Braces are a rite of passage, a bridge between an awkward adolescent smile and a healthy adult mouth. But few parents know enough about this mystery metalwork to make sound treatment decisions for their children. Let’s take a closer look at why kids need braces, the advantages, risks and options.
Why Do Kids Need To Get Braces?
Braces are more than just cosmetic. They’re the ideal treatment for these orthodontic issues and more:
Crowded teeth are prone to decay because brushing and flossing are less effective in tight spaces. Teeth may wear unevenly, causing a bad bite and jaw pain. Severe cases may cause speech impairments.
• Overbite or Overjet
Kids have an overbite if their top jaw projects further than the bottom jaw. An overjet, also known as “buck teeth,” occurs when the two front teeth protrude significantly. Both conditions can cause tooth and gum damage and may contribute to sleep apnea in adults.
An underbite is a malocclusion of the jaw in which the lower teeth extend noticeably farther than the upper teeth. Like an overbite, it’s associated with speech impairments and sleep apnea, but it can also cause difficulty chewing and premature wear on the front teeth.
How Young of a Child Can Get Braces?
Most kids get braces when they’re 9-13 years old. But orthodontists can usually tell if they’ll need them by the time they’re six. Research underscores the benefits of early treatment, so children are getting braces much earlier than their parents did — it’s just one more reason to start dental care early.
How Long Will My Child Need To Wear Braces?
How long kids wear braces depends on the problem being treated. Minor corrections can take as little as 12 months — major treatments may require three years. On average, most kids have braces for 18-24 months, visiting the orthodontist every 4-8 weeks for adjustments.
How Much Will Braces For My Child Cost?
Braces vary in price depending on the type.
• Metal Braces
Metal braces are the most common. They range in cost from $4,400-$5300 based on the material composition and the complexity of treatment.
• Ceramic Braces
Ceramic braces are popular because they’re less visible, but they cost $5400-$6400 and are less durable than metal braces.
• Lingual Braces
Lingual braces fit behind the teeth and are more attractive cosmetically, but they’re significantly more expensive at $5000-$13000. While effective, they’re challenging to clean can cause tongue irritation. Lingual braces aren’t usually recommended for young children, but they can be a good option for teens concerned about their appearance.
What If My Child Doesn’t Get Braces He or She Needs?
Braces are an investment in your child’s oral health and self-esteem. Not correcting a serious malocclusion can have health consequences from jaw pain and headaches to broken teeth and trouble chewing.
Some orthodontic disorders can be treated in adults, but conditions tend to worsen over time and may require surgery. Braces are a more cost-effective, non-invasive approach if they’re applied while kids are still growing.
How Can I Save Money With My Child’s Braces?
Not all dental insurance covers braces, and those that do rarely contribute more than 50 percent. Braces are FSA-eligible regardless of your child’s diagnosis, but Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) can’t be used to pay for cosmetic-only corrections. Talk to your orthodontist.
For the average family, paying for braces is daunting. But the good news is that there are ways to make them more affordable.
• Get More Than One Estimate
Orthodontic fees can vary by thousands in the same area. Take advantage of free consultations to get more than one estimate.
• See an In-network Provider
If your dental insurance covers braces, you’ll save more using an in-network orthodontist. They offer the insurer better rates, and the difference is passed on to you.
• Use a Flexible or Health Savings Account
Pre-tax contributions to an FSA or HSA can mean 15%-30% savings on braces, depending on your tax bracket. If you deposit the maximum amount allowable each year your child is being treated, you could pay thousands less.
• Dental Schools
Dentists training to be orthodontists do much of their post-graduate training at school-run clinics that are open to the public. Rates can run 50 percent less.
• Government Insurance
If you don’t have private dental insurance, and your child needs braces for medical reasons, state-run programs like Medicaid can help. There are income limitations, and the paperwork is intimidating, but if you qualify, you can get free or reduced-cost treatments.
• Smiles Change Lives
Smiles Change Lives was founded in 1977 to help low-income families who can’t afford braces cover the cost of care. There’s a non-refundable application fee and financial eligibility guidelines, but for families that qualify, braces could cost as little as $600.
CareCredit is a healthcare credit card accepted by nearly a quarter-million providers. You’ll have to make monthly payments, but spread over a few years, it can be a budget-friendly option when you can’t afford to pay upfront.