It’s never too late to create a perfect smile, the ads proclaim – and people are listening:  More than 1 of every 4 braces-wearers is over 21, according to the Canadian Association of Orthodontists. And the average adult invests 18 months to 3 years wearing braces, says the Academy of General Dentistry.

When I had braces as a child, the single tooth extraction that was part of my treatment led to malocclusion (a misaligned bite), an off-centre midline and, over time, significant wear on my teeth. I knew I needed to get braces again to minimize the damage that would continue if I did nothing.

So where do you start?

  1. Research orthodontists in your area by speaking with your dentist, getting referrals from friends and checking out online reviews.
  2. Book a free consultation with several orthodontists; you’ll get a range of treatment options and pricing quotes.
  3. Decide which treatment makes the most sense for your situation. The lowest-priced option may not be the best one.
  4. Be financially prepared for all costs relating to treatment: orthodontic fees, dental cleaning and/or surgery fees and even dental hygiene tools.

What are your treatment options?

Clear aligners are a preferred choice for many who have moderate crowding, but not everyone is a candidate. For more robust treatments, braces made of high-grade stainless steel are usually recommended. Ceramic braces are a more attractive option that blend with the colour of the teeth, but may lengthen the duration of treatment. They are slightly bigger and are often installed only on upper teeth, as they can be abrasive. A fourth option is lingual, or concealed braces, which are attached by brackets to the backs of your teeth, so they are hidden from view. 

After getting vastly differing opinions from several orthodontists, I settled on one who works with Damon braces, a system that adults tend to prefer. These are fitted the same way as traditional metal braces, but they use a sliding mechanism that allows the brackets to move naturally with teeth as they realign. This means no rubber bands, so treatment is more comfortable than traditional braces and it’s easier to maintain dental hygiene. What I really liked is that doctors using this system are trained to take the entire face into account, so patients see a change not just in their teeth, but also their entire face.

How will you pay for your braces?

Some personal health insurance and group insurance plans cover a portion of the cost of your orthodontic treatment, dental surgery and dental hygienist cleanings. Once you have a quote from your orthodontist, ask your insurance provider for a pre-determination so you’ll know how much will be covered. Then calculate what you need to set aside for out-of-pocket costs, so you’re fully prepared before you sign up for treatment.

Depending on the treatment you choose, you may also have pre- or post-surgical procedures to consider. Set up separate consultations with your dentist or specialist to assess how much these may cost.

How much do braces cost in Canada?

The quotes I received for braces ranged from $5,000 to $7,000. Ask your orthodontist about a payment plan to spread out the cost over the course of your treatment. Your orthodontist will also recommend a dental hygiene regimen to prevent decalcification and help speed up treatment. Plan on buying an electric toothbrush and special floss threaders or a water flosser.

You’ll also have to consider the cost of more-frequent dental cleanings, which will be necessary while you have braces. Find out how many scaling units your plan covers, and budget for up to 1 cleaning every 4 months.

Following treatment, your orthodontist will probably prescribe a permanent or removable retainer, to keep your teeth from drifting back to their original positions. Be prepared for the cost of getting a new retainer if you lose yours, or having your permanent retainer glued back on if it comes off.

For an adult, getting braces is a major decision that will affect your health, your daily life and your finances. The right amount of planning and effort, however, will help you have a smooth and stress-free treatment, and an end result you’ll be happy to smile about.