The crooked front teeth and massive overbite were probably a clue. But, for many parents, the news that your child needs braces and the details about just how much it’s all going to cost can cause anxiety and prompt you to wonder if there is a way to make braces more affordable.
Ready for some sticker shock? The American Dental Association’s survey of dental fees found that orthodontic treatment can cost between $4,685 to $6,500 for children and teens, according to the American Association of Orthodontics.
It’s a lot of money, but it also is not just about fixing cosmetic problems. Braces, retainers, spacers and other related pieces can help make it easier for kids to chew their food and prevent other problems in the future. In other words, not having braces could affect your child’s quality of life down the road. (Talk about parent guilt!)
So how are you going to afford this?
Head to a clinic:
Future orthodontists are honing their skills at dental schools across the country. And, to learn how to place and adjust those braces, they must practice those skills on actual patients, including children.
Students, with supervision from faculty members, conduct treatments at these clinics at cut-rate prices. Just how much less you’ll pay at a school clinic depends on a number of factors, but it can make a big difference for families.
At the University of Southern California’s orthodontics clinic, for instance, the website says that fees vary, but they “charge considerably lower fees on average than private practices in the area.” To find a school near year, the Commission on Dental Accreditation lists programs around the United States.
Consider your insurance options:
Health insurance and dental plans typically don’t cover braces for cosmetic reasons, but they may cover or provide partial coverage for orthodontic treatment that is medically necessary. Before you start in on the treatment, it never hurts to check with your insurance providers to find out if you’re covered.
You also can purchase orthodontic dental insurance coverage, which could make braces more affordable for your child. Before you sign on, however, find out if there is a coverage limit, if there is a waiting period before work can begin and which orthodontist practices it covers.
Ask for a payment plan or discount:
Most orthodontists offer payment plans to make braces more affordable and stretch out the cost of the treatment over months or years. Paying cash also could net you a discount. The mom behind MoneySavingMom.com reports that she saved 10 percent off the total cost of her daughter’s braces when she offered to pay cash up front.
There are a variety of groups that offer assistance to families who can’t cover the cost of braces. They include:
● The American Association of Orthodontists Donated Orthodontic Services Program, which helps low-income children who might not otherwise be able to get treatment. Since 2009, it’s worked with more than 700 kids.
● Smiles Change Lives partners with 750 orthodontists across the country, who have helped nearly 10,000 children since 1997.
● Smile For a Lifetime helps kids ages 11 to 18 who can’t afford orthodontics.
Other nonprofits and groups offer free braces to kids in specific states or regions of the country. Contact your state’s dental society to learn more about what may be available.
Don’t get fancy:
Your child may not relish all of the metal, but the mouth isn’t the place to make a fashion statement. Popular Invisalign aligners are clear and removable, but you pay a premium for them. They cost between about $3,500 and $8,000, according to Colgate. Regular old metal braces will set you back between $2,500 and $6,000. Stick with the metal to make braces more affordable for your family.
Treat your braces right:
Once the braces are in place, make sure your child is taking care of them. Steer clear of chewy, sticky or crunchy foods that could damage the braces. Consider mouth guards and other protective gear when playing sports. Develop a system for storing retainers and other items when not in use so they aren’t lost.
Keeping braces in good working order means fewer trips to the orthodontist, which will add up to fewer bills for mom and dad.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.
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