How Can You Pay For Your Child’s Orthodontic Treatment?

If your pediatric dentist has indicated that your child would benefit from braces, a retainer, or other straightening devices, you're likely wondering how you will pay for this unexpected expense. Read on to learn more about the varying costs of pediatric orthodontic care, as well as several payment plans or alternatives if the cost is a financial hardship for your family.

How much can pediatric orthodontic care cost?

There are a number of different recommended treatments for childhood orthodontic issues. The most well-known treatment involves traditional dental braces, which encourage your child's teeth to shift in a certain direction to make it easier to drink, talk, and chew, as well as to improve the aesthetics of your child's teeth. Although the final price of braces will largely depend upon the cost of living in your area, your child's specific condition, and the number of required dentist visits to make adjustments, most estimates place braces at between $4,000 and $10,000.

Recent technology advances have helped dentists straighten less extensive cases with a simple clear mouthguard type of dental brace. These braces are generally worn for less time than traditional braces and are nearly invisible to the naked eye. Because these invisible braces are worn for a shorter period of time and are less labor-intensive for the dentist than traditional braces, they generally cost between $4,000 and $6,000.

If your child's teeth are too large for his or her mouth, and this condition is not expected to resolve on its own, your child's dentist may recommend removal of one or more teeth (usually molars) to make room for the remaining teeth to straighten. This type of extraction is the least expensive childhood orthodontic treatment, and will almost always cost less than $900, with an average of closer to $400 per tooth removed.

What are some ways to help reduce this cost?

Although these costs can be difficult for some families to absorb, particularly those without dental insurance coverage, there are several ways you can help reduce the cost of braces or an extraction.

  • Look into Medicaid
    • If your income is below a certain threshold for your state, you may qualify for Medicaid coverage. This is a type of federally-funded health insurance (but administered by the states) that covers procedures for low-income individuals. Although Medicaid coverage includes only limited dental coverage, braces are generally fully covered.
    • If you're not currently covered by dental insurance and are low-income, look into Medicaid coverage. In some cases, this coverage may be retroactive, meaning that payments you've already made toward your child's treatment can be reimbursed.
    • Not all dentists and orthodontists accept Medicaid -- so confirm that your dentist is in-network before you make an appointment.
  • Investigate dental financing
    • If you don't qualify for Medicaid, but still find it difficult to afford several thousand dollars' worth of treatment, see if your child's dentist offers any credit financing options. In many cases, as long as you agree to a manageable monthly payment, you'll be able to finance any needed treatment at competitively low interest rates.
    • If your credit score is on the low side, you may not qualify for financing through your dentist's office -- but you may still qualify for other loans, like a personal loan or a refinance.
  • Research charity care
    • A final method to help pay for needed orthodontic treatment is to see if there are any "charity care" programs in your area. Some dentists will agree to provide a certain number of free services per year. Call around to see if any nearby dentists offer these services, and if so, what the criteria may be.