by Bill Pritchard, DDS, MS

An Illustration of the value of orthodontics

As a practicing orthodontist, it is a privilege and a pleasure to provide orthodontic care in my community. To be intimately involved in the growth and the development, along with improvement of self-worth and confidence, of young people never ceases to be a blessing to my staff and me.

It is frustrating, however, when others may not see the value of what orthodontic care can do for the life of a child.There are very few opportunities in life where the return on the investment in orthodontic care can be beat. So, when confronted with comments like, “Wow, that’s expensive,” or, “I didn’t realize it would cost so much,” my staff and I make a sincere and honest effort to describe in real-life, practical terms the benefits of a great smile and a “good” bite.

When I was a teenager in the 1960s, very few of my classmates got braces. In a small town of 10,000 people, there was no orthodontic office; the nearest orthodontist was an hour away. With a long, monthly commute, the expense of orthodontics, and the fact that straight teeth were not a priority, very few of my friends opted for braces. Those who did had really crooked teeth or had enough money to make it financially possible.

In college, my roommate received a Volkswagen Beetle for graduation. It was beautiful—all 27-miles-per-gallon beautiful, and all 25-cents-per-gallon beautiful.

Here’s my connection between a 1966 VW and braces in 1966: Both cost about $1,700.

Here is when I really start feeling great. To have the buying power of that $1,700 in 1966, you would have to spend $10,000 in 2007. A new VW Beetle costs about $20,000. If orthodontics had kept up with inflation the way the Beetle has, the range of fees today would start at $10,000. But as we know, orthodontic fees average about $5,000. In true, inflation-adjusted dollar value, the cost of orthodontics has been cut in half. Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, this is incredible; this is impressive. Now you know the real reason why so many more teenagers and preteenagers wear braces today: It’s more affordable than ever before.

Most of those 1966 Beetles have long ago gone to the big junk heap in the sky. However, a young person who had braces in 1966 has enjoyed 40 years of a beautiful smile. What a great investment for the future of a young person’s life. What a gift. What a blessing.

Parents today, instead of trying to decide between a new car or braces for Johnny (as they did in 1966), are choosing among big screen, high-definition TVs; surround-sound stereo systems; Sub-Zero refrigerators; Viking kitchen stoves; or perhaps a cruise for the whole family.

This is one orthodontist’s opinion.
What’s yours? Let us know.

When all is said and done, the choice of where to put $5,000 comes down to each person’s or each family’s priorities. Pay for something now, or invest in a lifetime of smiles. The choice is personal, with long-lasting benefits and consequences.

Now you can understand why I love practicing orthodontics: I offer great orthodontic health care. Although it is not cheap, it is a fantastic value for a lifetime.

Bill Pritchard, DDS, MS, is in private practice in Vancouver, Wash, and Battle Ground, Wash. He can be reached at or through