Lots of kids need braces, but the cost can scare off many moms and dads. Braces cost about $5,000 and even if your family has insurance, it may not cover much of the bill.
So what's a kid with crooked teeth to do? Grab a parent and start figuring it out together. Here are some ways to get braces at reduced and super-reduced cost:
Smiles Change Lives. This program serves kids and teens in all 50 states. If you're between 11 and 18 years old, your family can apply to the program. If accepted, you will receive braces for only $250 to $500. To be accepted, a kid's family can't earn too much money (roughly $10,000 per person, so a family of four can't make more than $40,000). In addition to the income requirements, your teeth must be moderately to severely crooked. In other words, your teeth or jaw alignment must really need attention. You also must take excellent care of your teeth — lots of brushing and flossing!
Dental schools. Once they complete the years of training necessary to become a dentist, some people go on to train in orthodontics. At those dental schools where the training happens, kids can get braces at a reduced rate. These schools are especially interested in complicated cases. The orthodontists in training will be supervised by more experienced orthodontists during the treatment.
One thing to remember is that the treatment may take longer to complete than it would in an established orthodontist's office. Appointments also may need to be scheduled during school hours. Check this list of dental schools to find one near you.
Your dentist and dental societies. Some general dentists will do braces and may be willing to work with your family on the cost. Your dentist is also a great person to ask about orthodontists in the area who might accept lower payments. Again, being a good brusher and flosser will make you an ideal candidate.
In addition to your dentist, you can request this information from the dental society. Each state has one. These groups can be helpful if you don't have a dentist and need free basic care, such as a checkup. Check this list of dental societies to find one in your state.
Your community. Think of the groups and communities your family belongs to — your place of worship, clubs, and organizations. Ask around to see if there are any orthodontists who also are members or if anyone knows of a dentist who might take your case. At school, you can ask your school nurse or school counselor.
Insurance programs in your state. Some kids are covered by state insurance programs called Medicaid. These programs may cover braces, especially if your teeth cause problems with talking, eating, or swallowing. Not all states make this easy. There's a lot of paperwork required and you might have trouble finding a dentist who works with the insurance program. But it's worth checking. Some states have taken steps to make this process easier for kids and parents.
If the cost of braces is a concern, it's worth the effort and patience it takes to find an orthodontist who will treat you. Straight teeth are more than just attractive. They will hold up better throughout your life. That's a lot of eating, smiling, talking, and laughing!