Frequently Asked Questions

Payment & Insurance

How much does orthodontic treatment cost?

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) does not track fees for orthodontic treatment.  The fee for an individual’s treatment is determined by a variety of factors, including the severity of the problem to be corrected, as well as the anticipated length of treatment.  Fees may be different from orthodontist to orthodontist and from one region to another.  The type of “appliance” (the formal name for braces, aligners, retainers, etc.) may also be a consideration.

According to the American Dental Association survey of dental fees for 2013 (its most recent study), the fee for comprehensive treatment of adolescents ranged from $4,685 to $6,500, and the fee for comprehensive treatment of adults ranged from $4,800 to $7,135.

Most orthodontists offer a variety of payment plans to make orthodontic care affordable. The plans offered likely vary from doctor to doctor.  Each doctor sets his/her own policies on payment plans.

Payment plans may or may not require a down payment.  Many orthodontists provide in-office financing for as long as 24 months with no interest charged.  To help patients spread their payments over a longer period of time, some orthodontists may be able to connect patients with a third-party finance company.  The advantage is that monthly payments over a longer period of time can be smaller than payments over 24 months.  Be aware, however, that a third-party finance company will charge interest.

Some patients have dental insurance that includes orthodontic benefits that will cover a portion of the fee for treatment.  Funds from flexible spending accounts (FSAs) can also be used toward orthodontic treatment.

Talk to your orthodontist about how to maximize your benefits.

Will the orthodontist take my insurance?  How much does insurance cover?

If you have dental insurance that includes orthodontic benefits, check with the insurance company or your employer’s HR department to learn details of the coverage available to you – whether coverage is for a percentage of the fee or is capped at a specific dollar amount (“lifetime cap”); who your policy covers (you, or you and your spouse, or you and your spouse and your children, etc., and whether insurance coverage has an age limit); and whether you are required to choose from the insurance company’s providers. Most orthodontic evaluations are at no charge, call and make an appointment with an American Association of Orthodontist (AAO) member. Many times you may receive your full orthodontic insurance benefit whether or not the orthodontist is listed as “in” or “out of network” with your insurance.

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is open exclusively to orthodontists - only orthodontists are admitted for membership. The only doctors who can call themselves “orthodontists” have graduated from dental school and then successfully completed the additional two-to-three years of education in an accredited orthodontic residency program.

When you choose an AAO orthodontist for orthodontic treatment, you can be assured that you have selected a specialist orthodontist, an expert in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics who possesses the skills and experience to give you your best smile. Locate AAO orthodontists through Find an Orthodontist at aaoinfo.org.

Is free orthodontic care available for patients in need?  Does the American Association of Orthodontists offer scholarships for braces?

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) does not provide funding for orthodontic treatment, but there are several programs that offer orthodontic treatment to patients in need at little or no cost.

The American Association of Orthodontists Donated Orthodontic Services Program (DOS) is offered to patients in need throughout the U.S. Applicants must meet financial need requirements.

Other U.S. programs providing orthodontic care to those who meet eligibility requirements: 

Smiles Change Lives and Smile for a Lifetime Foundation provide orthodontic treatment in many regions of the U.S.

Advantage Smiles for Kids - Washington, Oregon, and Idaho

The Colorado Orthodontic Foundation - for children in Colorado.

Assisting Children to Smile and Sunshyne Smiles Orthodontic Program - South Dakota 

Also check with your state or local dental society to ask if they are aware of any programs that exist in your area.

In Canada: 

Smiles 4 Canada - British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Labrador.

 

 

 

How do I find an orthodontist who takes Medicaid?

Contact the department within your state’s government that administers the Medicaid program and request a list of providers who are orthodontists.

If you have a Medicaid card, there may be a phone number to call for information. Your state’s Medicaid contact information might also be available online.

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is open exclusively to orthodontists - only orthodontists are admitted for membership. The only doctors who can call themselves “orthodontists” have graduated from dental school and then successfully completed the additional two-to-three years of education in an accredited orthodontic residency program.

When you choose an AAO orthodontist for orthodontic treatment, you can be assured that you have selected a specialist orthodontist, an expert in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics who possesses the skills and experience to give you your best smile. Locate AAO orthodontists through Find an Orthodontist at aaoinfo.org.

Do I have to have insurance to have orthodontic treatment?

No.  Insurance is not required to have orthodontic treatment. But, if you do have insurance, you can make an appointment with an American Association of Orthodontist (AAO) who typically offers a “no charge” examination and many times you may receive the same insurance benefit whether the orthodontist is “in” or “out of network” with your insurance company.

Are orthodontic expenses tax deductible as a medical expense?

Please check with your tax advisor for a response specific to your circumstances.

In general, orthodontic treatment falls under the IRS description of medical and dental expenses that may be deductible from taxable income if the taxpayer meets the overall limits.

Some people use an employer benefit called an FSA (flexible spending account) to cover some or all of their orthodontic expenses. FSAs are funded by pre-tax dollars and have an annual limit. Check with your employer to see if you can take advantage of this benefit. 

Treatment

Which treatment is the fastest?

Thanks to advances in technology, just about every type of treatment is relatively fast.

    These important steps will make your treatment go as quickly as possible:
  1. Follow your orthodontist’s instructions on brushing, flossing, professional cleanings, and diet.
  2. Keep your scheduled appointments with your orthodontist.
  3. Make sure your orthodontist is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO).  AAO members have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is open exclusively to orthodontists - only orthodontists are admitted for membership. The only doctors who can call themselves “orthodontists” have graduated from dental school and then successfully completed the additional two-to-three years of education in an accredited orthodontic residency program.

When you choose an AAO orthodontist for orthodontic treatment, you can be assured that you have selected a specialist orthodontist, an expert in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics who possesses the skills and experience to give you your best smile. Locate AAO orthodontists through Find an Orthodontist at aaoinfo.org.

Which treatment is the best?

The best treatment is the kind performed by an orthodontist.  Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

Choose a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) for orthodontic treatment to be assured that the doctor is an orthodontist – someone who first graduated from dental school and then went on for 2-3 more years of studying orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program.  Only these people can call themselves “orthodontists,” and only they can be admitted as members of the AAO.  Use Find an Orthodontist to locate nearby members of the American Association of Orthodontists.

What brands of treatment are approved by the American Association of Orthodontists?

The American Association of Orthodontists does not provide product reviews or recommendations. Please talk with your orthodontist about the types or brands of treatment that you are interested in so that together you can decide what is appropriate for you.

The type or brand of “appliance” (the formal name for devices like braces, aligners, etc.) used in orthodontic treatment is not as important as the skill in the hands person using the appliance.

Do be sure to seek out an orthodontist for orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists are dentistry’s specialists in moving teeth and aligning jaws to achieve a healthy bite. Orthodontists get to be specialists by graduating from dental school, and then successfully completing an additional 2-3 years of education in orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only people who have attained this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists,” and only orthodontists are accepted for membership in the AAO. By choosing an AAO member, the public is assured that the doctor truly is an orthodontist.

Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

Are there orthodontic schools that treat patients?

Yes. Accredited orthodontic programs accept patients for treatment. The work is done by students, who have already graduated from dental school, and who are studying to become orthodontists. Students are closely supervised by their professors and instructors, who are orthodontists.

Find the list of accredited schools at https://www.aaoinfo.org/education/accredited-orthodontic-programs to learn if there is a school near you. Contact the school to find out how to become a patient.

What’s the ideal age for orthodontic treatment – is there one?

Chronological age is not a factor when deciding whether a patient is a candidate for orthodontic treatment; there is not one ideal age for treatment to begin. Healthy teeth can be moved at any age. Regardless of age, patients can look forward to teeth that not only look better, but work better, too.

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all children get a check-up with an orthodontist at the first recognition of the existence of an orthodontic problem, but no later than age 7. Few patients will need to begin treatment that young, but there are some who will benefit from early intervention. For these patients, treatment is likely to consist of guiding the growth of the jaws so that the permanent teeth are in good positions as they come in. See our blog post, Is There a Benefit to Early Treatment?, or the AAO’s brochure, Your Child’s First Orthodontic Check-up, for more information.

A check-up while some baby teeth are still present, and while the face and jaws are growing, may reveal that immediate treatment is not necessary, but that the child could benefit from treatment in the future. In these cases, the patient visits the orthodontist periodically to monitor growth and development. This “watchful waiting” gives the orthodontist the opportunity to advise parents when the best time is for that child to begin treatment. Often the orthodontist is able to take advantage of predictable periods of a patient’s growth and intervene so that orthodontic treatment can have the best results possible. There are some things that cannot be accomplished once the face and jaws are no longer growing.

Still, orthodontic treatment can be highly successful in adults. The physiological process of moving teeth is the same in adults as it is in children. Adult orthodontic treatment may take a little longer than children’s treatment due to denser bone tissue in adults. A new smile can be especially profound for adults who have spent years hiding their teeth. For more information, check out our blog, Am I Too Old for Orthodontic Treatment?.

Overall, the time required for orthodontic treatment is shorter than it was in the past. Members of the American Association of Orthodontists report that the average length of orthodontic treatment is 22 months.

Do be sure to seek out an orthodontist for orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists are dentistry’s specialists in moving teeth and aligning jaws to achieve a healthy bite. Orthodontists get to be specialists by graduating from dental school, and then successfully completing an additional 2-3 years of education in orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only people who have attained this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists,” and only orthodontists are accepted for membership in the AAO. By choosing an AAO member, the public is assured that the doctor truly is an orthodontist.

Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

I have been considering braces.  My teeth on the top aren't that crooked.  Is it possible just to get braces on the bottom?

Whether orthodontic treatment on just your bottom teeth will properly align those teeth with your upper teeth is something that can only be answered by visiting an orthodontist for an exam and consultation.

Orthodontic treatment is designed to develop teeth that fit well and, as a result, wear better over an individual’s life.  Think of the teeth in the mouth as a “gear” system.  Teeth, like gears, must intermesh well to help avoid excessive wear throughout a lifetime of use.

Please consult a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) to learn what type of treatment will be best for you.  AAO membership is your assurance that the doctor is an orthodontist because the AAO accepts only orthodontists as members. To be an orthodontist means the individual must first graduate from dental school, and then successfully complete an additional 2-3 years of studying orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists.” And only orthodontists are eligible for admission into the American Association of Orthodontists.

Use the Find an Orthodontist service to locate nearby members of the American Association of Orthodontists.

Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

Multiple orthodontists have offered different treatment plans. Which one is right?

There is not a single “right way” to perform orthodontic treatment. As long as all of the doctors you have consulted are orthodontists, all are correct.

Membership in the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is your assurance that the doctor is an orthodontist because the AAO accepts only orthodontists as members. To be an orthodontist means the individual must first graduate from dental school, and then successfully complete an additional 2-3 years of studying orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists.” And only orthodontists are eligible for admission into the American Association of Orthodontists.

Use the Find an Orthodontist service to locate nearby members of the American Association of Orthodontists.

Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

How long does treatment last?

The length of treatment will depend on the kind of problem an individual patient has. Simple cases may take only a few months to treat, while a complete bite correction can take a couple years. Your AAO orthodontist has the skills and tools to deliver a healthy, beautiful smile in the least amount of time.

I don’t want old-fashioned braces.  What are my options?

Thanks to advances in technology, your treatment options may include ceramic (tooth-colored) braces, lingual braces, which are placed behind the teeth, or clear aligner trays.

Today’s standard metal braces are much smaller and sleeker than those of even a generation ago.

Please review your options with an orthodontist at an in-person consultation to determine what type of treatment will be best suited to your needs.

Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

Membership in the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is your assurance that the doctor is an orthodontist because the AAO accepts only orthodontists as members. To be an orthodontist means the individual must first graduate from dental school, and then successfully complete an additional 2-3 years of studying orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists.” And only orthodontists are eligible for admission into the American Association of Orthodontists.

Use the Find an Orthodontist service to locate nearby members of the American Association of Orthodontists.

Can I get braces if I’m missing some teeth?

It can be possible for you to have successful orthodontic treatment if some teeth are missing, depending on your circumstances and your treatment goals. Orthodontic treatment may be able to close the space of a missing tooth, or may be able to create or save sufficient space for a replacement tooth/teeth. Consult an orthodontist to discuss what is right for you.  Your orthodontist may need to work with your primary care dentist and/or other dental specialists to help you achieve your treatment goals.

Can I get braces if my teeth have crowns or root canals?

It can be possible for you to have successful orthodontic treatment if your teeth have crowns or root canals.  Materials are available to adhere orthodontic brackets to crowns just like you would any other tooth. Consult an orthodontist for answers that are specific to you and your circumstances.

If I wear extra rubber bands, will that speed up my treatment?

No, wearing extra rubber bands will NOT speed up treatment. In fact, you could potentially prolong your treatment by wearing extra rubber bands because the extra force could move your teeth in an undesirable way.

To finish your treatment on time and with the best possible results, follow your orthodontist’s instructions on wearing rubber bands, and any other item that you place and remove. Also be sure to brush and floss with the frequency your orthodontist recommends, and see your dentist for professional cleanings and check-ups at least every six months during orthodontic treatment, or more often if recommended.

I am 76 years old and considering orthodontic treatment. Am I too old to get treatment?

Healthy teeth can be moved at any age. Members of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) regularly treat adult patients. Today, about one patient in five is an adult. Many patients are in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s and 90s.

Depending on your circumstances, your orthodontist may work with your primary care dentist and other dental specialists, as necessary, to help you achieve optimal dental health.

Use the Find an Orthodontist service to locate nearby AAO members. Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile. For more information, check out our blog, Am I Too Old for Orthodontic Treatment?

Can I get my braces off in time for a big event?

It is quite common for patients who have been in treatment for a time to want to conclude treatment. They see major changes in the appearance of the positions of their teeth and think that they have achieved treatment goals. Patients cannot see what the orthodontist sees, however.

As the treating orthodontist, your doctor’s job is to provide his/her patients with both a beautiful and healthy smile. It’s achieved by creating proper “occlusion” – meaning the way that top teeth and bottom teeth meet. Nature designed teeth to work in unison for optimal function. Your orthodontist is working toward making sure your occlusion is the best it can be, so that teeth meet in a healthy way. When they do, they will function well and look good, too. And last a lifetime.

Please be patient while your orthodontist makes the precise adjustments to your teeth and allows the bone to harden around them. It is being done for your long-term oral health and stability of your treatment results. When the time comes that your braces are removed, do be sure to follow your orthodontist’s prescription for retainer wear. Retainers are the patient’s best way to preserve the results of treatment so that they can have a healthy, beautiful smile for a lifetime.

I have one turned tooth.  Will a rubber band help align it?

Self-treatment is not advisable. Dental and orthodontic treatment should always be conducted under the supervision of a licensed healthcare professional.

Patients should be aware that “do-it-yourself” treatment substantially increases the risk of irreparable damage.

For example, rubber bands can work their way under the gumline and, over time, if forgotten or not removed, can strangle the root of the tooth, and kill the tooth. That could lead to the need for an extraction.

If a tooth has rotated, something within the oral cavity caused it. Please consult an orthodontist to understand what has caused your tooth to turn, and how it can best be corrected.

Find members of the American Association of Orthodontists near you using Find an Orthodontist.

Do be sure to consult with a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). AAO membership is your assurance that the doctor is an orthodontist because the AAO accepts only orthodontists as members. To be an orthodontist means the individual must first graduate from dental school, and then successfully complete an additional 2-3 years of studying orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists.” And only orthodontists are eligible for admission into the American Association of Orthodontists.

Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

What is bonding?

Bonding is the name used for the process of attaching brackets to teeth using an adhesive.

How often will I have to see the orthodontist while I’m in treatment?

On average, you will see the orthodontist about every six to ten weeks during treatment. This allows the orthodontist make the changes needed to progress through treatment and also allows them to keep an eye on your treatment progress, and monitor the health of your teeth and gums.

I see ads for perfect teeth in only one or two visits to the dentist. How is orthodontic treatment different?

The ads you are seeing may be for veneers. They cover teeth and mask the problem, but do not address the structure in the mouth or how the upper and lower teeth meet. Veneers are not permanent. Many require removal of significant amounts of tooth enamel. If plaque collects where the veneer and the remaining natural tooth meet, the area will be susceptible to what is known as “recurrent decay,” more commonly known as cavities. 

Orthodontic treatment is far more than simply treating how teeth look. It’s about aligning teeth and jaws so that they meet and function effectively. It just so happens that when teeth and jaws are functioning well, they look good, too.

I am pregnant and want to begin orthodontic treatment. Is this OK?

It may be possible to begin treatment while pregnant, however, it is important to discuss this question with your OBGYN/physician/healthcare professional and orthodontist before you start any orthodontic treatment, as pregnancy brings on bodily changes that may affect the mouth. 

General Questions

I lost my retainer.  What should I do?

Call your orthodontist right away to make arrangements for replacement retainers. Without retainers, there can be unwanted movement of teeth.

For more information on retainers, check out our blog, Taking Care of Your Retainer, or watch this video.

What do the initials mean after an orthodontist’s name?

Orthodontists educated in the U.S. will have the initials “DDS” or “DMD” after their names.  These initials mean the individual graduated from dental school.  “DDS” stands for “Doctor of Dental Surgery.”  “DMD” stands for “Doctor of Dental Medicine.”  Some dental schools confer the DDS, while other schools confer the DMD.  The American Dental Association considers DDS and DMD to be equivalent degrees.

 

Orthodontists may or may not have additional initials that announce their post-graduate specialty education.  There is not a standard set of initials that mean that the person has graduated from an orthodontic program.  Some accredited orthodontic programs confer a certificate when an individual successfully completes the program; certificates carry no additional initials.  Other accredited orthodontic programs confer a degree.  There are many variations of the advanced degrees conferred.  Common ones include MS, MSc, and MSD, which represent master’s degrees. 

 

By selecting a member of the American Association of Orthodontists, you are assured that the doctor is an orthodontist, someone who first graduated from dental school and then successfully completed an additional 2-3 years of education in an accredited orthodontic residency program.  Only those who have attained this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists,” and only orthodontists are accepted for membership in the AAO.  By choosing an AAO member, the public is assured that the doctor truly is an orthodontist.

 

Is it OK to drink soda pop when you have braces on?

Whether in braces or using another type of orthodontic appliance, patients should limit their intake of any drinks with added sugar, including soda pop (even diet), energy drinks, sweet tea, some juices and sports drinks. 

Soda pop contains acid that can weaken tooth enamel. Some juices and sports drinks contain a lot of sugar.

Drinking excessive amounts of any liquids with sugar and/or acid could lead to cavities.

It’s best to consult your orthodontist about what kinds of soft drinks and juices are ok for you to drink while you have on braces, aligners, retainers or any other kind of orthodontic appliance. Your orthodontist’s goal is to keep your teeth healthy so you have a great result from your orthodontic treatment.

My child has a wire poking his cheek.  What do I do?

Use a Q-tip or pencil eraser to push the wire so that it is flat against the tooth.  If the wire cannot be moved into a comfortable position, cover it with orthodontic wax.  Contact your orthodontist to make him/her aware of the problem and determine whether your child needs to be seen.

I'm considering getting a tongue or lip piercing. Are there any dangers?

There are numerous potential problems from oral piercings, which can include the tongue, cheeks, lips or uvula (the tissue at the back of the throat).

Particularly with tongue piercing, you can permanently damage your teeth by wearing away the enamel, or by chipping or cracking teeth. There is risk of abrasion or recession of gum tissue if it is constantly hit by the piercing.

Piercing can interfere with basic functions like chewing, swallowing, talking and the sense of taste. A hole from a piercing can be a path for germs into the body and bloodstream.

Talk to your orthodontist or dentist for more information.

Are there board-certified orthodontists? 

Yes, there are orthodontists who are board-certified by the American Board of Orthodontics. Board-certified orthodontists are known as Diplomates of the American Board of Orthodontics.  The only boarding organization for the orthodontic specialty that is recognized by the American Dental Association is the American Board of Orthodontics. 

In Canada specialists are certified by the Royal College of Dentists of Canada (RCDC). All specialists in Canada must meet the standards set by the RCDC in order to call themselves specialists.

What are the pros and cons of the orthodontic technique of “shaving” and “stripping” teeth?

Please review the AAO Interproximal Reduction: Reducing Tooth Width for Form, Function and Stability and discuss your questions with your orthodontist.

Will my braces set off the metal detectors in the airport?

You are cleared for takeoff – the lightweight materials used in braces will not affect metal detectors.

My orthodontist says I have a malocclusion?  What is that?

"Malocclusion" is the term used in orthodontics to describe teeth that do not fit together properly.  From Latin, the term means "bad bite."

Who can become a member of the AAO?

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is open exclusively to orthodontists - only orthodontists are admitted for membership. The only doctors who can call themselves “orthodon-tists” have graduated from dental school and then successfully completed the additional two-to-three years of education in an accredited orthodontic residency program.

When you choose an AAO orthodontist for orthodontic treatment, you can be assured that you have selected a specialist orthodontist, an expert in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics who possesses the skills and experience to give you your best smile. Locate AAO orthodontists through Find an Orthodontist at aaoinfo.org.

For more information, read our blog, What Is an Orthodontist and Dentofacial Orthopedist?

Do I need to change my oral hygiene routine during treatment?

Yes, keeping your teeth and braces (or other appliances) clean requires a little more effort on your part. Your orthodontist will explain how to brush and floss, how often to brush and floss, and give you any special instructions based on the kind of orthodontic treatment you are having. Be sure to follow your orthodontist’s dental hygiene recommendations to get the best results possible. Check with your orthodontist about dental products and tools that might be helpful.

In general, patients with braces must be careful to avoid hard, sticky, chewy and crunchy foods. They should also avoid chewing on hard objects like pens, pencils and fingernails. And never chew ice. It’s much too hard on your teeth – even without braces.

Also be sure to see your family dentist for a professional cleaning and check-up at least every six months during your orthodontic treatment, or more often, if recommended

Can I play musical instruments while wearing braces?

With practice and a period of adjustment, braces typically do not interfere with the playing of wind or brass instruments.

Talk to your orthodontist if you're having difficulty. They may be able to provide covers for your braces to help you play more naturally.

Ask An Orthodontist

If you're 18 or over, you can use this form to ask us general questions about orthodontic treatment. Our panel of AAO-memeber orthodontists will usually get back to you within two to three business days. Please browse the Frequently Asked Questions before submitting your question. You might find the answer is already there.

Please fill out all fields. The AAO regrets that questions about a specific individual cannot be answered, such as a diagnosis, treatment plan or appliances used. Please consult an AAO orthodontist in person. The service is unable to respond to questions about fees or insurance, or provide a second opinion. The service cannot respond to questions submitted by anyone age 17 or younger.

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