Braces are expensive. There is no getting around that. But, there are different things parents can do to help pay for expanders and save money on braces.
It’s happening. I’ve got three kids and the youngest is already getting a spacer (also called an expander). My oldest will need braces this spring and my son will be in his spacer in a few months as well.
If you have dental insurance, your plan may cover as much as 50%. However, that still leaves the remaining balance your responsibility. You will need to find a way to save money on braces and spacers.
HOW MUCH DO BRACES COST FOR KIDS?
Depending upon your child’s needs, the average cost of braces will run anywhere from $3,000 – $5,000!! While the cost of the expander may be included, it also may not be.
We recently visited our orthodontist for our oldest daughter. The total cost for the spacers for braces, expander, braces, retainer and all visits will be $3,300. That is a lot of money!! And, since we will need to do this for three kids, so that makes it cost around $10,000 out of our pocket!! YIKES!
This is a situation all too familiar to many parents. How can I save money on braces when there is not a sale or a discount? It seems impossible. But, it doesn’t have to be. There are some ways to lower your costs for your child’s orthodontics.
HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON BRACES & SPACERS
1. Compare prices of braces
Not all orthodontists charge the same for braces. You will find that costs greatly between offices. Before you decide where to go, do your research. Most offices offer a free consultation so you can find out the cost, payment and discount plans they may offer.
Make sure it is also the right office and you like the doctor. While one may be less expensive, they may not have the best reviews or do the best work. You certainly do not want to use the wrong orthodontist or it could cost you more.
2. Pay for your braces with cash up front
Many offices will offer a discount if you pay your entire bill in full, up front. Our office gives a 5% discount when paid at the time of the first visit.
When you have your initial consultation, ask the office manager about possible cash or multi-family member discounts. We were able to save more than $100 by going back to the same office. Between the cash and referral discount, we shaved hundreds off of the total cost.
Some offices may not initially show you cash offer discounts, so make sure you inquire. And, while 5% does not sound like much, it is still money in your pocket. In the case of our family who will have 3 kids go through this, we will save more than $600 in total!!! So every penny counts!
3. Start early
With many medical conditions, early intervention is key. The same is true with braces. If you can get your child into an expander at the right age, the final costs and needs when they are older may be minimized.
In addition, if you know your child will need braces in 3 – 4 years, you can start saving now so you are prepared when the bill arrives (and then can take advantage of that cash discount). Start cutting back on your monthly bills such as groceries, dining out and more. When you need to save for a big expense such as this, this sooner you start, the better!
4. Get less expensive braces through a dental school
If you live in an area that has a dental school, this is a great way to save money on braces. The students need to learn and by letting them do so can save you as much as 50% or more on the cost of braces.
All work is done alongside a dental professional, so you know that it will be done the right way. The only downside to using a school is that the visits can take longer and are the number of available office visits they accept each day are limited.
5. See if you qualify for free braces
Oh, how I wish this program had been around when I needed braces!! This would have helped my mother immensely, as she could not afford them. Therefore, I had to go without.
That is something I wish on no one. If your child needs braces, but you are financially strapped, you may want to learn if you can qualify for free braces. Smiles Change Lives offers nearly-free braces to families in all 50 states. You need to complete an application and pay the $30 fee. But if you do and are accepted, you’ll pay just $600 — rather than $3,000 or more!
If you don’t quality for Smiles change live, there are other subsidy programs to help you pay for braces. Checkwith your orthodontist about the American Orthodontists Association called Donated Orthodontists Services. It initially launched in select states but has recently expanded to be a nationwide program. This is another program that offers deeply discounted orthodontics to select lower-income families, who do not have any type of dental insurance for their children. Since this is only available through select offices, you will need to call 866-572-9390 to find a participating office near you.
6. Pay for braces through your flexible spending account
If your employer offers a flexible spending account (sometimes called a health savings account or HSA), make sure you use it! This way, the cost of the braces or expanders are paid before you have to pay income tax. This won’t save you money at the office, but at least you aren’t paying Uncle Sam before you pay your orthodontist.
7. Set up a payment plan
Orthodontists realize that the cost of braces is a financial burden for many families. Most of them will offer a payment plan. Rather than paying the amount in full up front, you can break up the cost into easy to manage, monthly payments.
And, most will not charge interest, which makes it a better option than taking out a small loan or paying the fee with your credit card. But, be careful about using a third party provider as they may not be as good as they may charge interest at a higer rate than what you may be otherwise.