As much as we’d all like, not all of us are born with perfectly aligned pearly white teeth. Nature, genetics and misuse or lack of oral and dental care and childhood habits can result in a number of abnormalities in our teeth and jaws.
Dental braces are one way to fix misalignments in teeth and jaws. Not everyone likes the idea of traditional metallic braces. But they are just one among many options you have. There are newer designs—such as Invisalign (almost invisible)—and more palatable (pun intended) options that you need to learn about.
In many cases, correcting teeth and jaw misalignments need professional intervention from a dentist and orthodontist to correct. Sometimes, if corrective measures are left unchecked, your smile can grow worse and even pose serious health challenges.
Lets take a look at braces and Invisalign costs in Australia, along with what you can expect in having these dental appliances.
What are Dental Braces?
Dental braces are devices that orthodontists prescribe to help fix conditions such as misaligned teeth or misalignment of the jaws. Well aligned teeth are aesthetically pleasing, boost your self esteem and are easy to care for and maintain.
Occlusion is the alignment of teeth and how the upper and lower teeth fit together. Typically, your upper teeth should fit slightly over the lower teeth with the points of your molars fitting the grooves of the molar on the opposite jaw. Malocclusion is when the teeth or jaws are out of alignment.
Types of malocclusion include upper protrusion or overjet, spacing or crowding of teeth, a misplaced midline, open bite, overbite, crossbite, rotated teeth or transposition.
As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, your orthodontist may use dental appliances such as dental braces to bring your jaws and teeth into proper alignment.
The braces are supposed to move your teeth together along with their roots into proper alignment and straighten them, removing any tooth gaps in the process. Braces can effectively improve your bite and enhance your smile, making your oral care easier.
Common types of braces include:
These are the most commonly used braces, usually constructed of high-grade stainless steel, and fitted to the front of the teeth
Clear Ceramic Braces
Made of clear ceramic material, they are also worn in the front of the teeth. However, they are less visible since they blend with the teeth. They are more delicate than steel braces, and can get damaged or break more easily
Lingual (concealed) Braces
Similar to their traditional metal cousins, these are fitted behind the teeth. That's why they are often referred to as "incognito" braces
These braces are built as a series of removable, customised clear "trays", called aligners, that help address spacing problems
The most common usage of dental braces are to rectify conditions such as Malocclusion (misalignment between the teeth), or Deep bites, Under bites and Over bites (as a result of misalignment between the lower/upper jaws).
In conjunction with other potential treatments, orthodontists may use appliances (such as dental braces) to widen jaws or the palate to help shape teeth and jaws.
Which Type Is Right For You?
These are usually the traditional design that come to mind when someone refers to braces because they have been around for a long time.
Metal braces comprises of tiny metal brackets that are glued on to the front of the teeth that are then connected with a wire. The pressure of the wire is adjusted at regular intervals in order to gradually straighten teeth and to correct the bite. They've been tried and tested as an orthodontic treatment option.
Metal braces are also the most commonly used option for kids and teens. They come with colourful elastic modules that make them a fun fashion accessory for kids. According to Orthodontics Australia, “although dependent on each case, traditional metal braces are generally the most cost effective option compared to other orthodontic treatments”.
Made of clear ceramic material, they are too worn in front of the teeth like traditional metal braces. They are less noticeable because of their tooth-coloured brackets. Clear ceramic braces also come with an option for tooth-coloured wires that blend even better with teeth.
There is a common misconception that all white braces are made out of plastic. But they are usually made of ceramic or porcelain, and sometimes of plastic materials.
The invisibility factor has made them a popular choice among adults. They may be an option for extremely self conscious kids and teenagers who resist wearing metal braces.
Although they are as effective as wire braces, ceramic braces are more delicate and damage-prone, and break easily. They also cost more than metal braces.
Sometimes referred to as concealed or incognito braces, lingual braces are fitted behind teeth, instead of in front. These ‘inside braces’ are truly invisible as they cannot be seen when you smile. Your orthodontist will take a digital scan or impression of your mouth to fully customize lingual braces that fit the exact contours behind your teeth to ensure both comfort and effectiveness.
They are mostly used by adults who like their invisibility. Because they are close to your tongue, initially you will notice an impact on your speech and eating.
Lingual braces cost more than regular wire or ceramic design because they must be custom-made in a dental lab.
Invisible Braces or Aligners
Invisible or transparent braces are colourless. They are built as a series of removable, customised clear plastic "trays", called aligners that hug your teeth and help address spacing problems.
Most people prefer them for cosmetic reasons, and so they are also called cosmetic braces. Sometimes people refer to them as white braces.
Clear aligners, or invisible braces provide treatment by getting you to wear a sequence of removable, clear plastic aligners that hug your teeth. Each set need to be worn for two weeks, and for at least 22 hours each day, if treatment is to be effective.
You need to remove them when you eat or drink. Orthodontic treatment with clear aligners will produce expected results only if you can stick to these rules.
Parts of Orthodontic Braces and What They Do
What it does
Bands or othodontic bands
Rings that fit around your back teeth with welded metal attachments for arch wires to pass through them. Bands are fixed to back teeth with dental cement and may come in stainless steel or a variety of transparencies that make them less conspicuous.
Small, square dental brackets are made of metal or ceramic to help hold the arch wires in place. Brackets are chemically pasted to the tooth surface or attached to an orthodontic band. Brackets have a slot to hold the archwire and may come with hooks for rubber bands.
Arch wires are made of metal to fit into the brackets around your mouth. It is the pressure exerted by arch wires that reposition teeth into proper alignment. The wires may be exchanged during treatment and heavier wires employed for greater movement.
Rubber bands or elastics are attached to the bracket hooks to connect the upper and lower teeth. It is the pull of the elastic bands that applying consistent pressure that gradually move upper and lower teeth to correct your bite. Rubber bands can be removed.
Ligatures are the tiny elastic or wire bands that attach the arch wire in the braces to the brackets. These are clear or come in a multitude of colours. Ligatures are replaced when adjustments are made.
Coil springs are used between two teeth brackets when the teeth are too close to each other. The spiral is positioned over the arch wire to exert pressure and separate the teeth.
Power chains are elastic or wire rings that are linked together to form a continuous band between teeth. Power chains help narrow spaces between teeth or to prevent new spaces opening between teeth.
Why Would You Need Dental Braces?
Dental braces are a common remedy, both in children and adults, to either correct or prevent certain dental conditions.
While the above list in representative of the main reasons why dental braces might be prescribed by an orthodontist or dentist, ignoring treatment (or the use of braces) could lead to other health issues such as gum diseases, tooth decay, ear aches and headaches.
To avoid many of these problems, dental care professionals advise the use of braces (or other orthodontic treatments) earlier on in life.
While braces are common at the age of 5, some treatments may require the use of braces for children at the tender age of 2.
The use of braces in adults may start at any age, but the rule of thumb is to commence their use as soon as an issue is detected.
Generally speaking, the earlier the need for braces is determined (and commenced), the shorter and less costly the treatment can be.
Benefits Of Early Orthodontic Treatment
As you may have discovered already, prevention is always better—and in Australia, cheaper—than a cure when it comes to orthodontic treatments such as dental braces. It is always best that you treat your child’s malocclusion and jaw alignment issues early.
Treating malocclusions and bite problems are cheaper if you do it early. If your orthodontist has a way to prevent alignment problems from becoming worse, that is good for your child and for you.
These "Phase One" treatments aim to correct the more serious bite related issues and help guide the growth patterns of the child's jaws.
At What Age Should A Child First Visit An Orthodontist?
The Australian Society of Orthodontists recommends that children should be taken to a registered specialist orthodontist for an assessment when they are between 8 to 10 years of age. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends the initial check up should be done no later than 7 years of age.
By around 8 years, the first molars will be out and signs of developing malocclusion will be clear. It will be easy to spot signs of bad bite, such as deep bite, open bite and cross bite, as well as crowding of teeth. Most kids do not need treatment for at least 1-5 years from this initial evaluation.
What are the signs that your child may need early orthodontic treatments?
Does your child display any of these behaviours or characteristics?
All of these are indications you need the early assessment from a specialist orthodontist.
Braces Options For Kids And Teens
It is best to go with traditional braces with metal wires. They are strong and sturdy and will handle the wear and tear. They will not break easily. These can also be made fun accessories with the addition of coloured wires and brackets that children love.
Traditional metal braces will work. But if teens are particularly self conscious and prefer less conspicuous options, white or clear ceramic braces with brackets matching the tooth colour may offer an attractive option. For an additional cost, you can get your teen wires to match the tooth colour.
Another option is to go in the opposite direction and make braces really stand out. Even teens, especially younger teens, may love the cool option of multi-colour brackets and wires in their braces.
Lingual braces are another option for teenagers, if your orthodontist says they will work also.
For teens who hate the idea of braces, but feel they can commit to wearing Invisalign, they are the best option. You and your teen needs to make sure that they stick to the ‘at least 20 hours a day’ rule or the effectiveness of treatment will suffer.
Is There Any Age Limit For Dental Braces?
Age is not a consideration for orthodontic treatments. This is because a healthy bite and a great smile are important whether you are 16 or 60. In kids and teens, because they are still growing there is room for greater improvement.
But even in adults, who are no longer growing, it is possible to move and realign teeth with braces for a better bite and a nicer smile. Adults are increasingly turning orthodontic treatments for personal, professional and career reasons
Do Braces Hurt?
When braces are first applied to your teeth, it does not hurt.At the beginning wearing it may feel a bit uncomfortable, especially in the first three days after fitting.
Some of the discomfort comes from your teeth beginning to realign due to the pressure of the wires and elastic ligatures. An over-the-counter pain medication will help relieve this initial discomfort.
When braces are fitted, you may take a bit longer to eat as you need to adjust to chewing. Orthodontists recommend soft foods such as soup, noodles, macaroni and cheese, yoghurt and ice cream for the first few days.
Braces vs Invisalign
Before reading on, its important to know the difference between both options. Please watch this quick 1 minute video.
Doing so will help you make a better decision based on the options available:
What is Invisalign?
They are unlike other forms of braces, which use wires and sets of brackets to realign the teeth.
It involves the use of specially manufactured clear sets of removable aligners for the teeth, created to the unique fit of each patient, and replaced frequently (often weekly). As each set of braces is removed, and new set is fitted in its place.
Gradually, over the course of treatment (often spanning many months, depending on the severity of problem being addressed), the teeth are re-aligned to meet the desired recommendation of the orthodontist.
Why Use Invisalign?
For patients who have a difficulty with oral hygiene (regular brushing and flossing), traditional braces might pose a challenge.
That’s because metal braces hamper their ability to gain access to the full gum and tooth area. In such cases, Invisalign offers a relatively low-maintenance option to addressing dental issues requiring the use of braces because patients are able to floss and brush as normal.
Some patients may have extra sensitive palates that cannot withstand contact with metallic objects like steel braces or brackets used in the traditional design.
In some instances, gum irritation/pain may also be a factor against choosing traditional braces.
Additionally, because they are constructed of clear material, they blend in with the surrounding teeth, and are almost unnoticeable to the casual observer.
This means users of Invisalign aligners can continue their treatment in complete anonymity.
Although there are many other options, the Invisalign treatment provides the best way to transform your smile without interfering with your day-to-day.
How Much Do Braces & Invisalign Cost In Australia
Just as the need for having braces can vary, so too can the costs for dental braces vary depending on several factors.
More or less costly?
Type - Costs vary based on the type from Metal, Ceramic, Lingual to Invisalign
The more clear, the more costly they tend to be. Metal braces are the least expensive where Invisalign are the most expensive
Issue being addressed - The complexity of the issue to be addressed
More costly: Severely malformed teeth, or (usually) defects that have not been treated early on.
Geographic location - Costs are also influenced by the location where braces are acquired (within Australia)
More costly: Typically, treatment in metropolitan areas like inner Sydney may cost more due to the higher cost of doing business there.
Health Care Funding - Having Health Care Plans can reduce the cost of dental braces. Costs vary based on several factors
Less costly: Long-time Health Care plan members.
Practitioners experience and reputation - The reputation and experience of a dental practice can be a contributing factor to the cost of braces
Less costly: Relatively small dental practices, or those that are competing to establish themselves within a community.
The following table provides rough estimates for various costs associated with braces treatments:
1) Initial consultation (for an accurate estimate)
2) Limited duration (15 minutes) evaluation visit may be an alternate to a formal initial consultation. The estimate provided will be very cursory
3)Traditional (Metal) Braces for upper and lower
$4,500 to $8,000
4) Ceramic Braces for upper and lower braces
$5,000 to $8,500
5) Lingual Braces (Single arch)
6) Lingual Braces (Full treatment)
Up to $12,500
7) Invisalign: Minor treatments Full treatment
Minor treatments Start at $4,500. Full treatment costs between $6,000 to $9,000
These fee estimates usually include the entire range of services covered by the treatment, including:
- Retention visits and observation
Most dental practices do not include the cost of pre-fitting consultation, record maintenance and preparatory work required prior to the fitting.
While the above is a list of typical factors that might impact the overall cost of acquiring dental braces, other factors may also influence the cost.
For instance, individuals may have comprehensive insurance plans via a Health Care Fund (dental insurance) that covers all or most of the cost of such procedures.
Certain dental treatments might also be eligible for tax rebates under Medical Expenses Offsets in the Australian Tax Return, and that too will reduce the cost individuals pay out of pocket.
Before moving forward with a treatment option, it is advisable that patients consult with the prescribing dentist or orthodontist about the options available.
Costs for dental braces will vary depending on the specific treatment option that is recommended, which is often determined by the type of issue being addressed
If Braces Cost Is Not A Factor, What Are Your Best Options?
Again, that depends on your specific orthodontic problem and the severity of issues that needs correcting. Not all types of braces are suitable for correcting each and every alignment problem.
For adults: If your orthodontic problem is not severe and your orthodontist gives you a choice of braces or Invisalign, here’s how to choose:
Overall though, aside from affordability, you need to also consider age, personal preferences, professional and career considerations and aesthetics when selecting orthodontic treatment for yourself.
Are Braces Covered By Medicare?
Braces costs and most other orthodontic treatments and dental appliances are not covered by Medicare in Australia as they are not considered a necessary dental procedures.
How Much Do Braces Cost With A Healthcare Card?
Braces and most other orthodontic treatments are not covered by a Healthcare card.
What Insurance Options Cover The Cost Of Braces?
Typically, general dental insurance plans do not cover orthodontics including braces costs.
If you want the cost of the treatment to be covered by insurance, you will have to go for major dental cover, or policies that go as “Extras”.
Make sure you research well and get the right plan because there may be annual limits for ‘extras’ such as braces. See how long you need to be on the plan before you can use it to pay for braces costs. Sometimes the waiting period may be as long as 12 months.
Sometimes the specialty of orthodontics may be referred to as dentofacial orthopedics.
What is an orthodontist?
Orthodontists are dental specialists that diagnose bad bites and work on preventing, intercepting, guiding and correction of bad bites. You have an unhealthy bite when your teeth are crooked, protrusive, crowded or spaced too far apart.
In some people with bad bites, teeth may meet with teeth on the opposite jaw in an abnormal way, or fail to meet at all. The goal of your orthodontist is to correct these issues and create a healthy bite that makes it easier for you to bite, chew and speak.
What are the benefits of orthodontic treatment?
Orthodontic treatments have many benefits, both practical and aesthetic, such as:
Bracing For Healthier Smiles
Individuals that are plagued by dental issues, especially as they relate to misaligned or crooked teeth, will find dental braces a good way of dealing with the challenges.
Braces are not just highly effective when it comes to teeth issues that make dental hygiene difficult, but they can also add layers of confidence in ones social relationships.
All in all, by bracing yourself for a healthier smile, you’ll also brace yourself for overall health and happiness.