How to Get Braces for Free or an Affordable Price
Written by: Dr. Laura Edwards, Orthodontist
Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Oleg Drut, Orthodontist and Diamond Braces CCO
Date: June 9, 2021
Braces are a complex medical procedure designed to improve your smile and boost your oral and overall health: for this reason, they tend to be costly. According to the American Dental Association, the average cost of braces for children is between $4,685 and $6,500, and for adults, slightly higher.
Costs vary for several reasons. Firstly, there are a variety of braces treatments, with different associated costs. Traditional metal braces are the original form of orthodontia, and they tend to cost the least. Boutique treatment options like lingual braces offer a discreet design on the inner part of the teeth and cost much more. The specific provider you select, as well as the region where you live, will also affect the price of the braces treatment.
Remember, orthodontic care is a medical procedure, so it's never “free”: between the cost of the appliance, the use of specialized technology, and the labor of the expert orthodontist and staff, orthodontic care is costly.
However, for certain young patients, it is possible to get braces fully covered and avoid any expense for your family, by using state-sponsored insurance or federal programs like Medicaid or CHIP. In addition, certain dental scholarship programs offer orthodontic care for qualifying children.
While not all children and young adults may qualify for fully covered braces, there are also ways to greatly lower the cost of the orthodontia, using insurance and other programs.
How to Qualify for Free Braces for Kids
Medicaid/CHIP or State-Sponsored Insurance
Getting braces expenses covered is conditional upon income. Low-income families who qualify for Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), or a state-sponsored low-income insurance program may receive free braces care for children. Eligibility requirements vary by state: some states cover children up to 21, while other only cover them up to 18.
To qualify, children need to be diagnosed with an orthodontic condition where treatment is considered medically necessary. This is true for about 5-15% of orthodontic patients: for others, the diagnosis is considered cosmetic and won't be covered by these programs.
Commonly covered orthodontic conditions include:
Issues or pain when eating and chewing
Structural jaw issues that cause pain or difficulty opening and closing the mouth
Severe underbites, overbites, or crossbites
Congenital hypodontia or hyperdontia
The above list isn't complete, any many children may have multiple conditions. To see if your child qualifies, visit an orthodontist for a consultation. These consultations may be complimentary from the doctor's office or covered by your insurance provider.
Private Dental Insurance or FSA/HSA Plans
If you have private dental insurance and/or supplemental orthodontic insurance, you can use this to cover at least a portion of the costs for your child's braces treatment. This may allow your child to get braces with reduced out-of-pocket expenses and can lower the cost of the treatment.
Each insurance plan has its own eligibility requirements and amounts covered: be sure to check maximum lifetime benefits and the types of treatment covered by your plan, and find an orthodontic provider that takes your insurance.
Smiles Change Lives and other braces discounts programs
There are several non-profit organizations that help children from low-income families get braces treatment. Depending on your family's income level, the specifics of your child’s orthodontic case, and where you live, braces can either be completely covered, or cost $250-$500 out-of-pocket.
Smiles Change Lives and Smile for a Lifetime both fundraise and receive volunteer support from orthodontists to provide free or reduced-cost braces treatment for qualifying children. Certain conditions apply, and not all orthodontic practices partner with these organizations. Find out more from these organizations directly or ask your orthodontist for more information.
Dentalsave or other dental savings programs
Unlike dental insurance programs, dental savings plans offer discounted services for paying plan members. Members join the plan by paying an annual fee, and then receive special offers and discounts, including braces coverage.
These programs will not fully cover braces treatments for kids or adults, but they may help reduce the cost of braces by about 25%. Find out more from your orthodontic provider about whether they partner with dental savings plans.
Free Braces for Adults
While it is not common to get braces treatment fully covered as an adult, there are certain exceptions. If you qualify for Medicaid, and have a medical condition treatable with braces, may be able to get your braces expenses fully covered. This requires the orthodontist to determine that the braces are medically necessary.
Some orthodontic conditions frequently covered by Medicaid:
- Accidental trauma to the mouth, teeth, or jaw
- Sleep apnea
- Severe malocclusion causing physical or emotional harm
You may be subject to a lifetime maximum with Medicaid orthodontic care. Eligibility also varies by state, and not all orthodontists take Medicaid. Talk to your orthodontic provider if you would like to use Medicaid to pay for your braces.
Free Braces When Pregnant
It is perfectly safe to get braces while pregnant. There are certain things to consider if you plan on getting braces treatment while you are expecting a baby: gum inflammation, headaches, and increased plaque growth are common side effects of both braces treatment and pregnancy. Talk to your orthodontist about when to begin braces treatment if you are also pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant.
If you qualify for Medicaid or another state-sponsored insurance plan, you may be able to get your braces covered as an adult. In the UK, the NHS specifically covers braces treatment for pregnant women, but in the U.S. your pregnancy does not impact whether or not your subsidized insurance will help pay for braces. If you have Medicaid or a state-sponsored insurance plan, schedule a consultation to find out if your condition may qualify for braces coverage.
Tips to Make Braces Affordable
Even if you can't get braces covered for free, there are many ways to save on braces and make them more affordable.
Ways to Save on Braces:
Flexible Monthly Savings Plans: Rather than paying for all of your orthodontic care up-front, find an orthodontic provider who will allow you to divide your braces treatment costs into monthly installments. Most providers offer some kind of monthly plan, which makes it easier to pay in small portions. Look for a provider offering $0 down and 0% interest, so you don't have to pay more later.
Family discounts: Do you have multiple children who need braces, or are you and a spouse both looking for treatment? Many offices provide savings plans if your family gets multiple treatments at once.
Healthcare Credit Cards: Healthcare credit cards such as CareCredit offer lines of financing specifically for medical care like braces. This is a good option if you need to fully pay for a procedure up-front, but be sure to check interest rates and have a repayment plan prepared.
Seek treatment in a freestanding orthodontic facility: Orthodontists receive specialized training beyond dentists to become experts in the art of orthodontia and creating smiles. This can lead to shorter treatment times and lower costs for your care. In addition, a specialized orthodontic facility only treats patients with orthodontic care, rather than offering a wide variety of dental services, which can further lower costs. To get lower costs and more experienced care, go to an orthodontist in a dedicated orthodontic facility.
Seasonal promotions and office promotions: Don't be shy to ask about any seasonal discounts or promotions that the office may be offering. These can include back-to-school savings, summer discounts, family package deals, and more.
Diamond Braces’ Commitment to Affordable Smile
Our prices are up to 30% lower than the national average, because we believe that cost should never get between you and the smile you deserve. We accept all insurance plans, offer low monthly payment plans, and have staff on hand to help you find ways to easily pay for your family's care.
Plus, we offer a Lifetime Smile Maintenance Guarantee - because we're that committed to your healthy, lasting smile.
Schedule a consultation with our team, either in a convenient location near you or online, right from home. Our initial consultations are completely complimentary, with no commitment necessary.
Schedule a consultation and start smiling for 30% less!