We Paid Cash!:: Braces

Guest Post by Liz from Wonder Woman I’m Not.

Braces are a dreaded necessary for many of us parents with pre-teen to teenage children. Fortunately our older child didn’t require them — but we knew early on that our younger child would need them.

Our daughter recently had her braces put on and I’m happy to say that we were able to pay for them with cash. Our ability to do so was the result of advanced planning, research and taking advantage of several programs.

Here’s what we did…

Start early:

Our daughter started to see an orthodontist when she was six (at our dentist’s recommendation). By starting early, we were able to proactively correct a problem without surgery or additional appliances adding to our bill. Most orthodontists do not charge for the preliminary appointments.

Get a second opinion:

We switched orthodontists half way through the preliminary treatment. Our first orthodontist wanted to start the braces before she lost all her baby teeth plus he wanted to remove four permanent teeth. Our current orthodontist is more conservative about removing teeth and advised us to wait. He would have put them on early but then it would cost us twice as much because they would have been on twice as long.

Research pricing:

Initially we went to the orthodontist closest to our house. Once we decided to switch we decided to make price as well as quality one of the key points. By asking around, I found a high-quality dental complex that offered supplemental insurance in addition to cheaper prices.

Pay Cash:

This orthodontist offered a 10% savings if we paid cash. If this isn’t offered up front I would definitely ask for it. By paying cash we saved a little over $300!!

Flexible spending:

If your employer offers this option I would encourage you to use it. However keep in mind that if you don’t use it, you lose it. Money goes into the flexible account pre-tax so you will have a tax savings that you wouldn’t normally have unless your medical bills are large enough to claim on your taxes. Your savings would depend on the tax bracket you are in but could be 20% or more of your cost.

Here’s the final breakdown of what we spent:

Initial Cost =$6,100
Insurance Paid = $1,100
Insurance Group Disc = $460
Supplementary Insurance = $1,410
10% Cash Discount = $ 315
Total Out of Pocket- $2,815

I had about half stuck back in an ‘unexpected’ fund that I used for the down payment. I requested reimbursement immediately from my flexible spending account and used that money to pay the balance. I did make sure to replace the money from the ‘unexpected’ fund once I received the second reimbursement from our flexible spending.

Every time I see that shiny smile, I’m relieved to know that it’s all paid for!

In addition to being a wife and mother, Liz works outside the home and blogs at Wonder Woman I’m Not — a home management blog for the busy woman striving to find balance in their lives.

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  1. Lor says

    We also were able to pay cash for our daughter’s braces. We got 10% off for paying cash up-front and another 5% off for starting them in November or December. God provided me with a short term job prior to starting her braces and we were able to use that money for her braces along with some other unexpected medical problems that came up. I must also admit that my in-laws helped us a bit and that was another blessing. Everytime I look at my daughters beautiful smile I thank God for His provision.

  2. says

    As someone who wore braces for 13 years, combined (yes…1…3.), the only thing I’d have to say is this:

    don’t be hesitant to yank those adult teeth. We avoided extraction of my first bicuspid teeth (all four of them) the first time I had braces. Unfortunately, it was recommended because my teeth are slightly too large for my jaw shape. Within a year of having my braces taken off, I had to have them put back on because the crowding, even while wearing my retainer, was far too much. The second time around, we had those pesky bicuspids removed, along with my wisdom teeth. Was it fun? nah. It wasn’t. But now, after wearing those silly braces all through high school and most of the way through college…I finally have great teeth. 13 years later.

    So definitely, definitely ask questions. Get second opinions (in my case, the pediatric dentist AND orthodontist both said that the teeth HAD to be pulled to avoid crowding and crooked teeth), and go with it. Also…floss, floss, floss! And use lots of Listerine! I got through 13 years of braces without a single cavity – I’m now 30 and still nothing. :) Good luck!

    • says

      13 years – you must have a lot of patience! I’m glad that it finally worked out for you. I agree with getting a second opinion. My problem with the first orthodontist (who was also my orthodontist when I was her age) was that he was a little gung ho. He wanted to put the braces on when she still had a lot of baby teeth and didn’t even consider not pulling her permanent teeth. Our current orthodontist believes that he can fix the problem without removing the teeth but has left open the possibility they still need to be removed. We’ll just play it by ear and cross our fingers that it doesn’t need to go that far.

  3. Jennifer says

    Our son just turned six, and our dentist told us to start saving up for braces. My son’s mouth is apparently too small for all the adult teeth he is already getting. At least we have a little warning!

  4. says

    Wow…that’s great ! Good for you !

    We are also dealing with the added expense of braces right now, for our oldest son. We weren’t able to pay cash for them in full, which would’ve saved us 10%. Fortunately, our orthodontist was willing to set up monthly payments of $200 after an initial down payment of $1500.

    We are using cash for the payments and down payment, which I’m happy about, but it would’ve been nice to be able to pay it all off at once, and receive the discount.

    At least we know now, and will be able to prepare for our other 3 sons, who may or may not need them at some point.

    By the way, it sounds like you got a great deal on the cost of your daughter’s braces. Our insurance didn’t cover any of the bill, and the cost of treatment for my son is nearly $6000.

    • Mollie says

      This is our situation as well. Fortunately, God was SO good to us and led me to look up a dentist that was offering an essay contest to win free braces (a lady at church was sharing her daughter’s story, and it really fell upon my heart to seek that out). Within a day or so, I found that dentist! Not only is he one of the top dentists in the nation, but our state as well, and he was the only orthodontist that offered an in-house 0% financing program. He allows for 24 months of payments, though you can pay off the braces before then. Our daughter won first prize in the essay contest, which gained her $1750 total off her braces. Our insurance is paying for $1250, and we have monthly payments of $59. Such a blessing when you have 5 kids! One in braces, two more to go! LOL

    • says

      We were fortunate that it worked out so well for us. The positive is now that you’ve been down the path and know what to expect with your other kids. Hopefully things will work out and you’ll be able to take advantage of the cash discount next time.

  5. Joy in the South says

    Twice we’ve used a university dental school, at our orthodontist’s recommendation, since he teaches there. It has been such a great experience! It was half the price of the orthodontist, the dentists are very polite and knowledgeable and gentle, and they use the latest techniques, equipment, and products. We have enjoyed using the school so much, my husband had all his dental work done there, too. We have insurance (which only paid a portion of braces), but our company pays the school, which reimburses us since all dental work has to be paid for up front. The only drawback is that it takes a few more visits than the regular orthodontist, since the dentist-in-training has be make a treatment plan to be approved by his teacher. I recommend it whole-heartedly!

    • says

      I would also recommend a dental school if available. Unfortunately we don’t have one in our area but we do have a dentist in the family (but unfortunately not an orthodontist) who spoke very highly of the school he went to.

  6. says

    This was an encouraging read today!! We just found out yesterday that we need to be preparing ourselves to start ortho with our 2nd daughter and we weren’t expecting it for another couple of years! We’ve got to start getting our plan together so that we’ll be ready and this post today was a huge blessing!

    • says

      I’m so glad that you found this helpful! I would definitely recommend visiting a couple of orthodontists before starting treatment. Plus make sure that you check out your insurance and flexible spending options. Good luck to you!

  7. Lindsey Swinborne says

    I loved this post! We have a 1 year old and a 5 year old with under-bites who will no doubt need orthodonital work and I was so inspired to see this done with cash! And the pic of the teen girl at the end was so cute! Great post!

    • kj says

      I just wanted to tell you that my son just had his underbite corrected. The dentist recommended it at age 7, however, we were hesitant. It seemed so young. Well, we ended up taking him at age 8. We are SO glad we did!! They corrected some other issues, only cost $1800 (cost us $900) and because of the early action, he may not need braces. They don’t think he will need them. Completely worth the small investment-compared to waiting and having a bigger cost! :-)

      • Lindsey Swinborne says

        Thanks for the tip kj! I am so glad to hear this, and will look into taking them at an earlier age! I really appreciate you sharing this!

    • says

      It’s not always easy doing these things with cash but it sounds like you have some time to plan ahead which always helps make things a little easier. Having an orthodontist and dentist who will work together to take corrective actions early on can save quite a bit of money. Good luck!

  8. Pauline says

    Another great way to save on the overall cost of orthodontia is to have the work done at a dental school. We live close to USC in Southern California and their dental school is phenomenal. A cash discount is offered as well.
    You do have to be pleasantly persistent to get your child evaluated and started as they have a wait list to get started. My now college son had his dental work completed there now my 11 year old is pending an initial screening to begin work.

  9. jodi says

    I don’t know if this is something offered everywhere, but my orthodontist let me haggle a little on the price. I got 4 different quotes, and then went to the office I wanted to have my braces done through. They were more expensive than other offices, so I told them that I would sign then and there if they matched the price of the lowest quote. We also got a family discount since another family member had braces through them (def ask about those), and after the price adjustment and family discount, I saved about $1,500.

    Shopping around, once again, pays off.

    • Kimi says

      The rules did change in 2012. The cap went down to $2500. a year and not all orthodontal work is included. It would be a good idea to check to see what is allowed in the plan for the year you expect to use it.

      • Andrea says

        Starting in 2013, the annual maximum that you can contribute to an FSA account is $2,500, regardless of your out-of-pocket medical and dental expenses.

    • Steph says

      FSAs can have different rules – they are not all 100% the same. You should read the specifics of your own policy to find out.

    • says

      Definitely check out the rules of your company’s FSA as any money that isn’t used is forfeited. There are different accounts out there for medical spending (FSA, HSA, etc) and it can get pretty confusing. The insurance expert in your HR department should be able to let you know what you could take advantage of.

  10. says

    It just seems weird to me that so many people “need” braces. I have a small mouth and malocclusion (crossbite), and at every last dental cleaning, my dentist is always trying to push orthodontia. I’m 32 years old and I can eat, talk, and smile with no problems. I went for an ortho consult 8 years ago and this orthodontist wanted to yank teeth and I’d be wearing an appliance for 4 years. For what purpose? I realize that some people have severe dental problems, but in most cases, is it really needed? How can it be that so many human beings supposedly have such messed up jaws/teeth? And pulling out healthy teeth? How could we have survived so long with out orthodontia? It just seems like a racket in many cases. On the other hand, for my husband, orthodontia corrected a 1/2″ overbite (without yanking teeth).

    In any case, it is expensive and rarely covered by insurance, so paying for it with cash is an accomplishment.

    • :) says

      I agree. I have some not-so-pretty crooked teeth and have been told multiple times that I need all four wisdom teeth yanked. I can understand the wisdom teeth, because my mouth is small, and they hurt sometimes, but I floss thoroughly twice and day and use lots of listerine along with brushing, and it has helped keep away any severe issues with them for the past several years…but who knows how long I can keep that up.
      I would love to have braces if they were free!! Straight teeth would be great, but the cost is just ridiculous.

      • Andrea says

        Wisdom teeth are a whole other ballgame from orthodontia. They are difficult to clean and they often cause headaches. If at all possible, I’d have them removed.

    • jodi says

      Well, aside from the cosmetic benefits, braces are good for a few other reasons as well. If you’re teeth are crooked, it makes it harder to floss and clean in between those teeth, increasing your risk of cavities and/or gum issues. And plaque build up can lead to or complicate other issues, like heart disease. Proper dental hygiene and maintenance is more than just cosmetic, but since that’s the first (and really, the only) thing people see with braces, they forget about the real impact it can have.

      But as long as people get in for check ups, floss, and brush regularly with a hygienist confirming their dental health, then braces might just be cosmetic even with some crooked or extra teeth.

    • Chelsea says

      I’m with you. I’ve been told I “need” braces as long as I can remember. 24 years later… I can’t eat corn on the cob (due to overbite) but otherwise I’m just fine. :) I have only had one cavity and no gum problems. I know every situation is different, but I think it’s crazy how much braces are “needed.”

      But Liz… Great job! You really did your homework and saved a lot of money for your daughter’s braces. That’s really cool. My parents’ excuse for not getting their kids braces was they were too expensive. They are costly, but your efforts show they can be afforded… with cash, even!… if they are made a priority.

      • says

        Thanks, we were fortunate that we were able to do it without to much pain. I always tell my kids that as parents we do the best we can with the resources we’re given. I joke that my daughter is going to grow up and write a Mommy Dearest book, at least her teeth are one thing she won’t be able to complain about :)

    • Mollie says

      We waited until our eldest was 13 to place braces, thinking similar thoughts as you shared above. I really believed it was for pure vanity! Luckily, after viewing her xrays and molds, my mind was changed. Her top and bottom jaw are grossly disproportionate.

      Who knows why our ancestors didn’t have ortho treatment and practices back in their day? It might not have been for lack of needing it. We have dozens of photographs and family stories of kin who had their teeth yanked without pain relief (they were Baptist, couldn’t drink the whiskey – lol) and survived without many teeth. My own mother is missing 95% of her top row of teeth due to poor dentistry in the Philippines. ::shrug:: They also didn’t have the diet, supplements, medications, vaccination schedules and environments that we have today. Too many variables in that to make an educated guess as to why so many children and adults need braces now vs. 50+ years ago.

      • Jen says

        I highly recommend the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price to understand why so many people need braces and other dental work. He was a dentist back in the 30’s who was curious about this issue, and did some amazing research on the topic. The title gives away the fact that it has a LOT to do with nutrition!

    • says

      I don’t disagree that braces have become a cosmetic “necessity” versus a true medical necessity. It’s a sign that as a nation we truly under estimate our wealth when so much money is spent in an industry improving appearance. In our daughter’s case it was more than just cosmetic. She had severe overcrowding, a crossbite, an overbite as well as teeth growing in on top of other teeth creating fangs which she would use to create a vampire face that would make us laugh hysterically.

      On the flip side I’ve worked hard to instill confidence and acceptance of their bodies in my kids. My daughter has shared that she’s the only one of her friends who doesn’t have body image problems. She’s also shared that the two things about her appearance that make her feel bad was her acne (which we’re working on) and her teeth. If as a parent I have the power and resources to correct a situation that will increase her confidence I don’t think that’s a bad thing. She’s stuck with her thighs but I can help with the teeth!

  11. AJ says

    I don’t know about the author of the article but at my husband’s company there is a different flexible spending account for orthodontics (and another for parking, childcare, etc.). The trick is to stay on top of it all.

  12. Alison says

    Your dentist offered supplemental insurance? I’m confused. Please explain as that saved you quite a bit of $! Thanks.

    • says

      The orthodontist that we chose isn’t in a private practice but part of a large dental center with 10 locations in Wisconsin. That dental center offers supplemental insurance ($40 single/$70 family) that is available to purchase regardless of your private insurance.

      I’m not sure of the mechanics behind it (when I looked up the supplemental company it looked like it was part of the dental practice) but it’s possible they’ve found offering the insurance to be a profit center for them. If more people buy the insurance than actually use it, it may pay for itself. Whatever the reason, I’m just happy it was offered and we could take advantage of it :)

  13. Sisteen says

    We are also in the mist of this. We didn’t have the money up front for all that needs to be done so we are doing a interest free payment plan through the office. It is so nice. I do agree the it does cost alot but I am very happy with results. It really help our son talk better. He was in speak for several year. Who would have thought that this would have helped.

  14. says

    Just out of curiosity what is your supplemental insurance? I just got a price quote on Invisalign (today believe it or not) which is surprisingly cheaper than traditional braces. My dental insurance will cover $1500 leaving $3,000 out of pocket. Although we were talking about monthly payments so I don’t know what, if any, discount would be offered if I paid it all up front.

    • says

      I would definitely ask for a discount if you pay up front. Our orthodontist offered a 10% discount if paid with cash and a 5% discount if paid with credit card. Many doctors like to have the cash in hand and are willing to cut the price to get it.

      The supplemental insurance was offered by the dental company. Our orthodontist is part of a large dental group with ten locations in Wisconsin so it’s not a private practice. That organization offers up a supplemental insurance plan to all of it’s patients. We’ve found it to be useful in paying not only for our daughter’s braces but for our son’s wisdom teeth removal also.

  15. Hannah says

    Wow! I am glad I read this! We have four kids and at least three will need braces from the looks of things, our fourth is still too young to tell. We’ve been told one child may require surgery if braces don’t close the front teeth gap. I had in mind 3k…6k whoa! Of course my first two would be 11 months apart so I prob get to pay for two sets in a year…oh joy:)

  16. says

    This post is very encouraging for me.

    I think we’ll be able to swing that much….let’s just hope we don’t have to replace the roof the same year we start braces!

  17. Andrea says

    We have to pay extra through my husband’s employer for orthodontic coverage on our dental insurance. After reading all of the fine print, we crunched the numbers and realized that it was financially beneficial to pay cash than to pay the additional insurance premiums.

    My daughter’s braces will cost to $7,000, and that’s after discounts.

  18. Kerry says

    I did a similar thing. We got a 10% discount for paying cash and another discount because my husband also had braces as an adult at the same orthodontist. Our insurance picked up a portion. AND I was able to claim the total amount I paid for the braces along with other medical out of pocket expenses on my tax return for the year. Ending up with a nice refund…which nearly paid for the braces in the first place.

  19. says

    If you can anticipate/plan for the purchase AND have a flexible spending account from work (check the policies, different companies have different plans) then it can be a smart way to go. Braces were one of the suggestions that the HR rep used when reviewing our flex spending account this year. My company’s flex spending plan is “front-loaded” so in January, you have the total that you want contributed added to your flex account and then it comes out from each paycheck based on how that amount divides out over the year. You can then have a plan to budget accordingly, like an interest free loan.

    I’ve never had to use it for braces, but I have certain health care costs each year that I know I will have regardless, so I always use this option to spread out my health care expenses over the year instead of specific months that they occur in.

    • Andrea says

      It used to be that you could contribute up to $8,000 to an FSA each year. But starting in 2013, the annual maximum that you can contribute is $2,500, regardless of your out-of-pocket medical and dental expenses.

    • says

      Definitely check your specific plan but another thing to look at is crossing FSA plan years if you need more than what is allowed. My company’s plan is also front loaded and runs from July to June with a three month grace period. We had her braces put on in September so I was able to pull money from both plan years which actually spread out our ability to save up over two years.

  20. Lana says

    We paid cash for braces for 4 of our 5 children. We did it the same way you did and saved a pile f money too! Do check around on pricing. One ortho in our town charges twice what the one we used charges. I kind of thought there was a standard of pricing for braces but there is not.

  21. Suzanne H says

    We did basically all of the same things for our son’s braces. We went to the orthodontist closest to our house and he quoted us $5000. I thought that seemed high since our son didn’t have any serious problems – just too much space. He also said we should have them put on right away (he was still in elementary school and still had baby teeth). I talked to our dentist and told him flat out that I thought they set the price @ $5000 b/c that was the max (at the time) on Flex Spending. I also questioned whether he needed braces before his baby teeth were all out. The dentist agreed and he had a patient who had done a ton of research and price comparisons and he shared her findings with me. We selected 2 orthos for consultations and went with the cheaper one b/c they were closer and had a better reputation believe it or not! We paid cash and got an extra discount and we used our flex spending to cover our full costs for another savings. We have been very happy with the entire process!!!!

    • says

      Congratulations on a sucessful experience! I agree that shopping around is best. Being comfortable with your orthodontist and feeling like they have your child’s (and not their pocketbook’s) best interest is important. How nice that your dentist was willing to share the detail his other patient found. Sometimes doing all the research yourself can be overwhelming.

  22. Susan says

    Congratulations on being able to pay cash for that. I too was able to get braces by paying cash (or rather using my Flexible Spending Account). I had braces in Jr. High and then needed them again a couple of years ago (in my 30’s). I had a consultation in early fall 2008, got the full estimate of what it would cost. Then I researched which dental plan thru my company would cover orthodontics. During benefits enrollment, I switched dental plans and adjusted how much my FSA would be for that year. I then waited for Jan ’09 to get them put on and start the process. By researching ahead of time, I could plan for the expense and get the money ‘saved’ so I wouldn’t have to pay much.

    Thankfully, I still had the retainer on my bottom front teeth from 20 years ago (still do) and only needed the braces on the top teeth. But I am now FAITHFUL in wearing my retaine on the top teeth so that I don’t need to get braces a 3rd time in m 50’s! HA! :)

    • says

      Good for you on planning ahead. I wish I had worn my retainer religiously. My bottom front teeth aren’t as straight as when I was young but I’m probably going to live with it. I’m to the point that having lasik for I don’t have to wear bifocals are more important than straight teeth :)

  23. Laura says

    I would like to add that my husband and I both took out dental insurance prior to my step-daughter getting braces so that we could benefit from double coverage. We were able to get the ‘insurance company discount’ and one of the companies paid $1000 while the other paid $1500. On top of that we paid in full using our flexible spending account and got a 6% discount for paying in full.

    Make sure you do the math on the double insurance coverage before signing up. Depending on the premium it may not save you money in the long run, but for us it did.

    • says

      I agree it would be worthwhile to check out. The double insurance didn’t work for us as my company would only pay the difference between my husband’s maximum and our maximum. The small savings wouldn’t have compensated for the money we would have gotten, plus my company offers a “buy-out” for people who don’t take their insurance. Overall my husband’s insurance is significantly better than mine so we chose his.

  24. Anna says

    Congratulations on paying for braces in cash! Luckily, I live in Southern California where nearly every kid has braces & there is tough competition for orthodontics. Of course, the best thing to do is go around to many different offices to get a feel of the quality of the orthodontist as well as the cost. And if your insurance covers part of it, it makes it even better. My husband and I ended up choosing an office where we only had to pay $2,000 – and our daughter’s teeth needed a lot of work. (Our insurance covered $500 and we got a 10% discount for paying in cash.) It’s a great investment for healthy & beautiful teeth.

    And a word of advice to other parents out there– WAIT until ALL of your child’s baby teeth have fallen out & adult teeth have taken their place. My friend is a dentist & he says that if you get braces with baby teeth, the adult teeth can still shift and it’s possible you may need braces again.

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