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 thought you had when the dentist said “orthodontia” was “How much are braces going to cost?” Orthodontic treatments are custom-designed for you, or your child, and there are a wide range of options. Depending on how severe the dental problem, whether it’s pediatric or adult and what appliances the orthodontist recommends, you’re looking at a range from $4,500 to $7,000.
That’s no small sum, especially if it you have not anticipated or budgeted for it. How can you pay for it?
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; as of 2015, 27.5 percent of U.S. adults (roughly over 73 million people) were not 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 details before making any plans.
According to the American Dental Association, typical dental insurance will 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.
Some dentists and orthodontists may offer discounts, like an incentive for patients who pay the entire bill upfront. Though this might not be an option for everyone, if you can get the total amount ready, perhaps through a personal loan, you could save money in the long run.
Perhaps 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.
Financing and Payment Plans
It is fairly common to pay for braces through financing. This can be done a number of different ways:
- 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 the aforementioned 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 against the interest rate of your credit card to find which is most advantageous.
- A personal loan: Health care costs are one of many common reasons to get a personal loan. A personal loan from Discover, for example, can help you get the discount for paying in full (if your orthodontist offers that). And you’ll have 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.
Reasons to Smile
Ultimately there’s no single answer for how to pay for braces. Like the orthodontic work itself, the financial solution is 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.