Finding Cheap Braces: Options & Comparisons

Clinical Content Reviewed by Byte Licensed DDS
Last Modified:

Table of Contents

  1. Using Insurance Wisely
  2. Shopping Around
  3. Try Dental Schools
  4. Cheaper Alternatives
  5. Affordable Aligners from Byte
  6. FSA or HSA
  7. Choosing the Right Options

Finding cheap braces can take time, legwork, and persistence. But the money you save could make all of your hard work worthwhile.

Save money on braces by doing the following:

  1. Using your insurance benefits wisely

  2. Shopping around for the best price

  3. Booking an appointment with a dental school

  4. Choosing the right tooth straightening option

Use Your Insurance Benefits Wisely

Each month, you pay a premium to protect your teeth. Put that plan to work to help cover the cost of your braces, but check the fine print carefully.

Most dental insurance plans use something called a network to keep prices low. The administrators sign contracts with orthodontists, and they agree on how much treatments will cost consumers and how much the plan will pay.

Insurance companies will tell you that you will pay more if you choose a provider that's outside of your network. You'll see those disclosures on documents like this one

Pay close attention. If you choose a non-participating orthodontist, you may pay the entire cost of your treatment out of pocket. That's far from cheap.

Your dental plan may only cover part of the cost of care, even if you're working with a network professional. For example, a plan from Tufts covers just half of the cost of braces, and if your care costs more than $1,500, you must pay the balance.

Ensure that you understand how your plan works. Ask your orthodontist for help, if needed. Never assume your insurance will make your braces cheap.

DID YOU KNOW Byte aligners may be covered by your insurance–but cost as little as $89 a month even without coverage.

How to Save Money on Braces

Try Flexible Spending Accounts or Health Savings Accounts

A flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) could help you pay for cheap braces while (potentially) reducing your tax burden. Here’s what you need to know about them.

Flexible Spending Accounts

FSAs are employer-provided health savings plans. Your company can place pre-tax dollars in your account, and you can use the funds to pay for things like deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and some types of medications. 

Since you don’t pay taxes on the money that goes into the account, you could reduce your tax burden. In 2024, you can put $3,200 per year in your account (per employer). If you’re married, your spouse can put in the same amount with their employer.

Health Savings Account

Some employers provide HSAs, but self-employed individuals can sign up too. Once you’ve signed up, you can place $4,150 in your account and use the funds to pay for things like deductibles, copayments, and some types of medical devices. You can claim those contributions on your taxes too.

To participate in an HSA, you must sign up for a high-deductible plan. That means your insurance company must have an annual deductible of not less than $1,600 for individuals or $3,200 for families. Plans like this are typically clearly defined when you sign up for them.

Shop Around for the Best Price

Researchers discuss the average cost of braces. Those figures can be helpful as you plan, but know that the costs can vary greatly from provider to provider.

On average, traditional braces cost $3,000–$7,000. But someone with few customers and high overhead might charge you less just to get patients in the door. Similarly, a professional with many patients might charge you more since competition isn't a problem.

Before you settle on a provider, ask about the following:

Paying for braces with a credit card can lead to high fees and plenty of headaches. Paying a set amount with an orthodontist could save you money if that professional offers a low interest rate.

If you've saved up for braces, put that money to work. Some professionals will shave money off your final bill if you can tackle the total all at once with cash.

If you need dental care but have no way to pay for it, your dental professional may offer low-cost programs that can help.

Some orthodontists use programs like Groupon to entice new customers to join them. They're not legal or advised for dentists in all states, but they're widely available in others.

Don't be afraid to ask about your options before you sign on as a patient. Most orthodontists have practice managers who are happy to explain how payments work, and they can help ensure that you get the lowest price possible. Ask these questions when negotiating with your dental professional for the best price:

  • Is there a less expensive way to treat my smile issue?

  • Is this a typical cost for a case like mine, or are there special factors at play?

  • Are there additional costs I should plan for, such as those associated with fixing a broken bracket or with getting retainers?

  • Can I get a discount if I pay my entire bill at once?

  • Do you offer discounts for referrals?

  • Do you offer scholarships or other need-based assistance?

  • Can you give me references from previous patients with similar cases?

Ask every potential partner the same questions, and keep track of the answers. Some dental professionals are more than willing to negotiate like this, but know that others are not. Don’t be offended if you can’t get the deal you want via your conversation. Just keep asking questions of other providers.

Everyone wants to save money, and it's possible to find cheap braces, but prepare to do a lot of legwork and research before selecting a company you can trust.

Try Dental Schools

Orthodontists spend years learning about their craft, and they need patients for practice sessions. Some dental schools open up clinics on campus, and savvy shoppers could get an excellent deal here.

Costs at a dental school can vary. For example, one school has a three-tiered program that includes the following:

In this very low-cost option, you'll get dental care from students while they're supervised by their teachers.

In this moderately priced option, you'll work with advanced students under the supervision of their teachers.

You'll pay prices comparable to private clinics as you work with teachers only.

Factor in travel time and expenses as you plot out your budget. If you live hours from the closest school, the money you save on braces may not exceed what you pay to get to your orthodontist.

But if you live close to a school, this could be an excellent way to save money while getting the smile you've always wanted.

Choosing the Right Braces

You may walk into an orthodontist's office believing that expensive braces are your only choice. But know that you have plenty of solutions available, and some can save you a great deal of money.

This chart can help you understand the different types of braces and how much they cost:

Type of Treatment

What Is It?

Average Cost

Standard metal braces

Brackets glued to your teeth are connected to wires that guide your teeth to the proper position


Self-ligating braces

Brackets glued to your teeth are connected to wires via a spring-loaded door held closed with a rubber band


Ceramic braces

Tooth-colored or clear brackets are glued to your teeth and connect to wires


Lingual braces

Metal brackets glued to the back of your teeth are connected by wires to guide your teeth into new positions


Clear aligners

Customized trays fit over your teeth and are replaced on a schedule to guide your teeth to new positions

$1,000-$3,000 (at-home aligners)

Up to $8,500 (in-office aligners)


Cheaper Alternatives to Braces

For some, the cost and process involved with getting braces is simply too much, especially when your dental policy won’t cover all of the bill, or if you’re only looking to correct a minor orthodontic problem or issue with your bite.

Fortunately, today there are cheaper alternatives to braces available for many people who are looking to straighten their teeth or achieve an optimal smile. Here are some of them:

Retainers are dental devices, usually made of metal or plastic, that are custom-made to fit over an individual’s teeth and influence tooth movement. 

Retainers are most commonly used to keep teeth in place after orthodontic treatment (like braces or aligners). But in some cases, a dentist may suggest wearing a retainer to address a minor orthodontic problem, like a single tooth that needs to shift to a new location for proper alignment.

There are two different types of retainers.

  • Fixed retainers are placed in your mouth by a dentist. The device is glued or bonded onto teeth and not removed until treatment is complete. 

  • Removable retainers are devices that are easily taken out throughout treatment. 

Retainers are much more affordable than braces, with a price range of about $100–$500. However, the treatment capabilities of retainers are limited, as they may only be able to help with minor overcrowding or shifting issues. Treatment can also take much longer when using only a retainer.

Some individuals may find the idea of getting a cosmetic procedure to fix their smile an appealing option. The process for this type of treatment is generally much less involved and faster than braces, and the result may be a near-perfect looking smile. 

Veneers are among the most popular of cosmetic dental procedures that may help with the appearance of minor orthodontic problems. Veneers are thin coverings, usually made of porcelain or resin, that are cemented to the front of a tooth using a glue-like cementing process. 

Veneers are carefully color-matched to an individual’s surrounding teeth. Because they cover an existing tooth, veneers can give a smile a whole new look or change the appearance of an orthodontic problem like crooked teeth or gaps.  

Although dental veneers may sound like an easy fix for bite and smile problems, they do have a few serious disadvantages.

  • They may not be more affordable than braces. The cost of a single veneer is around $1,300, but more than one veneer may be needed to fix the appearance of an orthodontic problem. There also may be additional dentist fees for the procedure.

  • Veneers will not address any orthodontic problems. Bite and alignment issues will not be fixed with veneers and teeth may continue to shift.

  • Veneers will likely need to be replaced around every 10 years or so.

  • In order to get the veneers on, a dentist will have to permanently alter your tooth.

  • Veneers can result in having higher sensitivity while eating and drinking. 

  • Veneers are unlikely to be covered by insurance.

Clear aligner sets move teeth through a progression of aligner trays that gently guide teeth into their ideal positions. With costs ranging from around $1,800 to $2,500, clear aligners are generally more affordable than braces. 

These are other advantages of clear aligners over braces:

  • Convenience: While braces require many in-office visits to the orthodontist for fitting and adjustments, clear aligner sets are designed to make teeth straightening easier. After an initial consultation or at-home impression kit, clear aligner sets can be delivered right to your door.

  • Ease of use: Unlike braces, clear aligners are removable and can be taken out for eating, sports, and special events.

  • Not noticeable: Many are concerned about the appearance of braces. Because they’re clear, aligners are virtually invisible.

  • Fast: Most aligners move teeth into their desired position within six months. Some, like Byte, may require as little as four months.

While clear aligners are an effective at-home option for teeth straightening, there are some potential drawbacks as well, including these:

  • In order to work effectively, aligners must be worn as directed. While braces are cemented onto teeth, aligners are removable and must be worn continuously to work. This means you have to remain committed to your treatment plan.

  • Aligners can’t correct all orthodontic issues. Some severe orthodontic problems may need braces or surgery. Your initial consultation or at-home impression kit will determine if you are a candidate for aligners. Some providers, including Byte, will refund the cost of the impression kit if it’s discovered your dental problems can’t be fixed with aligners.

Affordable Clear Aligners from Byte

Byte makes effective, doctor-supervised smile treatments accessible, so you can do it at home.

Aligners from Byte are one of the least expensive options available, and we process dental insurance payments too. Find out more about who we are, and you'll see we're right for you.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.
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