Ask the Readers: Saving on orthodontics?

Today’s question is from Jessica:

Is there any way to save on orthodontics? I have read about orthodontic insurance and discount cards, but it is still very expensive. Some braces even cost $7,000! Yikes! Any suggestions or ideas on how we can save money on orthodontics? -Jessica

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Comments

  1. says

    Others have already said it, but a local university dental clinic is a great way to save on ortho care. That’s where my daughter goes. We’ve had a great experience. My girlie loves her orthodontist (well, at least as much as you can love someone who gives you pain every four to six weeks!). It really is worth checking out!

  2. Melissa says

    We did monthly payment out of our checking, but still the bill was $6,800 but since it was out of our acct directly our ortho offered a locked in price and no interest. There are some dentists in our area who do offer some scholarships, like doing community service (the patient) and the child must also submit an essay and an application. It’s only a couple per year, but well worth the shot. I would say if your child really needs it, for self esteem and other reasons, try giving up things like eating out, do meals meat free once a week, sell some unused items at yard sale and such to try to save $. Another option if you are lucky enough, is to ask a grandparent to help out with a partial payment, esp if you can have your child do labor for them like shoveling walks, raking leaves, housecleaning in return.

  3. Danna says

    We put my step daughter through $5K in braces and then my husband through $7K in braces 2 years later. I used our FSA account through my husband’s employer. And we scheduled the braces installation in December each time. I worked it out with the Orthodontist to pay $3000 (the max annual limit for our FSA) in Dec. then the balance in Jan. He gave us a 10% pay off discount both times because it was just 2 payments 1 month apart. This saved us $1200 up front with the discount and $1620 in taxes on income by using the FSA. So $12,000 in braces ended up costing $9,180. Still not cheap, but better.

  4. Ann says

    Shop around. Most orthodontists (at least around here) will do a free consultation. You can consult with more than one and compare price and what type of orthodontic intervention they will do. In our case with our son who needed a palette expander, one ortho wanted to do full braces to achieve the same thing and of course it cost more. So we went with the ortho that did just the palette expander and saved about 1K. We also got a discount for paying in full. My twins will need orthodontics soon. I was glad to find out that they also provide a sibling discout. It’s not a huge discount, but it helps. My son, (and likely the twins too), will eventually need a second round of orthodontics. My ortho will discount round 2 based on what round 1 costs.

  5. B. says

    My hubby is a dentist and here’s my advice (or what I’ve learned from him): 1) Little kids without fully developed mouths do not need braces. If they get them too early, their jaw could grow and the teeth could shift any way and they’ll just have to get them again.

    2) Find a local dental school (helps if the school has an ortho program). The students will even pay YOU if they use you as a patient during their boards.

    • Ashley says

      I totally agree with this comment. I am a dental hygienist and I see way too many children being put into braces early and then need another set a few years later. Considering what kind of bite alignment your child has, ask your dentist about a palatal expander for early ortho correction. Furthermore, do not go to an orthodontist that recommends premolar extraction. This procedure throws off the bite and creates TMJ problems in the future. Finally, make sure the orthodontist you choose actually sees your child each visit (which is usually every 4-6 weeks) and not just his assistant. All in all consider quality first, then finances.

  6. Cathy says

    We’ve found dental insurance well worth it despite the cost. Overall, we were just recouping the cost of cleanings, but when anything major is needed, it pays 50% up to a certain cap. We’re just starting with all this orthodontia (and so far, 4 of our 5 will need braces…too soon to tell on the baby) ourselves and getting ready for the palate expander in a couple of weeks.

  7. Lisa says

    I have to agree with the others who have suggested a dental school. We have one here in Richmond, VA and it has been such a blessing to our family. It has saved us so much money. The peds department also has Kids Days a couple times a year and they give all the dental work for free. We have had everything from cleanings to sealants to extracts done on those days and all at NO cost to us. Dental work is expensive and thanks to the dental school our five kids have gotten care they won’t have otherwise had. We saved a lot on braces as well. I hope you have one in your area!!

  8. Sakura says

    I would talk with your Orthodontist to see if they offer a cash discount. I’ve put three kids through braces and we received a cash discount of 20% with each child. With 2 of the kids we had insurance, but with one we didn’t. Also, check with a few ortho’s to compare prices and see what their patients have to say about them. When it comes to medical and dental the least expensive is not always the best.

  9. says

    I used to work for this non-profit. If you know ANYONE in the country who needs braces ages 10-18, you should apply for this. It is a great program and the orthodontists provide the work pro-bono. I am currently in Dental School, and will be referring to this program when I graduate with my D.D.S.

    http://smileschangelives.com/

    • Katie says

      Hi, Jen,

      I was just researching this program the other day. My daughter is only 9 yet, but needs braces VERY badly. (Her teeth on one side are almost completely sideways, and she even chews with only one side of her mouth.) But, we have no insurance and are very low income. I feel so awful to not be able to help her. Do you know how many kids are approved for this program each year or what our chances would be to get into the program?

      Thanks!

      • says

        Where do you live? they are trying to get as many children in braces every year as they can. They have no cap, but it depends on if the area you live in is saturated. They only have a certain amount of orthodontists who can only take a certain amount of kids per year. I’d recommend you apply, and if there are no orthodontists in your area, they will find you one. Hopefully that helps! You can always call them and they’re happy to ask answer any questions you may have-very helpful girls in the office. Good Luck!!

      • Sara says

        Katie – Do you work? If not, you could get a job that is opposite of your spouse or while your daughter is in school.

        • Katie says

          Jen,

          Thank for the info. We have one more year before she is ten, but I will keep it in mind!

          Sara,

          I do work parttime. It is hard to get more hours than what I have now due to my husbands schedule. He is a pastor and we often have ministry commitments that either pop up suddenly or that are in the evenings as well.

          We have always been debtfree, but pastor in a community where there is a lot of manufacturing work, so many of our church people have lost portions of their income in the past three years. As a result, our benefits AND pay have been whittled away the past several years as well, so there’s not much left for extra stuff. We have been VERY blessed though, to be debtfree, otherwise we would really be struggling now! : )

          • Sara says

            Having your husband in ministry makes it extremely difficult. Thank goodness you are debt free! When I was the age of your daughter I started babysitting to pay for my activities, so maybe you can convince your daughter to do that:) Most kids would not go for that though:)

  10. Melissa says

    Check around and see if there is a dental school nearby. They will often do work on a sliding scale under the supervision of an experienced dentist. Also, check you dental policy to see if you have coverage for orthodontics. If you do not, but your child needs this work for other than cosmetic reasons it may be covered under major medical.
    Finally, shop around just like you would for any other major purchase. Different dentists can have a huge difference in what they charge.
    Good luck.

  11. says

    I have 2 kids in braces and one to start soon and our dental insurance doesn’t cover braces at all.

    We use the Health Savings Account on my husbands health insurance policy to set money aside each paycheck for the braces. The savings side on this is it’s pretax. Plus I know the money is there and not something I have to worry about out of the checking account.

    Also, have to agree with some of the comments above about shopping around for orthodontists. Prices can vary by thousands. I know people who have paid $3000 for expander and a couple braces, but the orthodontist we go to is about half of that.

  12. Veronica says

    As others said shop around. We were quoted anywhere from $3500-6000 for the same work. The lower price was from an orthodontist who was recommended to me, but he had just left a group practice, and was starting out on his own. So he had lower prices so he could build his new practice.

  13. says

    If you have a university with a dental clinic nearby, it’s worth a call to find out their prices. My sister in law got estimates for her 2 girls from some local orthodontist – anywhere from 10-11g for both girls (total). She called WVU’s dental school and both girls had their braces done for 5500. Less than half price. Everything was supervised by an actual dentist, but the students did the work. It was a great experience. You do have to pay “up front”, but they offered a same as cash program. If you know braces are coming up, don’t forget to use your employers FSA.

  14. says

    I don’t have any good input on how to save money on braces, but I would like to comment of the timing of orthodontics.

    My daughter is 13. She needs/will need braces as her mouth is tiny and some teeth are behind other teeth. She’s finally lost all her baby teeth and the dentist is ready to go ahead with braces.

    We’ve chosen to wait until she older, more mature and ready for braces. We fight her every single day for her to brush her teeth. I refuse to put braces on her when she refuses to take care of her teeth now.

    So we will wait, and hopefully the expense isn’t higher because we wait.

  15. LN says

    If you or your spouse has a flexible spending benefit at your job, you can put away up to $5000 each year in pre-tax funds to help with those expenses. At least you could get a tax benefit!

  16. says

    This couldn’t have come at a better time! We just went to our first ortho appointment yesterday! We were referred to a specialist so my checkbook is already screaming at the thought of the $$ about to be dropped!

  17. says

    Ask for a discount if you pay with cash. Can you save and pay all costs up front? This saved us a bundle! (6 of our 7 children had braces ~ last set of braces came off 3 weeks ago). We let them file the ins., let the ins. pay all they could, then tried to pay cash for the rest ~ but you have to ASK for a discount, they don’t just offer it normally.

    Also, take a copy of the x-rays from the dentist to the ortho., they could use the same ones and not charge you for more x-rays. Also, from the ortho to the dentist (you may have to get them to request from each office if they won’t give you the x-rays). But you paid for them and no sense paying double if you don’t have too.

  18. says

    My daughter just got her braces off (and she looks great) and it would have cost us $5500. Our insurance paid $1000. We also got discounts for paying up-front 10% off and by starting in November or December, another 10% off. All pre-treatment appoints were free, to assess when she would need to start. We have no dental school nearby to help out, so that was not an option but is a good idea. My in-laws also gave us a $1000 (truly an unexpected blessing) and God provided me with a temporary job to pay for the rest. I would call different orthodontists to see if they have specials at any time of the year but be careful to talk to friends who have used the orthodontist to make sure they are legit and competent. FYI, some dentists say they can put on braces, do orthodontics, but are not trained in that field, they just have taken a class or two. A dental hygenist friend steered us away from someone like this because she has seen other clients teeth be truly messed up from his incompetence. Good luck.

  19. Amanda says

    I am dreading the orthodontist dilemma as well. My 8-yr will be there soon enough for me to have kept my eyes open for a deal as well. In our area, we have several orthodontists that participate in our local schools scrip programs, so you earn “cash back” at school for book fees, registration costs, etc. Add that to insurance, and it does provide quite a bit of a discount.

  20. Jennifer says

    I have friends that bought their child’s orthodontic treatment at a silent auction to benefit their school. The orthodontist donated a full package to the school for the auction. They already new that their daughter was going to need braces that year so when they saw it at the auction they jumped. I think they paid about $2,000.00 for what would normally cost $5,o00.00. Plus I think they got some sort of tax write off because the auction benefited the school. Seems that everyone won, the orthodontist got publicity, the school made money and they saved a bundle on the braces.

  21. lola says

    I need help deciding on which treatment plan to go with for my 9 year old son who has an underbite. (This is probably the only aspect of our finances that I don’t want to base on getting the best deal. I just want to get the best treatment for him.) We have seen 3 orthodontists and they all have a different opinion on the treatment:

  22. lola says

    (sorry I must have hit the wrong key)
    -The first orthodontist recommends a palate expander and braces with a full set of braces later. The expander will push the upper jaw forward and the braces will pull the bottom teeth back. He will wear the expander approximately 4 months and the first set of braces 14-16 months. His staff is slightly rude. Cost for Phase 1 (everything before the 2nd set of braces) is $3900.00. They promise a steep discount on Phase 2 (the later set of braces) but won’t say how much it is. He is located locally. He is highly recommended by our pediatric dentist, my dental hygienist, and others. His children go to school with mine.

    -The second doctor recommends a palate expander and reverse pull head gear. The palate will be expanded (by turning the key at home) and then reversed at the doctor’s office. This will trigger the jaw to grow. The head gear will attach to the expander and will be worn 12 hours per day for a year–never worn to school but worn practically the whole time he is at home. (I just don’t think that we can do that and not end up psychologically damaged.) My son is supposed to log the amount of time that he wears his head gear and turn it in at each visit. I did talk to the assistant, who spoke to the doctor, and the doctor agreed that we could cut back from 12 hours per day to just sleeping but it may take more months to accomplish our goal. Phase 2, will be a full set of braces later. This doctor teaches one day per week at a dental university. His motto is that nobody should wear braces more than once. A member of his staff told me that I may just be wasting my time and money if my son is not going to be compliant in wearing the head gear 12 hours per day. The cost for phase 1 is $2900.00 He is located across the river-just a 20 minute drive.

    -The third doctor recommends the reverse pull head gear, (no palate expander), braces on the top and a removable bottom retainer. My son will wear the head gear 8 hours or so per day for 6 to 8 months and then the braces will be applied. Plus a full set of braces later. His staff is great. He is also located across the river.

    -I’ve heard only good things about all three of these doctors and I really don’t know which way to go. None of them guarantee that the treatment will even work. Again, I don’t want to base my decision on the cost OR the attitude of the staff (but I think a happy staff speaks volumes about the doctor). I’m looking for successful treatment that will not completely stress my kid. The assistant at the first doctor told me that whatever plan I choose that my son should definitely have the palate expander–but the third doctor does not think that it is needed. We would like to avoid jaw surgery in the future.

    -HELP!! Please give me your opinions.

    • Amy says

      I can’t offer much advice, but I had the same problem and recommendations at that age and here’s what worked for me! I ended up having a spacer on top for a year, then the palate expander twice (not the most fun, but effective). My ortho thought I would need the reverse headgear and we were all set to go for it, but I think the expander worked well enough for me that I didn’t need it. I did have braces for 2 years after, and retainers since. I ended up having 4 adult teeth pulled as well, but avoided jaw surgery. That’s what worked for me!

      Practical advice we didn’t think of before – if you go with the palate expander, try to schedule it after school pictures. My pictures hit right at the end and I had a very large gap :)

  23. Donna says

    I was told with each of my children that they needed to see an ortho when they were about 7…My teeth are perfect and my mother said they had also told her that about me at that age…she waited and my teeth are great….So I took the watch and see approach with both of them..Watched as teeth fell out, and some did take a long time to come in but…..son is 14 and daughter is 11….And the dentist that told me to take them..told me the other day that he couldn’t believe how perfect their teeth were…I think a lot of dentists are jumping the gun with little kids and braces…

  24. Amanda says

    Being an adult, I knew no insurance would cover braces for me. So I checked with one orthodontist and was quoted $8,000!!! For crying out loud – that would buy a decent CAR!!! So I figured I’d never have straight teeth… 1.5 years later I checked into it again and heard about FastBraces – they’re a much faster option and cost me just 1/4 of the $8,000. They also offer financing. You can find a location by going to http://www.fastbraces.com/. 1/4 of the money and half the time I was originally quoted was worth it for me!

  25. Veronica says

    Please shop around! Interview different orthodonists. Some will start treatment too early just to get the extra money. My son’s ortho waited between a year to 2 years to start treatment as he still had some of his baby teeth. They did the Xrays and evaluation without any cash up front and didn’t start us on the payment plan until he actually was getting the braces. My payment were only $150 a month and we had no insurance.

  26. Suzanne H says

    I told my dentist point blank that we needed to be on a budget (while still getting decent care obviously). He recommended 2 orthodontists that were more reasonable than the others in our area (who all wanted $5k to start). We went to free consultations with both and ultimately picked the one we liked better – fortunately they were the closest to our home and were also the cheapest. It was a great decision. They gave us a discount for payment in full up front and our total OOP ended up being just below $3900 for a savings of $1100! Best of all, once we paid (via our Medical Flexible Spending account so we paid w/tax free $$$) we didn’t owe another dime for the braces, appointments, adjustments, broken brackets or retainers. 16 months later he is done with braces and still going back for free check ups with the retainers. They did a wonderful job and he has a beautiful smile! :)

  27. Alex says

    Check out the dental school in your state/area and see what discount they may offer you. Dental schools usually can do some services at a discount and the student will have an instructor with them the whole time.

  28. says

    Consider the T4K trainers. Our two children have had correction of their overbite, overjet, and teeth spacing with these inexpensive mouth pieces. They also correct tongue thrust, teeth grinding, etc.

    The trick will be finding a dentist who will track the progress with routine follow up appointments. The closest dentist we could find is two hours from our home.

    http://www.myoresearch.com/cms/index.php?t4k

  29. s says

    Shop around! When my son got braces a few years ago, I got 5 estimates. The estimates are usually free. I found that 5 different orthodontists had 5 different plans and 5 different prices! I consulted with our dentist about the best plan and asked that orthodontist to match the lowest price. The price was matched even though it included a more proactive plan and additional appliances. We saved about $800! Also, set aside money before taxes if your employer offers a health savings account. This can be spread over two years for orthodontia.

  30. Lynette says

    Get a second opinion!! This is a big ticket item and most families just go to the first orthodontist their dentist recommends, but when we got the estimate we decided to do a free consult with another guy. The difference was $2000 and he mentioned fixing all the same things as the first one. His office wasn’t near as fancy–no video games in the waiting room or computers to check in on–but we’ve been happy with the results and the money saved!! Side note–our ortho didn’t offer a discount for paying up front so we went with the monthly payments. . .