5 Ways to Save Money on Braces

by Ashley Watson on 23 May 2013 4 comments

The average cost of standard orthodontic treatment is approximately $5,000. This could be a little less or more depending on where you live and the severity of the case. Whether it's for your child or yourself, this is no small investment. That's why it's important to make sure that you get quality care and understand ways to keep extra costs to a minimum. My mother has worked as an orthodontic assistant for over 30 years, and during that time, she's seen a lot of patients who had to pay more than necessary due to neglecting some simple preventive maintenance and care. (See also: How to Examine Your Healthcare Plan and Save)

While there's no way to reduce the overall estimated cost without sacrificing quality, there are plenty of ways to ensure that you aren't paying more than you need to on braces for yourself or your child. Educating yourself as a patient or educating your child about how to properly care for your braces is only part of maintaining the cost-effectiveness of orthodontic treatment.

1. Go for Early Treatment

Even if you think your child may be too young for that first trip to the orthodontist, there may be issues that can be detected and prevented with early care. With a comprehensive plan and early diagnosis, an early visit could help prevent future issues that may be more difficult to treat. As soon as your child starts losing baby teeth, ask your dentist to recommend an orthodontist in the area.

2. Visit a Board Certified Orthodontist

It may be tempting to let a dentist put braces on you or your child because dentists who claim to be certified to do so will typically charge less than orthodontists. However, dentists are not fully trained to provide orthodontic treatment. Make sure you see a board-certified orthodontist. If you get braces put on by an unqualified professional, you may be paying a lot more in the end for more treatment. This also means potentially having to go through round two of braces, which is something most people would not look forward to.

For those reasons, it's also important to see a reputable orthodontist. Ask friends, neighbors, and coworkers for recommendations, or go to an online review site, such as Angie's List or Yelp. Read as much as you can about what other people write about orthodontists in your area. It doesn't hurt to visit a few different offices for consultations. Most orthodontists will offer free consultations. It may come down to going with someone who has the best personality or a larger staff, which indicates that they are probably a trusted service provider due to having to serve a larger patient base. A well-staffed office also means you will have more flexibility in scheduling appointments.

3. Ask About Payment Plan Details

Once you've chosen an orthodontist you like, be sure to ask for the details about their payment plans and make sure you understand them. Many orthodontists will offer a no interest plan with a down payment. For instance, if you put down one-fourth of the overall cost, you may get 24 months without interest. Just like with any credit card, there will be larger payments along with interest without a down payment.

If your orthodontist doesn't offer a payment plan, there are credit companies that offer financing specifically for orthodontics. Springstone is one of the major companies, but you can easily find one by searching the web. Also, ask your orthodontist to recommend a credit company that provides financing for braces. Most likely, they probably have a credit company that they work with already.

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4. Encourage Brushing and Proper Care

Whether you or your child is the patient, poor brushing habits can lead to cavities and permanent markings. This will cost you more money for dental work and restorations in the end. Be sure to ask your orthodontist for tips on how to properly brush your teeth with the challenge of having braces. Also, only eat what is recommended to help prevent damage. This could end up costing a lot of extra money, and not just in labor costs.

Some orthodontists will charge for loose or broken brackets and bands, which can be costly if the problem recurs. Don't pay more money in frequent trips to the orthodontist to get something fixed. Avoid eating things like popcorn, ice, and sticky and hard candy, and also avoid chewing on pens and pencils. Also make sure you read your contract carefully and understand all the policies about wearing rubber bands, brushing, keeping your appointment, etc.

Keep in mind that broken appliances will cost you a lot more than regular treatment. Most orthodontic treatment will include the first retainer in the overall cost, but it can be $175 or more to replace one that was lost or damaged by misuse. Lost retainers are common. Kids tend to accidentally throw them away in the cafeteria at lunch because they put them in a napkin. Keep the case around to avoid losing a removable retainer.

5. Orthodontics Are Not Just Cosmetic

If you think you are spending a lot of money on a cosmetic treatment, keep in mind that orthodontic treatment is part of prevention for a number of medical concerns, such as jaw joint and muscle disorders (TMJ and TMD). Even tooth decay can be caused by teeth that are too close together and do not allow for proper flossing. Another tip during your search for an orthodontist is to ask about ongoing care. Is it included in the overall cost? Do they use permanent retainers as well as removable ones to keep the teeth in place?

These are important questions to ask before you sign anything. If there's no ongoing care, then you may end up paying more in the long run to go to another orthodontist for further treatment. Overall, make sure you know what you are getting into and that you are clear on the cost of treatment and what extra costs can be incurred throughout the treatment.

How have you saved money on orthodontic care?

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Guest's picture

Not every child needs to see an orthodontist, and while palate spreading must be done young, braces young just makes treatment more expensive and time-consuming.

Guest's picture
Guest

My goodness, did an orthodontist write this? It's filled with lots of cliches that have scant evidence to support them--see a board certified ortho, go early to save money, it's not just cosmetic. Although these may be accurate statements for some, they are certainly not universal truths and are widely disputed claims (especially the one to go early--there's lots of conflicting research on this). I'm not saying that these tips are completely wrong, but there are differing views out there. It would have been good for this article to present more of a balance. There also seems to be very little good advice in here about actually saving money.

Guest's picture
Julie

We went to an office that offers a supplemental dental plan. It costs $50/yr and covers some of what our employer provided plan does not. We paid the balance in cash in advance (had flex benefit to cover it) to save another percentage. I can say that it's true that you can save money by starting early. Our son had braces for less than a year at age 8. He did not need the second phase as a teen. He had some minor shifting on the bottom but doesn't want to have any more work. So there's SEVERAL ways to save on ortho!

Guest's picture
J.

"This statement was paid for by the American Association of Orthodontists."

Well, maybe not. But it does read like an advertizement.

Other methods not mentioned include getting care from a dental school with an orthodontics program, or getting a grant for low-income families such as http://www.smileschangelives.org/.

Also, if you have dental insurance, check which providers are covered. This won't usually cover the full cost of braces but may defer some of the cost. Finally, you may be able to use Health Care FSA dollars to pay for orthodontics with pre-tax dollars.