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, although knowledge around the cost of braces in Singapore less so.
Since you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in getting braces for yourself or someone you love. Here’s a guide to your dental makeover options and the expected costs of each one.
- Why get braces? And when should you get them?
- Types of braces in Singapore and how much they cost
- Where should you get braces done – public hospital or private clinic?
- How to pay for your braces and procedures
- Should you buy braces online?
Why get braces? And when’s the best time to get them?
Braces are devices used to align and straighten your teeth, as well as 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 (upwards 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.
Here are some common reasons why people get braces:
- To correct bite issues (e.g. overbite, underbite)
- Difficulties in chewing or caring for teeth that are misaligned
- Affected speech (e.g. lisp) due to misaligned teeth
- Uncomfortable with smiling
For children with jaw-related issues, you should intervene sooner rather than later – any time from age 9 to 11 is ideal.
But it’s just for teeth issues, you should wait till your kid is in her teens. Only then are the baby teeth completely replaced by permanent ones, so you can see what kind of smile she have to live with and if you want to do anything.
For adults, any time is fine. You’re never too old for braces! Actress Faye Dunaway got hers fitted when she was 61. And almost half of those in Singapore with braces are adults.
If you plan to get braces as an adult, you might find that your treatment period might take quite a long time. An adult’s bone structure is usually denser than a teen’s and it may take longer to re-set an adult’s teeth. It does take some patience to keep going back to your orthodontist (about every 4 to 8 weeks for reviews).
Braces for adults also cost more, although the difference is marginal, only about $100 to $200 difference.
Types of braces in Singapore & how much they cost
If the word “braces” brings to mind a mouth full of ugly metal bits, you might have an outdated picture of what braces are. These days there are quite a few options, including less visible ones.
|Type of braces||Description||Price range|
|Metal braces||Fixed braces that need to be manually adjusted by dentist||$3,200 to $6,000|
|2nd generation (self-ligating) braces||Braces can slide back and forth on their own, with fewer manual adjustments required||$4,500 to $6,000|
|Ceramic braces||Similar to metal braces, except made of ceramic (less visible)||$4,300 to $6,000|
|Lingual braces||Metal braces attached to the back of your teeth instead of front||$8,000 to $11,000|
|Invisalign||Clear plastic moulds that fit over your teeth and are changed 18 to 30 times||$4,500 to $11,000|
The most traditional option involves 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). They’re fixed, so you’ll have to go to the dentist for frequent reviews – only then can he change or tighten the wires to move your teeth.
Pros: These are cheap (as low as $3,200) and tried-and-tested. This type of braces can treat your teeth quickly, requiring a shorter time than less visible braces. And for complicated cases, your dentist will usually recommend these.
Cons: They’re the most visible type of braces, and not in a good way. Worse, they can rub against the inside of your mouth and cause ulcers, and they make brushing your teeth more difficult.
2nd generation (self-ligating) metal braces
If you’re willing to pay more (from $4,500) you can get 2nd gen braces such as Damon Braces. These 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.
Pros: They produce faster results because the teeth can move on their own, and they require fewer adjustments. They’re also more comfortable than the first-generation metal braces because there is less friction and pressure on the teeth.
Cons: They cost more than traditional metal braces.
This is another type of fixed braces. Ceramic braces are like metal braces, except the brackets are made of ceramic, which can be clear or the same colour as your teeth. The archwire is also thinner. In some cases, the archwire is made of polymer which is transparent.
These typically cost $4,300 to $6,000. But you can 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.
Pros: They’re less visible.
Cons: High maintenance, require more visits to the dentist. Larger and weaker than metal braces, making them easier to crack and chip. Fixing the damage will cost extra. Also, the wires can stain, so you might have to give up stuff like coffee (gasp).
These are metal braces attached not to the front, but to the back of your teeth. Genius! But they’re the most expensive type of braces, because each bracket needs a custom mould. They can cost a cool $8,000 to $11,000. Ouch.
Pros: They’re invisible and don’t cause ulcers in your cheeks and the inside of your mouth.
Cons: Mainly related to how these braces crowd the inside of your mouth and are close to your tongue. They can give you tongue ulcers(!) and affect the way you talk, plus they’re harder to adjust due to the lack of space. Not recommended for complex cases.
Invisalign is growing in popularity despite its bigger price tag, anywhere from $4,500 to $11,000. These are clear, plastic moulds or aligners that fit over your teeth and move them gradually over time. 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.
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.)
Pros: Nearly invisible, as the name suggests. And the most comfortable! Fewer reviews needed – once every 2 or 3 months, rather than the traditional 4 to 6 weeks.
Cons: They’re expensive. They don’t work for severe cases – they can straighten teeth but can’t realign bite. They also require discipline because if you take them out, you need to remember to put them back in.
Retainers (after your braces come off)
After your braces are removed, you also need to wear a set of retainers for 6 months to a year to keep your newly set teeth well in place. (Your teeth can still move, especially in the first month.)
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.
Where can you get braces done – public hospital or private clinic?
You can get braces done at the National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS) or government hospitals, or you can go to any of the many private dentist clinics in Singapore.
Getting braces at NDCS or government hospitals
In general, going the public route is more affordable or, at least, prices are more controlled. But the problem with public institution is the long wait time – from months to up to 2 years!
If your issue is not an urgent one and you don’t mind the wait, here’s a list of average prices obtained from MOH. They’re from 2017 though, so prices might have increased by then.
These cover the price of braces for the entire mouth (both jaws) but don’t include consultation fees (typically $42.50 to $60).
|Hospital||Average fee for braces|
|Khoo Teck Puat Hospital||$3,600 to $4,200|
|National Dental Centre of Singapore||$3,638 to $5,157|
|Tan Tock Seng Hospital||$4,000 to $4,500|
|National University Hospital||$4,500 to $4,800|
|Changi General Hospital||$4,500 to $5,100|
|Ng Teng Fong General Hospital||$4,500 to $6,000|
Getting braces done at private dentists
If you don’t want to wait, private clinics are your best bet. There’s a big price range, so definitely shop around and get a few dentist quotes before you c0mmit.
Although most private dentists cost more than public, bear in mind that you need to return to the clinic many times during the course of treatment. You might appreciate the shorter wait times, shorter queues and more flexible schedules more than you think. In addition, you get to pick the dentist you want.
Here’s a snapshot of what private dental clinics charge for braces, again from MOH in 2017. Note that they don’t include consultation fees, which can cost anywhere from $150 to $300 each time. Given that you’d have to go back for reviews several times, this is an important cost to bear in mind.
|Dental clinic||Average fee for braces|
|Faith Dental Surgery||$2,000 to $4,500|
|WH Dental SUrgeons||$3,500 onwards|
|A Line Dental Braces Clinic||$3,759|
|Amoy Street Dental||$4,000 onwards|
|TLC Dental Centre||$4,000 onwards|
|Coast Dental||$4,012 to $4,504|
|Orange Dental Clinic||$4,500|
|Scotts Dental Clinic||$4,500|
|Taman Jurong Dental Centre by FDC||$4,600 to $6,800|
|Glittz Smile Dental Surgery||$4,600 to $6,800|
|HarbourPoint Dental Centre – FDC||$4,600 to $6,800|
|Universal Dental Centre||$4,600 to $6,800|
|Burlinson Dental Surgery||$4,800 to $7,500|
|The Orthodonic Centre||$5,000 to $6,800|
|Implantdontics Cosmetic & Implant Dentistry||$5,350 to $10,700|
Ways to save on braces & treatment costs
The bad news is that there aren’t any subsidises you can count on to help offset braces, because they are considered cosmetic procedures. You can’t use Medisave since they’re not medically necessary.
If you have a health insurance plan that covers dental treatment, you might be able to claim if your teeth are so bad that they cause health problems (gum disease, tooth decay, severe pain or speech problems), or 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. Otherwise, most insurance plans generally only cover medically necessary dental treatments.
If you’re a student or NSF, you might be able to get a cheaper deal at some private dental clinics. FDC Dental Centre Singapore, i.dental, Smilepoint Dental and Tanglin Dental Surgeons are some clinics that offer packages. It can’t hurt to enquire at the private clinics of your choice when you are asking around for quotes.
Some cards open doors to discounts for limited periods.
For example, the AlumNUS card (for NUS alumni, annual fees apply) 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 have SAFRA membership you might also be able to get promotional packages/discounts at certain clinics. Currently they have tie-ups with Luminous Dental Group (metal braces package at $3,800) and Advanced Dental Group (self-ligating braces package at $3,888).
Using a credit card to pay
Don’t forget to charge your dental bill to a credit card that can give you some decent cash rebates 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. Sign up for an unlimited cashback credit card like the Amex True Cashback Card to make use of the introductory 3% rebate, or try the Amex KrisFlyer for substantial bonus miles for the first $2,000 spend.
If you happen to have a POSB Child Development Account, the POSB Everyday Card gives you a 3% cash rebate on local medical expenses until 31 Jul 2018.
For subsequent dental fee payments, consider using one of these best cashback credit cards for bill payments.
Should you buy braces online?
You might have seen super-cheap braces online going for something like $7 to $50 a pop. We’re all for finding the best deals online, but you should never go for these, no matter how low the price.
Braces need to be fitted to your teeth, and no two people’s mouths and teeth are ever alike. Wearing off-the-shelf braces can lead to unwanted tooth movement, worsening bite, tooth loss, and great pain and discomfort. Which can then translate into even higher costs when you go to a professional to fix these problems.
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.
Did we cover everything you wanted to know about braces in Singapore? Let us know what we should add.