So you or your child is about to join the ranks of the millions of Americans who wear braces to correct their teeth. You’re looking forward to the results — an improved bite, straight teeth, a big smile.
But, the first thoughts you had when the dentist said “orthodontia” were “How much are braces going to cost?” and “How can I pay for braces”? Orthodontic treatments are custom-designed for each patient, and there are a wide range of options.
You can expect braces to cost thousands of dollars, and the price can go up depending on the severity of the dental problem, whether it’s pediatric or adult, and what appliances the orthodontist recommends. That’s no small sum, especially if it you have not anticipated or budgeted for it. How can you pay for it?
Dental insurance coverage for braces
Ideally, dental insurance would cover the cost of the braces, but unfortunately this option is not available to everyone.
For one thing, a significant portion of U.S. population doesn’t even have dental insurance. From 2000-2015, the percentage of U.S. adults without dental insurance hovered between 20 percent and 30 percent; covered by dental insurance. Even if you do have dental insurance, your plan may cover only check-ups and necessary procedures like filling cavities, not orthodontia. Coverage for orthodontia often requires a supplemental fee. Review your dental and orthodontia coverage carefully before making any plans.
According to the American Dental Association, typical dental insurance may cover up to 50 percent of the cost of braces. While this still leaves you on the hook for the remainder, having half of the cost paid for can still make a big difference.
Flexible spending accounts
If you don’t have dental insurance but do have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) from your employer, this could help you pay for braces. Since the money deposited into an FSA is not subject to income tax, you will have more money to put towards orthodontia than if you were to pay for the procedure out of pocket after taxes.
Using FSA funds can be particularly appealing option even if you do have dental insurance since it can be used for deductibles and co-pays as well. Check with your employer or benefits administrator about your options and coverage.
Some dentists and orthodontists may offer discounts, like an incentive for patients who pay the entire bill upfront. If you haven’t budgeted or saved for braces, however, this may be a stretch. You might consider whether accessing the cash you need through a personal loan could save you money by allowing you to pay the dentist in full.
It may be possible that some procedures can be done at a dental school or dental society for a discounted rate. While it may seem unsettling to trust this procedure to a student, this work is generally done under the supervision of a licensed orthodontist.
Paying for braces through financing or payment plans
It is fairly common to pay for braces through some kind of financing including:
- A personal loan: Health care costs are one of many common reasons borrowers apply for a personal loan. A personal loan from Discover, for example, can help you get a discount for paying in full (if your orthodontist offers that). You’ll also get a set regular monthly payment that you can budget for. You may also save money on interest compared to other payment options, like a credit card. And just like you’ll know when the braces will come off, you’ll know when your loan will be paid in full.
- Credit cards: One option is to pay via credit card, and pay it off through your normal credit card payments. This can be particularly attractive if the orthodontist’s office offers a discounted price for paying up-front. But depending on how long you take to pay off your credit card balance, you could add to the cost due to high interest rates on a revolving loan.
- Payment plans: Many orthodontists will offer payment plans that allow you to pay off the cost in regular installments. Be sure to compare the interest rates of the orthodontist’s payment plans with the interest rate of your credit card or personal loan options to determine which is most advantageous.
Reasons to smile
Like the orthodontic work itself, how you pay for braces will be highly personalized and depends on your own financial circumstances and the details of your insurance coverage. Investigate all your options closely before making any decisions. You’re sure to find an option for paying for braces that’s best for you — and that should give you plenty of reasons to smile.
Want to know more about the personal loan application process?Read: How to Get a Personal Loan