My children are “blessed” with big teeth and small mouths. Their teeth are healthy and strong and seemingly resistant to cavities, which is good. But their teeth are way too big to fit into their small mouths. And you know what that means. Orthodontics.
We’ve already been down the road to the orthodontist once. My oldest daughter has completed Phase I of her treatment. But now we have a problem. My son is in desperate need of braces, and my daughter should really get started on Phase II of her treatment. That’s a lot of money to spend on braces all at once!
If you are like me, paying $6,000 for two kids to get braces seems like too much money to come up with at once. Is there anything a family can do to save money at the orthodontist?
I don’t advise this for everyone, but if your child’s teeth are just slightly crooked, and the problem is merely cosmetic, you may be able to skip the orthodontist all together. If there is no true medical need for braces and your child’s teeth aren’t crooked enough to cause incessant teasing by his peers, I’d put my money toward other things.
If you can’t skip the orthodontist all together, make sure you shop around. Orthodontists vary greatly on how they plan to treat different problems. The associated costs also vary greatly. It pays to visit 2-3 orthodontists to find out exactly how much you will have to shell out for your child’s teeth. Ask your friends for recommendations, too. I found out that one local orthodontist had a huge problem with automated billing, taking payments out of a client’s account 6 months after the treatment was paid off. Personally, I don’t want to deal with that.
Many orthodontists do a free consultation, so it shouldn’t cost you much, if anything, to get some different opinions. During your consultation, it’s also good to ask about financing if you will need to make payments on your child’s treatment. Some orthodontists have better plans than others, and if the cost of treatment is the same, the payment plan may sway you in one direction or the other.
If you have the ability to pay cash up front, make sure to ask if your orthodontist will give a discount. Since it’s to the orthodontist’s benefit to receive payment up front, you may very well get the discount.
Another discount to ask about is whether your orthodontist gives a family discount for having more than one child in treatment at a time. I know at least one orthodontist in our area that gives a small discount for families.
We typically don’t deduct medical expenses, as we generally don’t have enough medical expenses to qualify for a deduction. However, if we decide to put both of our older children in orthodontic treatment this year and pay up front, we will likely qualify for at least a little deduction, especially since we’ve had other medical expenses this year.
While a tax deduction for braces probably won’t amount to much, you might be able to save a least a little bit of money if orthodontic treatment puts your medical expenses over the threshold for a deduction.
According to the IRS website, you can deduct medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income this year. Next year, you can only deduct medical expenses that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income. So, if you’re like our family and on the fence as to when to start orthodontic treatment, this may be a good year to do it!
Orthodontic work is always expensive, unless you have unusually good orthodontic insurance. For most of the population, though, braces cost as much as a family vacation. There’s no way to get around the high cost of braces, but at least there are a few things you can do to make the cost a little more bearable.
Do you have any great tips on saving at the orthodontist? I would LOVE to hear them!
Photo by LOVIN’ A DAISY*.
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I'm just an average mom, trying to live a frugal life and get out of debt. I write about things that have (and haven't) worked to improve my family's financial situation. What works for me may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.
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