5 Tips to Save on Braces

Photo (cc) by ethanhickerson

Kids fear braces because their peers are judgmental. Parents fear braces because they’re expensive. According to The New York Times, braces can run up to $7,000.

And insurers often won’t foot much of the bill, even though treatment goes beyond aesthetics. But that’s no reason to shy away from necessary dental work. In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson talks with a mother and daughter who paid only $500 for braces, thanks to a program called Smiles Change Lives. Check it out, and then read on for more about the program and other cost-cutting tips.

How the program works

Smiles Change Lives is a national program that pairs low-income families with charitable orthodontists. It can take up to a year to get into. To qualify, the family needs an annual household taxable income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family size of two, this is currently $29,420; for four, $44,700. Beyond that, it goes up roughly $8,000 per person: You can see if you qualify at this page of the Smiles Change Lives site.

In addition to income requirements, the applicant has to be 10-18 years old and have a dentist attest to otherwise good oral hygiene. The application also requires a $25 fee, and if accepted into the program, the family has to pay $500 for the entire treatment. If the family’s income is under 100 percent of the federal poverty level, some of that may also be subsidized – but this opportunity is much harder to come by and dependent on how many donations Smiles Change Lives is receiving from your region at the time.

There are other programs out there that may pay for dental treatment. The American Association of Orthodontists has been piloting a Donated Orthodontic Services program in five states: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. For a list of AAO member orthodontists, visit Braces.org.

The Dental Lifeline Network also has a Donated Dental Services program running across the country, although some states have an extensive waiting list and aren’t taking applicants now. Check NFDH.org for info about your state.

Other ways to save

If you don’t meet the requirements for subsidized programs or don’t want to get stuck on a waiting list, here’s more advice for drilling through dental costs.

1. Evaluate insurance. If you have dental insurance already, check your policy and see if orthodontics are covered, partially or at all. In rare cases, the insurer may pay up to half the cost, and more are willing to pay a quarter.

If you have a lousy policy or none at all, check out 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.

2. Dental schools. Many dental schools offer services similar to private practices, and some do it for a third less than local orthodontists. While the students are not the most experienced, they do have extensive training (orthodontics is a specialty that requires years of training beyond dental school) and are supervised by professional orthodontists. AAO has a list of accredited schools in every state.

3. Negotiate. Sometimes dental rates are fixed – the doctors do need to pay for the pricey specialized equipment and maintain a staff. But you won’t know until you ask, and you may find an orthodontist who’s more flexible than you expected, especially if you can explain your financial difficulties.

4. Payment plans. Where some orthodontists may not be flexible on price, they may be flexible on time frame. Ask about payment plans – monthly payment options are common.

Be sure to get the plan in writing upfront, and ask about any steps or charges that may not be necessary. Doctors sometimes recommend work that will produce the best result, but that goes beyond what the patient wants, needs, or can afford. While we’ve been talking mainly about children’s braces, it’s especially true for adults, who often have other dental problems that may interfere.

Also be wary of third party plans, which often charge big interest fees in comparison to arrangements made directly with your dental office. Finally, sometimes the office will assume you want a payment plan from the get-go – if you don’t need one, ask about a discount for paying cash up front.

5. Shop around. Braces are expensive, but prices do vary between providers. 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 a few opinions.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
8 Ways to Slash the Cost of Homeowners Insurance
8 Ways to Slash the Cost of Homeowners Insurance

Reviewing this critical insurance policy takes a little effort, but it pays off big.

10 Ways to Nail Savings on Your Remodeling Project
10 Ways to Nail Savings on Your Remodeling Project

Here’s how to save on your next remodeling project with discounted materials and more tips and tricks.

7 Ways Anyone Can Cut Their Health Care Costs
7 Ways Anyone Can Cut Their Health Care Costs

Here’s how to lower your medical expenses without skimping on care.

10 Tools You Need for Financial Stability
10 Tools You Need for Financial Stability

Have these tools and accounts in place so you can weather whatever comes your way.

21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss
21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss

Start off the new year by implementing these small-but-smart savings strategies. They’ll soon add up.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles
The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles

One automaker takes half the spots on a list of the longest-lasting vehicles.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco
9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco

Are you missing out on serious savings at your favorite warehouse club?

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic
11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic

Many goods we take for granted have become tough to find in 2021.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.