Planning is important when kids need braces

Angie's List offers advice for parents

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Braces effectively position and align your teeth by consistently exerting pressure to move them. 

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, treatment for braces begins between ages 9 and 14, and an increasing number of adults are getting braces, too.

"When planning for the cost of braces you need to think about the entire process of getting braces. A lot of times people think about the cost for the braces alone, but there could be dental work that needs to be done ahead of time so keep that in mind. Do they need any teeth pulled or a deep cleaning? Also, don't forget a lot of times after braces there is a retainer that children need to wear as well and if they lose it, you're going to add that to your bill as well," explained Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

The following factors can affect the cost of your dental investment:

  • Types of braces: Braces come in a variety of types, which directly determine how much you'll pay. It's best to do your research on the pros and cons of each before making a decision.
  • Dental issues: In addition to getting braces and having them adjusted, dental preparation is often needed and will affect your overall cost. Sometimes you'll need standard dental work, like a deep cleaning or filling replacement, before the orthodontist puts your braces on. In some cases, you'll require teeth extractions to facilitate the movement of your teeth. If you need to wear headgear before brackets and wires are put on your teeth, this will increase the cost. You may also need to buy a retainer after the braces are removed to keep your teeth from returning to their original spot.
  • Length of service: The more preparation and dental work you require, the longer the process will take to complete, and the more you'll pay. Once your braces are on, you typically have to see the dentist once a month to have the braces adjusted. The longer the process drags out, the costlier it will be.
  • The dentist: Not all orthodontists charge the same prices for their services. Things such as operational overhead will affect how much they charge. Money saving tip: Shop around before making a choice. If the dentist accepts your insurance (and assuming your insurance covers a portion of the cost), you can end up paying significantly less. In addition, ask if the price of braces is negotiable. Check the price in your area with Healthcare Blue Book, a free online guide that lists fair prices for healthcare services. The fair price is what a health service provider typically allows from insurance companies as full payment, which is substantially less than the billed amount. 

Angie's List Tips: Choosing an Orthodontist

  • What is your background? An orthodontist is a specialized dentist trained to align and move teeth. These professionals have trained for two to three more years than a family dentist, continuing in the field after they have completed dental school.
  • Are you certified? Some orthodontists are certified by the American Board of Orthodontics. The process is rigorous, as they are tested through written and performance assessments using a series of exams and patient cases.
  • What appliances are used? Some practices use both removable and permanent retainers, while others offer one or the other. Some practices offer both metal and ceramic braces, while others offer one or the other. Still other offices offer clear, removable braces.
  • Take a tour: Take a moment to visit during peak times to see how the staff interacts with patients. Are they running on time? Do they have exceptional billing and insurance practices? Is the office patient-friendly for the demographic it serves? By answering these questions, you can select a doctor that aligns with your treatment goals, wallet and schedule.

"Be a savvy consumer when you're thinking about braces. Shop around. Not all orthodontists are going to charge the same price. A little bit of time spent getting multiple estimates and don't forget you can also negotiate can be time well spent," said Hicks.

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