Orthodontic Treatment is the Medical Deal of the Century!

Health Costs RocketPerhaps the biggest obstacle patients have to getting their teeth straight is the cost of treatment. Because braces are not a commodity that sits on a shelf at the store for all to see, many have no idea what they cost. Are braces really that expensive? By comparison they are actually one of the best values in medicine today! My 21-year-old son had Lasik surgery this past summer. The total treatment time for his screening appointment (1 hour), procedure (30 minutes), and one follow-up visit (15 minutes) was 1 hour 45 minutes. The fee was $4700. The ophthalmologist required payment in full at the time of treatment and did not offer payment plans.

Earlier this summer I was at a family reunion and had some temporary shortness of breath. I’m pretty athletic and doubted I was having a heart attack, but I needed to be sure. I decided to visit a Utah emergency room for tests and evaluation. I was there less than two hours and saw a physician for less than 5 minutes. The fee for two hours in the ER was over $6,000!

My typical orthodontic case takes 24 months and includes 12 months of follow up following removal of the braces. During those 36 months, you will typically see me about 20 times with over 10 hours of chair time. Our average treatment fee for three years of visits is less than my two-hour trip to the emergency room! Additionally, most orthodontic offices will finance your treatment over time interest free!

Since I opened my practice in 1991, the cost of medical care has risen 14% per year. My 1991 fee for a typical 24-month treatment was about $3,200. Had it risen by 14% every year like other medical expenses, today’s fee would be almost $44,000! Our current fee for the typical two year treatment is just under $6,000. That represents an annual increase over the past 20 years of only about 3%! During that same time there has been an annual increase in the cost of materials, staff, facilities, insurance, and training of almost 6%. Luckily for consumers, orthodontists have become more efficient and have been able to absorb much of the extra cost of doing business without raising their fees the same percent.

Perhaps the best way to put the cost of orthodontic care into perspective is not how much you pay, but what you get for your money. At the end of your treatment you will have a healthy set of teeth that will be easier for you, your dentist, and your hygienist to maintain. You will have an even bite that will function better and wear more evenly. Most importantly, you will have a smile that looks great and makes you feel fantastic! Can you put a price on self-esteem?

NOTE: The author, Dr. Greg Jorgensen, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (a suburb on the westside of Albuquerque). He was trained at BYU, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa in the United States. Dr. Jorgensen’s 25 years of specialty practice and 10,000 finished cases qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems (including conventional braces, Damon and other self-ligating brackets, Suresmile, and lingual braces). This blog for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. Jorgensen is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of New Mexico. He cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can he select treatment plans for readers. Because he has over 25,000 readers each month, it is impossible for him respond to all questions. Please read all of the comments associated with each article as most of the questions he receives each week have been asked and answered previously. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author.