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% of the cost. However, that still leaves the balance your responsibility. That means you still will need to find a way to save money on braces and spacers.
HOW MUCH TO BRACES COST?
Depending upon your child’s needs, braces will run anywhere from $3,000 – $5,000!! While the cost of the spacer may be included, it also may not be. That was the case for us.
Our youngest daughter needed a spacer as there was not enough room in her mouth for her teeth to grow. We had to pick up our share of the cost of the spacer ($900). When her permanent teeth are all in place, we will have to get her braces. For us, the cost is around $3,000.
We have to do this for three kids, so that makes it cost more than $10,000 total!! 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 & EXPANDERS
Not all orthodontists charge the same for braces. You can find 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.
Of course, make sure it is also the right office. 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.
Pay in full
Many offices will offer a discount if you pay your entire bill in full, up front. This is what our orthodontist does. We could save 5% by paying our portion of the balance due when we had our first visit.
When you have your initial consultation, ask the office manager about possible cash or multi-family member discounts. They don’t always show you those numbers, so you should inquire about it.
I know 5% is not much, but in our case, where we know it will be around $12,000 total for everything, that is a savings of $600! Every penny counts!
With many medical conditions, early intervention is key. The same is true with braces. If you can get your child into a spacer 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).
Find 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 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.
Apply 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, see if you 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!
You can also check with 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.
Run it through your flexible spending account
If your employer offers a flexible spending account, 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.
Ask about payment plans
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.
Related: How to Pay off Your Credit Card Debt