Free Braces Programs For Adults, Kids: Medicaid & More

Most orthodontists do not work for free, so how can you get braces at no cost? Find a deep-pocket third party that will pick up most of the charges!

Learn how to qualify for various free braces programs, recognizing that the eligibility criteria will vary for adults, children, and students.

Medicaid is the primary third party, allowing low-income families and pregnant women to get dental braces at no cost, but eligibility varies tremendously.

Meanwhile, finding other sources of financial assistance is realistic, which could combine to whittle your out-of-pocket costs closer to zero – if lucky.

Braces Programs for Adults

Low-income adults quickly discover that free braces programs are more difficult to find because most doors close after age twenty-one. Therefore, avenues that reduce costs are the more realistic way to make orthodontia more affordable.

Grant Programs

Government grants are a possible free braces program for low-income adults, but not in the way you might think. No federal agency awards grants directly to individuals. Instead, the funding flows to institutions.

Free government money for bills and personal use can cut costs elsewhere, providing indirect help for adults hoping to align their teeth properly. For example, you can reduce what you spend on groceries, utilities, and housing to pay the orthodontist.

Apply for government benefits through the grant recipients.

Finance Programs

One interest-free financing program can help low-income adults afford braces by spreading costs over time while reducing taxes owed. A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) delivers on these promises and more.

An FSA-enabled orthodontia payment plan has hidden value most people overlook.

  1. An interest-free loan from your employer
  2. Guaranteed acceptance with no credit check
  3. Patients with bad credit automatically qualify
  4. Reduce income subject to three levies
    1. Federal income tax
    1. State income tax
    1. FICA payroll taxes

Insurance Programs

Given the scarcity of free braces programs for low-income adults, you might want to investigate ways health and dental insurance can make orthodontic treatment more affordable.

Dental Insurance

Dental insurance with no waiting period for adult orthodontia is unusual but does exist in some states. While the coverage is anything but free, you might realize significant hidden savings.

In-network orthodontists must accept the amount allowed by insurance as full payment, representing a significant discount over retail prices. Plans without waiting periods are no panacea when comparing costs to benefits, but this hidden feature makes them worthwhile if offered in your state.

Medical Insurance

You might get medical insurance to cover adult braces by demonstrating that orthodontia is medically necessary: it treats an injury, disease, or symptoms. Since many people already have this coverage, the incremental cost is zero!

Collaborate with your orthodontist to craft a letter of medical necessity. If pre-certified, your health insurance may pay a majority of your expenses.

Free Braces For Children

The free braces programs for children are more numerous because orthodontists recommend that treatment begins during the teen years when the jawline is more flexible and responds more readily to the pressure applied to teeth.

CHIP Grants

CHIP grants could provide mainly free braces when it cover most of the costs for families that earn too much money to qualify for regular Medicaid. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) mandatory dental benefits include services that sometimes include straightening teeth.

Use this official CHIP coverage statement to assess whether your child might qualify for benefits.

“Orthodontia is required to the extent necessary to prevent disease and promote oral health, [and] restore oral structures to health and function. States are not required to pay for treatment that they determine is not medically necessary, such as services for cosmetic reasons.”

Dental Charities

Several dental charities operate free braces programs for children dealing with challenging circumstances. They may receive government grant money (rare) or rely on donors’ generosity (more common).

At least three dental charities offer low-cost orthodontia treatment for kids (after paying a modest application fee and family investment ranging from $200 to $650).

  1. Smiles Change Lives 
  2. Smile for a Lifetime
  3. Donated Orthodontic Services

Applicants must meet similar eligibility criteria at each organization, including many of these possible requirements.

  • Be 7 – 18 years of age
  • Good oral hygiene and no unfilled cavities
  • Moderate to severe need for orthodontia
  • Family income below poverty guidelines
  • Pay two non-refundable fees
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Volunteer community service
  • C average or above GPA

Braces With Medicaid

The correct strategy for getting free braces with Medicaid varies for adults and children. This publically funded program for low-income families has two components that hinge on the patient’s milestone birthday (19 in most states).

Health CareDental Care

Also, Medicaid employs the least costly treatment rule, meaning your plan might cover only the most affordable metal braces. Therefore, you will never get premium solutions such as Invisalign for free.

Orthodontists Accepting

The first step towards getting free braces with Medicaid is finding a local orthodontist who accepts the meager reimbursement as full payment. If you choose the wrong provider, you might face a whopping balance bill.

Locate nearby orthodontists accepting Medicaid using the provider directory published by the Managed Care Organization or Dental Benefits Manager administering your plan. Call the office to verify participation before booking an appointment because these online listings are not always current.

With Adult Medicaid

To get free dental braces with Medicaid for adults, you must demonstrate that the proposed orthodontia meets a single challenging standard: it is medically necessary.

Medicaid exclusively covers braces for adults under its health insurance umbrella: orthodontia treating an injury, disease, or symptom. Examples of medically necessary conditions that might qualify include the following:

  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders requiring bite adjustments
  • Sleep apnea occurs when crooked teeth restrict or block airflow
  • Reposition dislodged teeth after a non-biting accident affecting the jaw
  • Remove fixed appliances before chemotherapy cancer treatment

With Child Medicaid

To get free dental braces for children with Medicaid, you must demonstrate that the proposed orthodontia treatment meets at least one of two more relaxed standards, making qualifying easier.

Medicaid covers braces for children under twenty-one more frequently because healthcare and dental care components utilize more lenient qualifying criteria.

Healthcare: Medically Necessary

Treats an injury, disease (expanded to include congenital deformities), or symptom

Dental: Handicapping Malocclusion

Tooth alignment deviations measured by a point system or criteria-based objective benchmark

The Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) program requires states to pay for orthodontic services necessary to prevent disease, promote oral health, and restore oral structures to health and function.

With Pregnancy Medicaid

Women expecting a baby might have another step to take when attempting to get free braces with pregnancy Medicaid. They must understand how federal poverty guidelines work; they matrix income and household size.

Many pregnant women do not initially qualify for Medicaid but become eligible after reapplying by correcting two frequent mistakes.

  1. Overstate income by including sources the government does not count
  2. Understate household size by excluding their unborn baby(s)

Once approved for Medicaid, teen moms-to-be should follow the protocol for children under twenty-one, while older prospective mothers must apply the rules for adults.

Braces for Students

The free braces programs for students depend on the grade level because the opportunities for third-party payment are more abundant when treatment begins during your teen years (age 19 or earlier).

High School Students

Free braces programs for high school students are more abundant because most attendees are teenagers during grades nine through twelve. These are the prime years for orthodontic treatment.

Learn to get no-cost braces for your child while they are a student in high school because once they graduate, the opportunities dry up quickly.

  • Medicaid coverage requires a medically necessary reason rather than a handicapping malocclusion.
  • CHIP grants no longer apply once high school students reach adulthood, which many do by the end of their senior year.
  • Most charitable organizations assist with orthodontia for children during their teen years.

College Students

Free braces initiatives for college students are scarcer because most attendees are adults by the time they begin their undergraduate education. However, they might get lucky if their campus is near an orthodontic residency program.

The American Association of Orthodontists publishes a directory of accredited residency programs that might treat college students at no charge. However, modest discounts might be a more reasonable expectation.

Orthodontia residents need to learn their craft, and practice makes perfect. Beginners supervised by faculty often might treat volunteer college students willing to act as Guinea pigs.

  • Initial consultation
  • Installation (banding and bonding)
  • Periodic adjustments
  • Removal (debanding)
  • Retainer fitting