How can adults afford to pay for orthodontic braces when many dental plans include age limits, and others have no insurance coverage at all?

Fortunately, a bevy of pathways inside and outside the dental industry provides opportunities to lower costs and smooth out expenses. Combining some or all of these elements make it easier to manage your budget.

First, avenues seemingly unrelated to the world of orthodontia provide opportunities to ease cash flow concerns and perhaps lower costs – if you qualify.

Then, shopping around for the least expensive treatments and providers could save thousands of dollars, which is something to smile about!

Affording Braces – External Resources

The less obvious way adults can better afford orthodontic braces without insurance is to tap into resources outside of the dental industry. These often overlooked opportunities could be the key to getting the smile you always wanted at a price that fits your budget – without any spikes in cash flow.

Installments

Adults can afford dental braces more readily when the costs come in bite-sized morsels spread over time rather than having to swallow huge chunks all at once. Patients without dental insurance have two access points for setting up installment arrangements.

Many orthodontists offer payment plans where they match their billing schedule with the work performed. The treatment takes place over the years, with several stages.

  • Initial consultation, diagnosis, and recommendation
  • Installation of orthodontic appliance
  • Periodic maintenance and adjustments
  • Removal of hardware
  • Impressions and fabrication of a retainer

Third-party finance companies provide loans or credit cards that spread out some of the pricier steps further. For instance, you could break down the down payment and or installation phase into smaller bites that are easier to digest.  

Low-Income

Low-income families looking for affordable braces will find more opportunities to shave costs for children – although adults could find help paying for orthodontia by finding points of intersection.

Financial assistance programs favor low-income households with a particular preference for pregnant women, active military, veterans, and college students.

Medicaid does cover orthodontia for low-income families in most states, but the eligibility rules change once the patient reaches 18.

  1. Adult and Children: medically necessary treatment that prevents, diagnoses, or treats an injury, disease, or symptoms
  2. Kids under age 18: handicapping malocclusion based on a point system used to index the need for treatment

Health Insurance

A minority of adults without dental insurance will find that their healthcare plan will help them better afford braces. Bear in mind that this alternative does not apply to individuals who want to straighten their teeth for cosmetic reasons.

Private and public health insurance may cover medically necessary orthodontia; the treatment prevents, diagnoses, or treats an injury, disease, or symptoms. Adults with these conditions should submit a claim with documentation about the underlying medical problem.

  • Non-biting accidents that affect the positioning of your teeth in the mouth
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ or TMD) requiring bite adjustments
  • Sleep apnea when crooked teeth restrict or block airflow

Tax Discounts

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides several tax discount opportunities that make braces more affordable for adults without insurance. Unreimbursed dental expenses are tax-deductible according to publication 502.[1]

Three IRS-approved vehicles offer tax-saving opportunities for out-of-pocket orthodontia expenses.

  1. Flexible Spending Accounts provide financing without a credit check while also reducing tax obligations through lower reported income
  2. Health Savings Accounts allow enrolled members to use pre-tax dollars to pay for unreimbursed dental expenses
  3. Schedule A Dental Expense Deductions to yield savings once total qualifying charges exceed 10% of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) if you itemize

Cheapest Braces – Internal Resources

Adults without insurance can also look within the dental community to better afford braces by shopping around for the cheapest hardware and orthodontist. The industry is hyper-competitive, which offers a variety of opportunities to find the lowest-price solution and provider.

It never hurts to ask for lower pricing – especially when you can choose which orthodontist to use and what treatment protocol to pick.

Inexpensive Treatments

Picking the cheapest orthodontic treatment is an obvious solution to keep costs reasonable for adults without insurance. Your orthodontist might recommend a wide array of appliance options that have different price points.

As you might already know, your vanity comes at a cost, as you must pay more for treatments that are less visible to others.[2]

  • Metal (tinsel teeth): $3,000 to $7,000
  • Ceramic (tooth colored): $4,000 to $8,000
  • Invisalign® (clear): $4,000 to $7,400
  • Lingual (behind teeth): $8,000 to $10,000

Therefore, swallow your pride if you do not want to break the bank. Select the lowest-cost metal appliances if you insist on using a local provider – versus a direct-to-consumer outfit (see below).

Cheapest Places

Shopping around for the cheapest places is another great way for adults to keep dental braces costs as low as possible without insurance. Nowadays, patients can choose between local orthodontia offices and direct-to-consumer channels.

Your local orthodontist may have high overhead expenses, given their cost of education, equipment, and office rental charges. Therefore, they need a constant customer flow to remain viable and often offer deals and new patient specials to get people into their chairs.

  • Coupon sites such as Groupon, Valpak, and others often include considerable discounts in exchange for a relatively small monthly subscription fee (the might prove tricky to cancel)
  • Google searches for local providers often surface paid advertisements at the top of the results page with blaring headlines featuring $500 off or more

Direct-to-Consumer companies such as Smiles Direct, Byte, and Candid are newcomers on the block offering an alternative at 1/3 the price of traditional treatments. They can provide bargain-basement deals by cutting the expensive middle man (local orthodontist) out of the equation.

  • At-home impressions that you administer yourself
  • Centralized orthodontists create your treatment plan
  • Remote monitoring to keep you on track

Final Thoughts

Adults can find affordable braces without dental insurance by being smart consumers and tapping into every possible resource. First, be creative and look outside the industry for installment plans, tax savings, and financial help. Then, shop around for the provider with the cheapest deals and most economical treatment alternatives.

Footnoted Sources:

[1] IRS Publication 502

[2] Colgate Price Range of Orthodontia Options