Q: Is it cheaper to get braces in South Korea than in the States?

WHAT’S UP, GUYS!!!! It’s been a hot minute since I’ve last posted anything about my life here. Honestly, 2021 was an intense year for me. Many unexpected things happened towards the end of the year that made it impossible for me to blog, but now, I’m OFFICIALLY BACK! Thank you for still sticking around until I could get my life back on track.

Anyways, back to the topic at hand – I’M GETTING BRACES! (Well, by the time this post goes up I will already have them..).

Process and Duration

To be honest, I didn’t do any personal search in finding the perfect orthodontist. After mentioning that I was thinking about getting braces to a friend, she took me to the one she went to, and I ended up liking it. I couldn’t inform you on how to find the right orthodontist, but meh, I’m sure you can just search for one on the internet.

After finding the orthodontist, I was informed of what was ideal for me, how long the process would be, and how much it would cost to get the braces. My teeth were okay to begin with (I just have some minor problems that need straightening). Still, since there was an issue with the placement of my adult canines, I was given two options, and the process could take from about a year to three years, depending on the option I had chosen.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I have a baby canine tooth that has stuck around since I was a kid. The adult canine was there but, unfortunately, was facing the wrong direction, so it couldn’t push the baby tooth out or find another way to penetrate the gum. But, honestly, the tooth didn’t pose a threat to me or anything. If I wanted, I think I could’ve gone my whole life living with the baby tooth, but I didn’t want that. To get the braces, I had to decide which tooth I would keep and discard early on in the process.

So these were my options:

Option A:

  • Keep the baby tooth.
  • Remove the adult canine.
  • Get an implant to replace the missing tooth after the braces have been removed (should it fall out).

Option B: 

  • Keep the adult canine. 
  •  Maneuver it so that it is facing the right direction.
  • Remove the baby tooth. 
  • Wait until the canine comes down to a reasonable length.
  •  Put on the braces. 

However, I was told that there was a risk involved with this option, and if anything unpredictable were to happen, they would essentially just do Option A.

Option A would take about one year to complete and seemed relatively definite and straightforward. Even though I could’ve kept my real tooth with Option B, there was a risk factor that could essentially force me back to Option A; it was longer and sounded more painful. So I went with Option A. It was still excruciating to remove, but it’s over, and I’m not bitter anymore. 😅

Enjoy this quick video of me freaking out to some of my friends the following day of the surgery. (I’ve never had my wisdom tooth removed, so I didn’t know what was going to happen …. don’t judge me!🤷🏾‍♀️)

Cost

Now, let’s hit the big question. I know you guys want to talk about the money. How much is this whole thing going to cost me? Is it cheaper to get braces in Korea vs. the States? What kind of money am I shelling out for this mere beautification process?

When I first moved here, I was under the impression that it could somehow be cheaper to get braces in Korea than in the States, and depending on how you look at it, it could be….. but it isn’t. The average price that I was quoted at my orthodontist was about 4-5 million won, depending on the brackets I had selected for my braces. If I wanted Invisalign, it was 6 million won (upfront full payment). If you convert the Korean won to the US dollar, it is cheaper to get braces in Korea. HOWEVER, if you are getting braces in Korea, you are probably living in Korea and will be paying for it with Korean won, not the US dollar; it roughly even outs to be quite similar in cost. (This is just how I look at it. It doesn’t seem much cheaper when you have to shell out money in the country’s currency.) Honestly, if you think about it, it’s probably around the same…

The other reason why I think it is a bit more expensive to get braces in Korea than in the States is that, more often than not, you will have to pay for the whole procedure out of pocket. The National Health Insurance does not cover it. You can sign up for dental insurance through a private insurance company, but do your own research before going through with it. I was told that it wasn’t as helpful and didn’t pursue that process myself. America, also, depending on the dental insurance plan that you purchase and the reason for your dental procedure, your insurance plan can help you pay for your braces, making the whole procedure a bit more affordable.

Differences

American Dentists

Make small talk with you while cleaning your teeth

Sometimes give sleep anesthesia for certain dental procedures

Generally, take care of one patient at a time in a private room

Don’t obscure your vision while cleaning your teeth

Korean Dentists

Don’t talk to you while cleaning your teeth

Mainly only give local anesthesia for dental procedures

Usually have an open room, that can be separated by dividers, with multiple patients in the back as the dentist hops between them

Cover your face with a green cloth that only opens around the mouth

Honestly, my experience here at the dentist/orthodontist hasn’t been terrible. I don’t regret my decision to get braces in Korea, and if anyone is contemplating doing so, I encourage you to give it a try. What’s the point in waiting until you move back? Get that beautiful smile today!

PLEASE NOTE: For the most part, the dentist may know how to speak a little English and can help you with any questions or concerns you may have about your procedure, but that does NOT mean that the dental hygienist, office assistants, or any other worker there will know how to speak English. So, for your own sanity and to make the process a bit easier, it would be ideal to know a conversational amount of Korean before going in to navigate through difficult situations better. I don’t understand a lot of medical Korean so often when they speak about the technical side of things; I have no clue what they are talking about. However, when it comes to care, cost, and concerns, I can ask them without any issues, which has helped tremendously.

Until next time,

See ya around, friend~

Posted by:ThatKoreanLife

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