A guide for dentists new to orthodontics
Each year we work with thousands of dentists who are researching whether orthodontics could be a profitable addition to their practices. One of the most common questions we get from these doctors is “how much do orthodontic supplies cost?”
While we wish we could give an answer with a specific dollar amount, the reality is that costs can range. All patients are different, and some cases may need more materials than others. Costs can also range depending upon the quality and amount of product you purchase.
Check out this guide for rough costs of materials you’ll need per orthodontic case and decide for yourself if orthodontics makes financial sense for your practice.
Main Supply Expenses:
Appliance (bands, brackets, archwires)
The bulk of what you’ll need are orthodontic appliances, which are usually quite low cost compared to production amount. However, you will see that the appliance cost can have a higher price range once you start going into newer brands that have more R&D or marketing expenses.
Typical price range: $150-$350 per case
This figure is typical for the full set of metal bands, brackets and archwires you’ll need for each case. If you use a standard orthodontic system, you can expect this cost for one patient’s metal bands, brackets and archwires. Our recommended customized system, the IP Appliance, is within this price range as well ($150-$250 per case).
Tip: We recommend most GPs to order custom appliances for each case. After working with thousands of general dentists, we’ve seen how this minimizes their inventory costs, hours of chair time, and financial risk. It also allows you to purchase the case’s appliances after your patient agrees to start treatment.
Low price range: $50-$150
Some large offices buy in bulk to save some cost per unit. This cost can be typical for orthodontists who start hundreds of cases each year. Please note that sometimes bulk ordering of brackets create higher costs in other ways, like opportunity costs from your money being tied in inventory. Also, certain bulk deals may not be available to general dentists.
Dentists can also purchase surprisingly cheap brackets from various suppliers. Often you can find brackets made and shipped from China or Thailand. Sometimes the quality may not be as predictable and controlled, which can affect the results of your cases and increase your chair time expenses. To avoid getting any defective products and having a nightmare in finishing, please talk with other dentists who’ve used brackets before buying a large inventory.
High price range: $350-$800 (Super premium prices: up to $3000)
Some of the more expensive types of braces have newer features that claim to be more efficient, comfortable, or less visible. Ceramic or lingual braces are sometimes called “invisible” and will be in this category. They are typically more expensive (in both material cost and chair time).
Some of these brands sell their appliances in kits which may include bonding trays, and extra materials for the case. Six Month Smiles has a Patient Tray Kit that costs around $639.1 Ormco’s Damon self ligating bracket system costs around $500. Insignia is a custom bracket system from Ormco and cases cost around $800. Incognito is a 3-M lingual orthodontics system and their cases cost around $3000.
Although we don’t consider clear aligners as traditional orthodontics, you may be wondering about their material cost as well. Brands like Invisalign, ClearCorrect and MTM are often on the higher end of this range because of lab costs, and sometimes even surpass the $1500 mark.
Additional Supply Expenses:
Extra Materials– $50-$100
In addition to your orthodontic appliance, you’ll need a few extra things. While each case is different, you can estimate this amount of cost for most case types. This estimate will cover most expenses, whether you’ll need some cements, adhesives, coils, headgear, retainer case, LLA, TPA, colored elastics, ligature wire, etc. There is an economy of scale with these costs, so the expense per case goes down with the more cases you treat.
Orthodontics is known to have one of the best margins in dentistry, and now you can see why. Material cost is extremely low, usually under $500 per case. The highest expense in orthodontics is not from materials, but from the time of you or your staff. Thus, the most profitable dentists and orthodontists, are those that are well trained and efficient in this field.
Please note that there are variabilities based on where you purchase from, where you live, how you order materials, quantity of patients treated, treatment philosophy, etc. This guide is based mostly on the typical dental office in the US or Canada.
If you would like a more comprehensive analysis of orthodontic costs, read our Economics of Orthodontics article where we also look at time costs and set up costs. You can also calculate your specific estimated profitability with our Ortho Calculator.
Have questions about orthodontic costs or comments on what you’ve experienced? Comment below.
*We have tried to represent competitor rates correctly, but cannot guarantee accuracy. These may change and are rough estimates, based on general knowledge and message boards of these systems.