Colgate's Oral and Dental Health Resource Center reports that the average set of braces costs between $5,000 and $6,000. If you opt for less visible ceramic braces or invisible aligners, the cost is typically even higher. Given these figures, finding insurance to help pay for adult orthodontics may be desirable. Unfortunately, orthodontic insurance plans are limited in availability and could end up costing you as much or more than they save.
Some dental insurance plans that you can purchase cover orthodontics. However, it's important to read the fine print. Some impose a waiting period that can be as long as 24 months, meaning that you will be paying into your dental insurance for a long time without using it. Others cover orthodontics but have yearly payout limits that are only a small fraction of the cost of the braces. If your braces cost $6,000, but your insurance only pays an annual maximum of $1,000, you could still be stuck paying $5,000 out of pocket, for instance.
Dental Discount Plans
One alternative to dental insurance is a dental discount plan. With these plans, you pay a flat fee to be able to get service at pre-negotiated discount rates from a set pool of dentists. Some dental insurance plans actually use this method to provide orthodontic coverage, as well. With a discount plan, you're free to work out your own payment arrangements with the understanding that you're paying less than the orthodontics would cost without the plan. Some plans don't end up saving you much money, though.
Orthodontics Without Insurance
If you don't have insurance, or can't find suitable insurance, there are other ways to save on the cost of orthodontic treatment. One is to negotiate with the orthodontist to see if you can get her to reduce her price. Offering to pay up-front by cash or check may net you a discount, as well. You may also choose to have your work done at a dental school where patients do the work under the careful eye of experienced professors. While dental school treatment can be inconvenient, it can also be inexpensive. Some patients also choose to have their work done in a foreign country, taking advantage of their lower prices, although they also take the risk of being treated by a doctor who may neither carry U.S. malpractice insurance nor a license that meets American standards.
Weighing Your Options
Before running out and purchasing an insurance policy, you can do some comparison shopping. To find your net price when you're insured, add the insurance premiums that you will pay to the cost of the braces and subtract what you will get out of your insurance company. For instance, if the braces cost $5,500 and the insurance costs $25 per month and has a 12-month waiting period, you'll pay $5,800 for braces and insurance. If your insurance pays you $1,250 back, your net cost will be $4,550. If you can't find comparable services for a lower price yourself, taking the insurance could be the best deal.
- Colgate: Examining the Average Cost of Braces
- Delta Dental Insurance: Costco Dental Plan From Delta Dental of California
- DentalPlans.com: Orthodontic Discount Program --- OrthoCare
- Insurance Journal: Ameriplan Settles Fraud Allegations for $200,000
- "The New York Times": How to Plan for and Handle the Cost of Braces
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.