How Much Should You Spend on Braces?

by David Ning · 4 comments

When I was young enough to wear braces, the costs from start to finish was $2,000. Today, parents spend much more than that on braces, and it is common to start earlier, sometimes when a child is only 7 or 8 years old.

The questions facing a parent of several children is just how much they can afford to spend on braces, and whether or not it is worth the investment.

Typical Costs

A full course of orthodontic care for a typical child will run between $3,500 and $7,000. If your child has a small mouth that needs expansion or several teeth that are severely misaligned the job will cost much more. While as a parent, you want your child to be “perfect,” your wallet may flinch at the expense.

Determine the Need

The first real question is whether the work is cosmetic or medically necessary. If your child’s teeth align well and they have a couple of crooked teeth, braces may be optional. If, however, you child’s teeth are stacked up several deep and they have a hard time biting food, the need is much greater.

Assess each child individually. Realize that older children will comply more with uncomfortable dental procedures to get a specific “look”.

Even if your child clearly needs braces, you shouldn’t rush into the process. Children’s mouths change during puberty. Early braces often have to be “touched up” later on when your child’s mouth expands and shifts through their teen years.

If you have a child that sucks their thumb, you will want to wait as well. Many of the problems that will need to be addressed orally are only going to come back as soon as the braces are off, if the thumb sucking hasn’t ended.

Shop Around

While I don’t recommend you go to some back alley orthodontist to save a few dollars, you will find that there is a dramatic range of prices for the same work. Since orthodontists set their own prices, the differences in price between one office and another can be significant. Make sure you get a price for the complete job, as you don’t want to find out later on that appliances like retainers cost extra.

Talk to your family dentist, since many do simple orthodontic work. If your child only needs some basic work, you dentist may be able to do it for less.

Set up a payment plan and stick to it. As with other payment plans, interest rates can go up if you fail to make your payments on time. Another good option is to set up a medical flexible spending account to pay for the work. At least the money won’t be taxed, and if your work place offers dental insurance, find out if braces are covered in part or as a whole.

Braces are undeniably expensive, but if your child truly needs them, then they are an unavoidable expense. With a bit of searching you can save at least some of the costs associated with this dental rite of passage.

Good luck.

This is another piece taken from the How to Save Money on Everything ebook. Get your free copy full of practical money saving tips here by signing up to the frugal newsletter.

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  • Lynn says:

    Another thing I want to add….getting braces done by a dentist, not an orthodontist, is a risky proposition. Many dentists do not have the adequate training to treat complicated cases, and can make things worse. It’s much better to go to a qualified orthodontist for any work that involves moving teeth, whether you’re talking about traditional metal brackets or invisalign.

  • Lynn says:

    I’m not sure where you get your financial statistics from. There is no typical treatment for kids, because sometimes you’re just correcting a crossbite for a few months, and sometimes you have expanders, retainers, braces, and more braces for years. The treatment doesn’t start at $3,500. I would say that it starts at around $600 and typically costs the average family about $5,000 for a normal two-year treatment plan.

    Metal braces are the least expensive alternative.

    If a family truly wants to save money on braces, they should consider getting the work done through a local dental school, where the costs can be quite minimal.

  • Claire says:

    Depending on where you live and the severity of your case, Fastbraces could be a good alternative. They are about half the cost of traditional braces – and definitely cheaper than the clear braces. I know some people who have had Fastbraces and have been pleased with the results. Their facebook page has a contest on it right now where they are giving away a free set of braces, so it could be worth a shot at entering. Hope this helps.

  • Debbie says:

    One thing to keep in mind – the big, ugly metal braces are a lot cheaper than something like Invisalign. I wish my parents had gotten me braces when I was younger and I wouldn’t have minded having metal braces; they would have cost around $4000. Now, as I’m looking to start a career and going on interviews, I wouldn’t even consider metal braces. And Invisalign would cost around $7000. It’ll probably be a very long time before I can afford to straighten my teeth.

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