4 Ways to Save Money on Braces and Orthodontics

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?

braces

Skip 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.

Shop Around

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.

Ask for a Discount

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.

Consider Tax Advantages

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!

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By , on Sep 30, 2012
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{5 Comments}

  1. Orthodontic expenses are ideal for a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). As described above, expenses are deductible but only those amounts above 7.5% of AGI, which jumps to 10.0% in 2013.

    Using an FSA for orthodontia has three advantages: you also save on FICA taxes, you get first dollar tax savings with no expense threshold, and you can get reimbursed upfront as soon as qualified expenses are incurred.

  2. Tony:

    Speaking of orthodontics, I suggest you don’t get them for your kids. Speaking from personal experience, the instant you take off those braces and don’t wear the retainer at night, your teeth start to shift back to their previous position.

  3. Jenna:

    Definitely check out a couple different places. I went to two or three before I got braces. Also, if it’s just braces, wait until your kids are older and can appreciate (maintain) their teeth. I got braces in college and I had friends who had braces in middle school, who by college, needed them again because they didn’t follow through.

  4. In our area, braces for 18 months will run around $5,000 per person – yikes! That’s with getting quotes from different orthodontists.

    Since the most expensive vacation we’ve ever taken as a family, only one time, cost around $800, I’d have to say that at least for my family, we’d prefer vacations (our inexpensive, $150 ones) over paying for braces. :)

    One of our daughters had just a minor issue with her teeth. The ortho wanted to have her in a full set of braces for 18 months. Two different dentists looked at her teeth and said that the 1-2 teeth that are out of alignment aren’t going to cause long-term problems in the future. She has a pretty, straight smile, it was just a couple of molars that were off a bit.

    So, for her, we opted to not get braces. Our other daughter HAD to have braces, but thankfully, my husband has the kind of Health Savings Account where the money, if unused by the end of the calendar year, just rolls over to the next year. After several years of not needing any medical treatment except 6 month dental checkups, we were able to pay for her braces with our Health Savings Account card. Because we paid upfront, all at once, they did give us a nice discount. It worked out really well!

  5. These are all very practical tips on approaching orthodontic care – thanks for sharing. I’m going to mention on my blog at http://www.MetalMouthMedia.net, which just relaunched today. It’s all about “taking the bite out of braces” so your info is a great fit.

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