Ask the orthodontist If he or she offers a payment plan.
Most do, says Michael B. Rogers, DDS, president of the American Association of Orthodontists. To make monthly payments more affordable, "sometimes we'll extend the plan beyond when we predict that the braces will come off," says Dr. Rogers, who practices in Augusta, Georgia. Or you can seek out a third-party financer, such as CareCredit (CareCredit.com/Dentistry) or Springstone Patient Financing ().
Visit a dental school clinic.
Save major bucks (at least half of what you'd pay at a private orthodontist's office) by going to a teaching clinic, says Elliott Moskowitz, DDS, clinical professor in the department of orthodontics at NYU College of Dentistry. Dental school students do the work, but they're closely monitored by very experienced faculty members, so you'll get good care.
Call your state's dental association.
Many have programs to assist financially challenged people who need braces. Low-income families can also apply for free orthodontia care through programs like Smiles Change Lives () and Smile for a Lifetime Orthodontic Foundation (), says Dr. Rogers.
Choosing the Right Braces
Should you pick aligners or brackets? The choice may not be yours—your orthodontist will tell you if aligners are even an option for the work you need, says Dr. Moskowitz—but here's what you should know about both types.
|Traditional Bracket and Wire System||Clear Aligners (Invisalign)|
|How It Works||A metal or tooth-colored (ceramic) bracket is glued to each tooth and a wire runs through brackets to gently pressure teeth into alignment. Elastic bands are also used to help alignment; they're changed every 8 to 10 weeks, says Dr. Rogers.||Clear trays fit over your teeth: 20 to 30 trays are custom-made for your mouth, with each tray slowly coa your teeth closer to the correct position. You change trays every 2 weeks.|
|Pros||Because brackets are affixed to individual teeth, the orthodontist can use a wider range of techniques to move teeth. That's why brackets work well even in complicated cases (teeth that need to be rotated a lot, impacted teeth, etc.).||Trays are practically invisible,
and they're removable, so you
can take them off to eat and
brush your teeth.
|Cons||The wires and brackets are visible (though ceramic brackets are slightly less so) and may irritate the gums/mouth and make it hard to eat certain foods. You can't remove them yourself, so forget taking them off before picture day at school or an important business presentation.||They don't work as well for complicated cases or for people who need extractions to make room in their mouth—which includes some children, says Dr. Moskowitz. They cost about $500 more than brackets. Compliance is key; if you take them out for too long you won't get good results, says Dr. Rogers.|
|Best For||Most children/teens; adults who didn't have braces as kids and need substantial work (to fix severe crowding, rotate teeth into position, align teeth that are different heights in your gums, etc.).||Adults and teens who need less extensive correction and are responsible enough to keep the trays in almost all the time.|