Supermodels Heidi Klum and Cindy Crawford did it. Action star Tom Cruise did it at the ripe old age of 40 no less. Even Prince Harry did it, proof that royalty doesn’t afford you immunity from dental issues. Getting braces is a relatively common thing in Singapore, although knowledge around the cost of braces less so.
Since you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in getting braces for yourself or someone you love (or Googling Prince Harry). Before you go jumping into a dentist chair for your dental makeover, read this. If knowledge is power, you’ll be the superhero of braces when we’re through.
Common reasons why a dentist might recommend braces
Braces are devices used not just to align and straighten your teeth, but also position them to improve your bite, dental health and smile.
Getting braces is quite a commitment because it involves both time (anything from 18 months to three years, with regular check-ups every few weeks) and money (upward of $1,800 for just the initial down payment). Plus, they’re not the most comfortable of things to wear nor the easiest to maintain. So, make sure you really need them.
When your upper teeth extend well beyond your lower ones, its called an overbite. When the opposite happens – your lower teeth extending beyond the upper ones – it’s called an underbite. When your upper teeth sit oddly inside your lower ones because they’re either too wide or narrow compared to each other, this is called a crossbite. And when your upper and lower front teeth don’t overlap as they should, it’s called an openbite. You’ll need braces to correct all these.
Difficulty chewing or caring for teeth
Sometime, your malocclusion (faulty contact between your upper and lower teeth) is so severe or your teeth are so crooked that chewing becomes difficult and your teeth get abnormally worn out. The malocclusion and gaps in your teeth may also make brushing and proper care a challenge, leading to greater possibility of decay. You’ll need braces then.
When teeth aren’t aligned properly, it can affect your speech, too. You may have trouble pronouncing strident sounds in words like “beige”, “jump” and “shop”. An overbite or an openbite can make you lisp, turning your “z”s and “s”s into “th” sounds and making you sound comical.
You’re uncomfortable with your smile
Your teeth can be protruding so much; or be so crooked, crowded or oddly spaced that it affects your smile, your face shape and even your self-confidence.
Is there a better time to get braces than not?
If the issue is jaw-related, sooner is better than later. Any time between the ages of nine and 11 is ideal if you are considering this for your child.
If it’s just the teeth, the teen years is probably the best time. That’s when all their baby teeth should have been replaced by permanent ones, and you can see what kind of smile they have to live with and if you want to do anything.
Of course, you’re never too old for braces yourself. Almost half of those in Singapore with braces are adults, joining award-winning actress, Faye Dunaway, who got her braces fitted when she was 61.
It’s easier to get braces as an adult because it does take patience to keep going back to your orthodontist (about every four to eight weeks for reviews). But you may need that patience because an adult’s bone structure is usually denser than a teen’s and it may take longer to re-set an adult’s teeth. Braces for adults also cost more although the difference is marginal – $100 to $200.
The types of braces that dentists will offer in Singapore
These traditional orthodontic appliances (professional-speak for braces) are what usually comes to mind when you think of braces. They involve metal wires and individual brackets cemented to the front of each tooth. A metal archwire is then threaded through the brackets and held in place by elastic bands (ligatures or o-rings). Sometimes, your dentist might put a retaining pin in your mouth to anchor the braces. During each review, your dentist will change or tighten the wires to move your teeth. These are fixed braces. You can’t take them off whenever you like.
- They’re the best for complicated cases.
- They’re the cheapest option.
- They’re the fastest treatment, requiring a shorter time than less visible braces.
- They’re tried and tested.
- They’re the most visible and not in a good way.
- They make brushing your teeth more difficult.
- They can cause ulcers because they rub against the inside of your mouth.
Cost: $3,200 – $6,000
Self-ligating (second-generation metal braces)
There’s a type of metal braces that don’t require ligatures. That’s why they’re called self-ligating braces. Instead, the archwires in these braces can slide back and forth with no elastic bands to keep them in place. Damon braces is one type of self-ligating braces.
- They’re more comfortable than the first-generation metal braces because there is less friction and pressure on the teeth.
- They produce faster results because the teeth can move on their own,
- Because they can move on their own, these braces require fewer adjustments as well.
- They cost more.
Cost: $4,500 to $6,000
This is another type of fixed braces. It’s like metal braces except the brackets are made of ceramic not metal.
- They’re less visible. Ceramic can be clear or the same colour as teeth. The archwire is also thinner. In some cases, the archwire is made of polymer which is transparent.
- They’re larger and weaker than metal braces, making them easier to crack and chip. Fixing the damage will cost extra.
- They’re higher maintenance and so need more visits to the dentist which translates to more cost.
- The wires can stain, so you might have to give up stuff like coffee (gasp).
Cost: $4,300 – $6,000 (save about $800 if you limit ceramic braces to just the upper teeth and get metal ones for the lower teeth which are less visible)
These are metal braces attached not to the front but to the back of your teeth. Genius!
- They’re invisible.
- They don’t cause ulcers in your cheeks and the inside of your mouth.
- They don’t work for complex cases.
- They cause ulcers on your tongue instead.
- They might affect the way you talk because they’re so close to your tongue.
- They’re harder to adjust to because they reduce the space inside your mouth.
- They’re the most expensive because each bracket needs a custom mould.
Cost: $8,000 – $11,000
These are clear, plastic moulds or aligners that fit over your teeth and move them gradually over time. As your treatment progresses, you will need to change aligners to continue to shape your teeth. You will typically need between 18 and 30 aligners in all.
- They’re nearly invisible.
- They’re the most comfortable.
- You can remove them to brush your teeth or when you’re eating. But you need to wear them for up to 22 hours for them to be effective.
- They require fewer reviews, once every two or three months versus every four to six weeks.
- They’re expensive.
- They don’t work for severe cases. They straighten teeth but can’t realign bite.
- They require discipline because if you take them out, you need to remember to put them back in.
Cost: $4,500 – $11,000
Made of metal or plastic, these hold your teeth together after your braces are removed. Your teeth can still move after your treatment is completed, especially in the first month. Wearing retainers for six months to a year (sometimes, you need to wear them for as long as you have worn your braces) will keep your newly set teeth well in place.
It isn’t as daunting as it sounds, though. In most cases, you wear your retainers full-time for just a few months or weeks, then only at night. Only fixed retainers need to be worn all the time for about five years. Of course, bone has the capacity to change and remodel as long as you’re alive. So, some adult patients choose to keep wearing their retainers at night.
Neglect your retainers, particularly when your braces have been newly removed, and your teeth can shift back to their former positions. Then, all your sacrifice and money would have been for nothing. Just ask Faith Hill. She had to wear braces again as an adult because she didn’t wear her retainers as a teen.
Where can you get braces done – Public Versus Private clinic route
You can go the public (government) route – National Dental Centre Singapore or government hospitals – or the private one. Cost would be one reason you’d go to public institutions because they tend to be, in general, cheaper.
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 2015, the cost of braces at public institutions ranged between $3,000 and $4,870 compared to $2,000 and $10,700 at private clinics. So, while there are some private clinics that start out cheaper, the upper spectrum of private costs is more than double that at public institutions.
The catch when it comes to public institutions is the wait time – from months to up to two years.
National Dental Centre Singapore and government hospitals
Cost: $42.50 – $60 (Consultation)
Orthodontics (Braces) – Two Jaws, Non-Surgical
|Public Institutions (Non-subsidised fees)|
|Institution||Average Fee ($)*|
|Changi General Hospital||4,500 – 5,100|
|Khoo Teck Puat Hospital||3,600 – 4,200|
|National Dental Centre of Singapore||3,638 – 5,157|
|Ng Teng Fong General Hospital||4,500 – 6,000|
|National University Hospital||Metal Brackets (Single Arch): 2,500 – 3,200|
Metal Brackets (Dual Arch): 4,500 – 4,800
*Average fee for the period 1 September 2016 to 31 August 2017. Includes GST. Excludes consultation and investigation fees. The procedure is performed by clinicians with advanced specialty qualifications.
They cost more but they have much shorter wait times, shorter queues and more flexible schedules. Given how often you need to return to your orthodontist during your treatment, you might appreciate this more than you think. In addition, you get to pick the dentist you want.
Cost: $150 – $300 Consultation
Here’s a snap shot of what some private dental clinics will charge in Singapore
Source: MOH (2015)
How to pay for your braces and procedures
The bad news is that there aren’t many subsidises you can count on to finance your dream of better dental health, clearer speech and a prettier smile. The problem lies in the fact that braces are considered cosmetic procedures. So, sorry, no discounts for vanity.
Can you use your Medisave?
No. Medisave can only be used to pay for medically necessary surgical procedures. Braces are neither medically necessary nor surgical.
What about dental insurance?
Maybe. Dental insurance usually covers:
- Emergency dental services
- Preventive dental services
- Dental radiology services
- Conservative treatments
- Extraction treatments (non-surgical)
- Endodontic treatments
Braces don’t fall under any of these.
If, however, your teeth are so bad that they cause health problems – gum disease, tooth decay, severe pain or speech problems – your dental insurance may be able to cover the procedure. Alternatively, if an accident causes you to require braces, you’d qualify as well. Your dentist needs to back you up, though, and say you need braces for medical reasons.
Students/National Servicemen Full-time Package
Some private clinics offer student and NSF packages that are priced lower than their regular ones.
- FDC Dental Centre Singapore
- Smilepoint Dental
- Tanglin Dental Surgeons
Some credit card options that might be useful in bringing down costs
Some cards open doors to discounts for limited periods. The AlumNUS card can get you a $220 waiver for consultation for braces as well as Invisalign treatments at i.Dental. With the card, you can also enjoy a braces package at $3,800 or a Invisalign package at $5,500 at Royce Dental for a season. Note that T&Cs apply and promotion periods vary.
If you charge your dental bill to your card, you can also get cash back or rewards. This is particularly useful for the first upfront payment you need to make which can be anything between $1,800 and $2,000.
We found one promotion with the POSB Everyday Card that gives a 3% cash rebate on local medical expenses including dental, clinic and hospitals. Note that T&Cs apply and you’ll need a POSB Child Development Account to qualify. (Promotion till July 2018).
Never. Orthodontists have warned against buying braces online simply because they’re cheap ($7 – $50). Braces need to be fitted to your teeth and no two people’s mouths and teeth are ever alike. That’s why wearing off-the-shelf braces can lead to unwanted tooth movement, worsening bite, tooth loss, and great pain and discomfort.
The cost of a smile in Singapore isn’t pretty. But for a pretty smile (and good dental health), the investment might be worth it. If Nature hasn’t given you good teeth, save up, then let your dentist do the job. Meanwhile, keep calm and smile on.
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