bone loss, tooth decay or jaw joint pain.
But braces aren’t for everyone and you have to make a commitment. Here are a few questions to ask yourself and your orthodontist before you begin adult orthodontic treatment:
- Are you willing to put up with minor changes in your appearance during treatment?
- Are you willing to abstain from certain sticky and hard treats?
- Are you willing to endure some tenderness in your mouth and teeth after adjustments?
- Are you willing to cooperate with the instructions and suggestions of your orthodontist?
- Are your treatment expectations realistic?
Dr. Clarke Stevens
Different types of braces
Fortunately, conventional ‘metal mouth' braces are no longer the only option for those wanting a perfect smile. Modern ceramic materials can be made to match your natural tooth color, while invisible braces like Invisalign, NewSmile, and Candid are almost impossible to detect. This draws much less attention to the fact that you have orthodontic braces on your teeth.
Below is a summary of the main advantages and disadvantages of dental braces of different kinds. Following that, you will find more detailed information to help you decide which type is right for you.
Invisible braces for adults
Invisible aligner braces can be divided into two categories: in-office and at-home. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages. For instance, in-office invisible braces can be used for severely crooked teeth, while at-home braces should only be used for mild to moderate cases of malocclusion. At-home braces, on the other hand, are much cheaper than in-office braces, and also way more convenient.
In-office invisible braces
In-office invisible braces are those which require regular visits with your dentist or orthodontist to complete treatment.
Normally your treatment will begin with a consultation, and then, if your dentist decides you are a candidate, they will make molds or take digital scans of your teeth. These will then be sent to a laboratory where they will plan your treatment and make your aligners. Once your aligners are made, you will visit your dentist again to receive them, and then periodically over the course of treatment, your dentist will make adjustments as needed.
Since invisible braces require in-person professional involvement, they are quite a bit more expensive than at-home braces. In fact, they can cost up to 75% more!
Some of the most popular names in the invisible braces game are Invisalign, SureSmile, and ClearCorrect. The main difference between these two brands is the material used and the cost, depending on the type of treatment you choose.
Invisalign also offers special teen braces with compliance indicators and express options for faster treatment. In-office braces can treat around 90% of orthodontic problems, including jaw misalignment and severely crooked teeth. You can read more about the differences between these two brands in our full guide here, or check out our ClearCorrect reviews.
Another in-office brand we have reviewed is fast braces Six Month Smiles, which offers either clear aligners or clear braces, depending on the complexity of your case. Treatment focuses only on the teeth visible when you talk or smile.
At-home clear aligner braces
At-home clear aligners look, feel and work the same as the in-office brands mentioned above. But that is where the similarities end. These differ from in-office brands in the following ways:
- They are much less expensive than in-office brands—in fact, they cost under $2,500.
- Treatment can be carried out completely remotely, by taking teeth impressions at home.
- Some brands also have physical locations you can visit for a 3D teeth scan.
- Treatment can be as quick as 3 months.
- Typically, patients must be at least 16 and have all of their permanent teeth.
- They are only suitable for mild and moderate teeth movement.
There are numerous brands offering home teeth straightening treatment, but not all provide the same level of care and service to their customers. Take a look at some of the top brands available and see which would be the best match for your needs:
- Advanced remote monitoring technology
- Visit a Studio or take impressions at home
- Monitored exclusively by orthodontists
- $1,895 or $65/month
Candid are leading the way in remote monitoring technology, ensuring your treatment is efficient and effective. Their orthodontist-only team follow rigorous checks when planning and conducting your treatment to give you the best results.
- A free impression kit
- Free whitening foam
- A new, lower price of $1,895
- A full refund if you're not a good candidate
Finance is available from $65/month, and you can also buy just the starter kit to begin with.
- Complete treatment 100% remotely
- Amazing customer service
- Nighttime-only option
- $1,295 or $77/month
NewSmile aligners are made from the clearest Essix plastic and come with a daytime or nighttime-only option to suit you. For just $1,295 you'll receive everything you need to straighten and whiten your teeth – and maintain your new smile:
- Home impression kit
- Full aligner treatment
- Free whitening
- First set of retainers
- A full refund if you're not a good fit
NewSmile go above and beyond to provide a great experience to all their customers, beginning with a live video call to help you with your teeth impressions. Mail these back, and they'll send a 3D Treatment Preview for you to approve before going ahead.
- Complete treatment 100% remotely
- 6 month average treatment time
- Nighttime-only option
- $1,145 or $95/month
If you're looking for the best value aligner package, here it is! For just $1,145 you'll get:
- Impression kit
- Full aligner treatment course
- Free teeth whitening kit
- Your first set of retainers
In short, everything needed to straighten your teeth remotely and keep them looking great, with a full money-back guarantee if you're not a suitable candidate.
This low price doesn't mean you're compromising on quality of care, though. ALIGNERCO just choose not to put so much into marketing, and they pass on the savings to their customers. They are also known for their responsive and helpful customer care, which is important when you're doing things from home.
Plus, if you're in New York, you can visit their SmileStudio for a free consultation and help taking your impressions.
Nighttime-only aligners are also available for anyone who doesn't want to wear aligners during the day.
- 3-4 month average treatment time
- Assessed and planned by orthodontists
- Includes whitening and first retainers
- $1,895 or $83/month
Byte's HyperByte technology uses High Frequency Vibration to help your teeth move faster and with minimal discomfort. Their average treatment time is just 3-4 months, compared to 6 months for most others.
Treatment includes your first set of retainers. You'll also get their BrightByte 3-in-1 foam to whiten your teeth, clean your aligners and freshen your breath. And their Byte-for-life guarantee means you'll get free adjustments if your teeth start to move again.
Begin by ordering an impression kit so their orthodontists can assess whether you're a good match.
If you're interested in this type of treatment but not ready to commit just yet, you can begin by just taking a free assessment to check your eligibility. Our guide to the best invisible braces also goes into more detail on this topic, and you can also review the differences between invisible braces like Invisalign vs traditional braces.
While you are browsing at-home braces brands, make sure that you only consider real companies, and keep an eye out for fake braces and DIY options.
There are other brands like Uniform Teeth and Dandy aligners which offer a hybrid option between in-office and at-home aligners. So there are some office visits, but not as many as there are with a brand like Invisalign. The cost of these braces falls somewhere between at-home and full in-office brands.
Another option for people who want to straighten their teeth inconspicuously is lingual braces. Although not technically invisible, the fittings go behind the teeth, facing inwards, so they're hardly noticeable from the outside. Read more about the differences between lingual braces vs Invisalign.
These are also known as ‘hidden' or ‘Incognito' braces, (which is actually a brand name). The brackets fixed to the inner surface of the teeth can be standard fittings, but they can also be molded to the shape of each tooth individually. The latter option is, understandably, much more expensive.
There are only a couple of drawbacks to lingual braces that you should consider before getting them:
Firstly, they are difficult to clean as they can't be seen clearly and are in a place you're not used to cleaning thoroughly. This positioning also means that adjustments at checkups take longer.
Secondly, hidden braces can cause more noticeable speech problems at first than normal orthodontic braces. They are also more uncomfortable than some other systems as the brackets and wires are closest to the tongue.
Finally, the treatment typically costs more than traditional styles.
The brackets for ceramic braces are made from a material that's either clear or the same color and texture as teeth, making them less obvious than their metal counterpart. Furthermore, the wire used to connect the brackets can also be tooth-colored.
Because these work in the same way as traditional braces, they are just as effective. This does also mean that they carry the same potential for discomfort.
The main downside of clear or white braces made from ceramic material is that the elastic bands used on them can stain easily if not cleaned properly. The material used also makes them more expensive than metal.
For many people, ceramic adult braces provide a good balance between cost, speed, and appearance. Transparent braces brackets are not noticeable from a distance and are less distracting close-up.
In terms of outward appearance, self-ligating braces are much the same as conventional styles in that they use a bracket and wire system. However, the modern technology used means that no elastic bands or metal ties are required to keep the straightening archwire in place.
Some brands, such as Damon, have a clear option with transparent brackets for patients who are more image-conscious.
The self-tightening system used in Damon braces combined with advanced technology heat-activated wires mean that the process of aligning teeth is relatively gentle. With traditional brackets, patients usually experience braces pain or discomfort after each adjustment, but self-ligating braces are constantly adjusting at a much more steady pace.
The lack of rubber bands in this style of braces means they are more hygienic, too. The brackets are designed to hold onto less food than the traditional style.
Self-ligating appliances can also offer faster treatments than traditional metal braces because they are more efficient at moving teeth. This, along with the fact that they require fewer checkups with your orthodontist, makes them one of the more affordable braces for low-income adults.
There are limitations to the kinds of orthodontic cases that can be treated with these braces, however, so they may not be an option for certain patients.
Traditional metal braces
Even plain old metal fixed braces have come a long way from the ‘train tracks' you or your parents may have experienced at school. They have become lighter, smaller, and less noticeable as technology has improved.
High-grade stainless steel brackets are attached to each tooth and a flexible metal wire is threaded through each one. Small rubber bands or metal ties are used to secure the wire. By tightening the wire in different places, orthodontists can maneuver teeth into the desired position. Some brands, like Fastbraces, use a different style of brackets for faster results.
Sometimes they also use larger rubber bands or chains to connect different teeth (from top to bottom) and pull them in certain directions.
Occasionally some kind of headgear may have to be worn at night to aid treatment.
Having these braces fitted takes one to two hours. The process itself shouldn't hurt, but it's normal for teeth to feel sore after the initial fitting and after each adjustment. Read more about braces pain here. Some patients may need to wear spacers before braces, in order to make room for the molar rings that will anchor the braces in place. Other patients made need additional space in between their teeth so they teeth can align correctly, a process known as interproximal reduction (IPR).
Treatment using standard silver braces usually takes 18–24 months. During this time you'll be at increased risk of tooth decay so it's important to take good care of your teeth and clean your braces carefully.
For teens (and even some adults!) one bonus with this style of braces is you can choose the color of the elastic band used on each of the brackets. Colored braces at least allow you to make a style statement while your teeth are being fixed.
How much do braces cost for adults and teens?
Braces cost anywhere from $2,500 to $7,500 for the traditional variety. This high cost is one of the things that prevents many people from seeking treatment, and Medicaid usually doesn't cover them—or dentistry in general.
Does insurance cover braces?
One of the ways to help pay for expensive orthodontic treatment is to get dental insurance for braces. Some insurance companies offer plans that cover treatment for adults up to 50%. Other plans require a copayment of around $2,000, and the insurance will cover the rest. But be careful, because some plans only offer orthodontic coverage for children 19 and under. It's all a matter of shopping around to find the right plan for you.
Braces price comparison
In the table below, you can see roughly how much braces costs, based on the different types of braces for adults with private orthodontic treatment in the US. These braces prices assume that both the upper and lower teeth are treated. A higher cost of braces may apply if particularly complex work is required.
Since clear and white ceramic adult braces cost more than metal fittings, a common solution is to use ceramic or clear brackets for the top front teeth, (which are most visible), then have metal on the remaining teeth which usually remain out of sight. One front teeth aligner is Inman Aligners.
However, if you really don't want it to be obvious that you're wearing braces, invisible braces are probably the best solution. Invisalign is a well-known brand, but certainly not the cheapest type of braces. If you're worried about cost then check out these Invisalign alternatives which cost from just $1,145, and make sure to check out our article comparing Candid vs Invisalign to see how they stack up.
Does Medicaid cover braces for adults?
In some states, you may be eligible for braces coverage through Medicaid, but chances are slim. To find out if Medicaid is offered in your state, you can check out our article here and learn more about if you can get Medicaid braces for adults. It can also guide you in your search for programs that may offer free braces for low-income adults.
Finding a good orthodontist near me
Oftentimes, a dentist will refer their patients to an orthodontist they trust. However, you can also call 800-794-7437 to make an appointment with an orthodontist in your area.
Can you straighten teeth without braces? In most cases, it's possible to achieve teeth straightening without having metal glued to them, which is what most people consider braces to be. For example, invisible braces are a very popular alternative to braces made of metal.
It may also be possible to use a retainer to help correct minor problems such as overcrowded teeth. That being said, retainers are most commonly used for post-braces treatment to help keep your teeth in place once they've been straightened.
You can get retainers from your dentist or orthodontist, and you can even order custom-made retainers online.
Sporting Smiles is one of the most well-known brands to custom-make retainers and ship them directly to you. They specialize in Essix retainers and offer various packages so you can choose the best for you.
Purchasing options include:
- Essix Plus, Set of 2: $130
- Essi Plus, Single: $90
- Essix, Set of 2: $110
- Essix, Single: $85
The difference between the Plus and standard models is that Plus is more durable.
Whichever kit you choose, you'll make your impressions at home and then send them in to the Sporting Smiles lab for your retainers to be made. Kits come with extra materials so you don't have to get it perfect on the first try.
You can also get replacement retainers from Sporting Smiles if you've lost or broken the ones you already had. Use promo code SMILE10 to get 10% off your order.
If you do have a removable retainer, it's important to keep it clean, which is why you can read all about how to clean retainers in our full guide.
Adult braces: before and after
Orthodontics can achieve some pretty amazing transformations. The braces time-lapse video below shows how a variety of patients' teeth looked with braces before and after braces treatment.
Your teeth after braces will be better aligned so you can eat and take care of them more easily. Teeth straightening is also part of cosmetic dentistry, as it should also improve the esthetic appearance of your smile. These before and after braces photos show the transformation that can occur:
|Before braces||After braces|
Do braces hurt?
If you get dental braces for adults, you're asking your body to break down parts of the bone in your jaw that hold your teeth in their current position. Bone is then re-grown around the teeth in their new position, as this video shows:
So yes, it's normal to feel some discomfort – especially in the days following each visit to the dentist or orthodontist when your orthodontic braces are adjusted. There's a chance you may also experience some irritation to your cheek tissue, which can lead to mouth sores.
Here are some tips for dealing with any braces pain:
- Take over-the-counter painkillers to ease any soreness and aches
- Eat soft foods such as soup, eggs, pasta, mashed potato, and yogurt if you experience discomfort when biting
- Use orthodontic wax to cover any brackets or wires that are irritating your mouth
- If you do develop mouth ulcers, avoid touching them with your tongue or fingers as this will make them worse
- Anesthetic mouth gels can be used to numb painful areas; this can be especially useful at night if you're having trouble sleeping
- Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water will help ease oral pain
If you experience severe pain from wearing braces or a wire comes loose and is at risk of causing injury to part of your mouth, you should contact your dentist or orthodontist to make an emergency dental appointment.
While there are some foods you may avoid simply for comfort, there are others that are prohibited altogether if you have a fixed appliance.
Invisible braces offer the most flexibility with eating as they can be completely removed, but remember you must clean your teeth before putting them back in again.
Your orthodontist will tell you which foods to avoid eating with fixed braces. These usually include:
- Hard foods like nuts and boiled candies
- Foods you bite into like apples, raw carrots, crusty bread, and corn
- Sticky foods like caramel and chewing gum
- Crunchy foods like popcorn, potato chips, and ice
- Chewy foods like gummy candies, bagels, and tough meats
You can also cause damage just by biting on hard things like your fingernails or the end of a pencil, so you must be mindful of what you put in your mouth.
If your braces get damaged while you're eating you may not even realize it, and this can prolong your treatment. You may have to pay for certain parts of braces to be replaced, too. These are both good reasons to follow the instructions from your dentist!
How do I know if I need orthodontic work?
You may have concerns about your smile but aren't sure if you need treatment. Sometimes, a slightly crooked smile has to do mostly with aesthetics, and if that's the case, you could be a good candidate for at-home aligners.
Sometimes, however, in cases of severe malocclusion, it's important to get your teeth straightened for health reasons as well, in which case, it would be advisable to consult your dentist and get in-office treatment.
It's never too late to take the first step towards a more confident smile. You just need to decide which type of braces will suit you best. This probably comes down to a balance between braces price, comfort, appearance, and results.
In summary, we can say that:
- Most teens and adults would prefer to avoid the ‘train track' silver braces look.
- Ceramic braces are less obvious than metal but only from a distance, and can be just as uncomfortable.
- Lingual braces have the ‘invisibility' factor but a high price tag.
- Invisible braces arguably provide the most comfortable, affordable, and efficient straightening solution if you don't want it to be obvious you're wearing braces.
Invisalign is the leading brand of invisible brace, but the cost makes it unaffordable for some people. If you're considering saving money with at-home aligners, take a look at our reviews of Candid, ALIGNERCO, NewSmile, Byte and SmileDirectClub to see which would be most suitable for you.
We hope this guide has helped you understand more about adult brace costs and types so you can make a more informed decision.
How much do braces cost for adults?
The cost of adult braces varies a lot based on types of braces and if you have insurance or not. In-office teeth braces costs range anywhere from $2,500–$13,000. Adult braces prices will most likely be higher than braces prices for children, since teeth braces prices for children are often covered by insurance.
If your main concern is price, consider teledentistry treatment with at-home aligners. The maximum cost is $2,400, and some brands are even cheaper.
What are the different brace types?
If you are looking for braces for adults, you can choose from a wide range of braces. For more severe tooth straightening you might need metal braces. Otherwise you may be able to go with any of these: Invisible, clear aligners lingual, ceramic, and self-ligating.
Can I get braces for top teeth only and what's the price?
You may be able to get upper braces only, but your orthodontist will need to check that this won't affect the bite on your lower teeth. The cost for top teeth braces may be around 60% of a full set. Similarly, some people get braces for just their bottom teeth.
How can I find an orthodontist near me?
Thankfully, there are orthodontists everywhere! Chances are, if you go to the dentist and they recommend braces treatment, they can refer you to an orthodontist nearby. Alternatively, you can call 800-794-7437. You'll be connected with an orthodontist clinic in or near your zip code.
How long do braces take?
Braces treatment can take anywhere from two months to two+ years, depending on the type of braces you get, and the severity of correction you need. Traditional metal braces generally take 18 to 24 months as they usually treat more complex cases of malocclusion, whereas clear aligners, which are meant for minor corrections, average around six months' treatment time.
What are the best braces for adults?
The best braces for adults depends on your priorities and your oral health needs. If you are a professional, you may choose Invisalign since it's less noticeable. If you want to spend less and only need minor correction, you may opt for at-home clear aligners. And if you have moderate to severe malocclusion, your only option may very well be traditional metal braces.
Is it weird for adults to have braces?
Only if you make it weird! You may not have had the opportunity to have braces when you were a child. It's now quite common for adults to have braces, and, after all, it's only temporary. What's more, some types of aligners are designed specifically for teens and adults 16 years and older. The bottom line is, if you want to get braces, no matter how old you are, go for it!