According to Humana, about 4 million people in the United States wear braces, 25% of whom are adults.
Although braces can improve your health and appearance, they are often very costly.
For regular braces, you can expect to pay a little over $5,000. In this article, you will get:
- A list of programs that offer financial assistance
- other ways to get affordable braces, and
- cheaper alternatives to braces.
How much do braces cost?
Braces cost about $5,350 to $5,700, which includes the braces themselves and consultation fees.
You will pay this amount for:
- traditional braces,
- ceramic braces, or
- invisible aligners.
Lingual braces are more expensive at $12,000. Hence, they are not covered by financial assistance programs.
The price of braces depends on:
- where you get them done,
- your age,
- insurance benefits,
- your orthodontist's experience, and
- the purpose of the braces.
List of programs that offer financial assistance for braces
Unfortunately, not everyone in the United States can afford braces.
For this reason, there are some programs that offer you free or discounted braces, such as:
The federal government does not offer direct funding for free braces.
But you can get financial assistance through state government agencies, such as:
Medicaid generally covers children between the ages of 18 and 21 who need braces.
If you are from a low-income household, you may be eligible for free braces.
To be eligible, an orthodontist must certify that the treatment is medically necessary. Braces are a medical need if you have:
- Problems with normal chewing or eating
- Cleft palate
- Extreme overbite, crossbite or underbite
- Overshooting teeth
- Jaw problems that make it difficult to open the mouth
- Missing teeth due to hyperdontia or hypodontia
Pregnant women are eligible for partially funded braces through Medicaid.
They can enjoy the lower cost of braces fitting, adjustment, and removal.
Qualified candidates can get Grants from the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
CHIP offers free braces to all children, regardless of their families financial situation.
You can also get financial help from the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) program.
TRICARE is a health insurance program from the government. It helps active-duty soldiers pay for their braces.
This dental program also covers a veteran's spouse and children up to the age of 21.
TRICARE covers 50% of the cost of your braces. While this dental plan does not cover all costs, it does reduce the costs you have to pay yourself.
5. Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) helps college students who want to pay for their braces.
You can buy dental insurance through the ACA marketplace that has a max coverage of about $1,000 to $1,500 per year.
1. Smiles Change Lives
Smiles Change Lives (SCL) offers braces at discounted prices for underprivileged patients.
Patients must be between the ages of 7 and 21.
The discounting works like this:
You pay $30 as an application fee.
Then you also have to deposit $650 (non-refundable) once your child is on the waiting list.
After that, Smile Change Lives will cover all other costs incurred for your braces.
2. Smiles for a lifetime
You can also apply for a Smile for a Lifetime (S4L) braces scholarship. This caters to young adults and children aged 8 to 19.
The application costs $20.
You'll also pay a $480 deposit, which is refundable if S4L rejects your application.
Requirements for a braces scholarship at Smile for a Lifetime include:
- Excellent oral hygiene
- Not wearing braces
- You have a moderate need for this treatment
- Enrolled in a school with a C average
Up to 20 hours of volunteer work
3. Purple Heart Smiles
Purple Heart Smiles is a non-profit that works with dental schools to provide free braces. To be eligible, candidates must be:
- under the age of 16.
- children of Purple Heart recipients.
The charity works with independent orthodontists to provide free dental treatment.
Dental savings plans
If you do not qualify for grants, you can save for the braces using these savings plans.
1. Dental Save
DentalSave offers a 25% discount on braces.
All you have to do is join a plan and make monthly or annual contributions to enjoy the discounted prices.
2. FSAs and HSAs
There are two accounts that can help you save for your braces too:
- Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), and
- Health Savings Accounts (HSA)
These cover about $2,750 to $3,600, depending on your annual limit.
These two accounts are tax-free, so you can save for your braces faster than putting it in your bank account. The only catch is that the braces should be for medically necessary.
Lending institutions and banks can offer you a loan to finance braces. Always remember that your credit score plays a crucial role in finding a loan.
Here is a list of reputable lenders who can lend you money for braces:
- CareCredit: loan amount ($1,000 to $25,000).
- OneMainFinancial: loan amount ($1,500 to $20,000).
- Lightstream: loan amount ($5,000 to $100,000)
- Upstart: Loan amount ($1,000 to $50,000)
- Upgrade: Loan amount ($1,000 to $50,000)
- Lending Club: Loan amount ($1,000 to $40,000)
If you have a bad credit score, you should work with Upstart and OneMainFinancial. They do not do a credit check to lend you money.
But remember to check their interest rates to avoid going into debt after your treatment. Often lenders will charge high-interest rates if you have a bad credit score. Bad credit signals that you might be a high-risk borrower. This way, the lender gets some security in case you fail to repay the loan.
Other affordable ways to get braces
If you cannot get help from the programs above, you can still save money by using the following methods.
1. Flexible payment plans
A low-income orthodontist may offer monthly installment plans instead of upfront payments. Also, go for plans with 0% interest to reduce costs in the long run.
2. Borrow from family and friends
You can raise money from your family and friends to get your braces. The money could come in the form of a loan or gifts.
GoFundMe can help you raise money for that dental treatment. This app is an American crowdfunding platform that can help you raise money for braces.
You can share your story via social media, email, and text. In your post, explain how the braces will improve your life. Also, include the amount of money you need to pay for the treatment.
Your online friends can share the information with other people to help you reach your goal.
4. Visit a dental school
Dental schools have budding orthodontists who need live practice on patients. You will get your braces for free. And you need not worry, as an experienced trainer will supervise the trainees.
5. Consider a specialized orthodontic facility
A freestanding orthodontic clinic offers shorter treatment times, resulting in low costs. Also, you can ask the professional for cheaper materials that suit your budget.
For example, traditional braces are less expensive than ceramic braces.
6. Look out for seasonal discounts or special offers
Ask for seasonal discounts or special offers at different dental clinics. You don't even have to visit the clinic. You can call or look up the information on their website.
Who knows? The clinic might have summer discounts, family packages, or back-to-school discounts on offer.
Best of all, some practices offer 10% to 50% discounts on braces.
Some cheaper alternatives to braces
Braces are too expensive for many people who can not afford the cost of treatment. Fortunately, you can try the following low-cost options to protect your teeth and gums:
Retainers are ideal for straightening slightly crooked teeth. This method helps correct minor crowding in the bite.
Retainers cost between $150 and $500, and the price depends on how many and what type of retainers you need.
You can choose from clear plastic, permanent, or Hawley retainers.
A dentist might recommend headgear if you have a crooked bite. This dental appliance puts your jaw in the right position.
The average price for a headgear is around $1,000, depending on the type.
Braces can improve your health, and give you the confidence you deserve. Its cost can be prohibitive at first glance. But that are many ways to lower the cost of braces.
You can braces for free or cheaply through government grants and private ways. Even if you aren't covered, loans can help you manage paying for these orthodontic devices.