9 Ways to Save on Braces

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When it comes to love, the eyes are the window to your soul. But when it comes to a job, your teeth might be your foot in the door.

Those are the results from a new survey of more than 1,000 adults, who were “shown images of people with varying tooth issues and asked to give their honest opinion about them, unaware that they were comparing people with straight teeth to crooked teeth.” Among the results…

  • The “facial feature remembered most after meeting someone” was the eyes at 54 percent. But next were teeth at 24. Complexion was a distant third at 12 percent.
  • “Americans perceive those with straight teeth to be 45 percent more likely than those with crooked teeth to get a job when competing with someone who has a similar skill set and experience.”
  • “When it comes to attracting a possible mate on a dating site, those with straight teeth are seen as 57 percent more likely than those with crooked teeth to get a date based on their picture alone.”

The Smile Survey, released last week, was conducted for Invisalign – a manufacturer of so-called invisible braces. So the survey might be hard for some folks to, um, sink their teeth into. But if it’s even remotely true, braces could be good for both your love life and your career. Braces are expensive, however. Thankfully, you have options, as Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson explains…

Stacy mentioned Smiles Change Lives, a national program that pairs low-income families with orthodontists who donate their time. To qualify, your family needs “an annual household taxable income (line 43 on 1040 form) at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline.” That’s currently $46,100 for a family of four.

Besides income, there are other requirements…

  • The recipient must be 10 to 18 years old.
  • A dentist must verify the child practices good oral hygiene.
  • There’s a $25 application fee, and if accepted , the family has to pay $500 for the entire treatment.

See if you qualify at the Smile Changes Lives application page. Also keep in mind it could take a year to get in the program.

Other ways to save

1. Check out other subsidized programs. The American Association of Orthodontists offers its Donated Orthodontic Services in five states: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. And the Dental Lifeline Network has a Donated Dental Services program running across the country – but many states have long waiting lists and aren’t taking applicants now.

2. Read your insurance policy. If you have dental insurance, your policy might cover some orthodontics – but it won’t cover the entire bill. In rare cases, an insurer may pay up to half. Some pay a quarter. But if your policy covers nothing, visit DentalPlans.com and Insure.com. For a couple hundred bucks a year, you can get discounts at participating orthodontists – but make sure you understand the policy’s limitations and that your dentist accepts it.

3. Go to dental school. Not to become an orthodontist, but to get cheap braces. While the students aren’t as experienced as the pros, they receive extensive training and are supervised by professionals. And they can charge a third less. The AAO has a list of accredited schools in every state.

4. Negotiate. Some orthodontists will haggle with you, some won’t. But if you can explain your financial difficulties, you might get a break.

5. Payment plans. Where some orthodontists may not be flexible on price, they may be flexible on time. Ask about payment plans – monthly payment options are common. Be sure to get the plan in writing before you make a payment.

6. Be wary of third-party payment plans. These often charge big interest fees in comparison to arrangements made directly with your dental office.

7. Ask about any procedures or charges that might not be necessary. Orthodontists sometimes recommend work that will produce the best results the quickest, but that can be beyond what you want, need, or can afford. Be firm in asking what’s really necessary.

8. Ask about cash discounts. If you don’t need a payment plan, go in the other direction and ask about a discount for paying cash up front.

9. Shop around. Many communities have more than one orthodontist within driving distance. Ask for recommendations from family and friends, but don’t jump on the first offer you hear. Look up local orthodontists at Braces.org and get several opinions – and prices.

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