Angie's List | Kids & Braces

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.

Patient Kelsey Vergon says, "When I got the braces they hurt a little bit at first but it really wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be."

Kelsey Vergon and her two brothers have all wore braces or retainers.

Their mother was surprised by the cost.

Kelsey's mother Tamara tells us, "With my first child I think I was surprised by the cost. I really didn't know what to expect. Obviously with the second and third, I knew what to expect and fortunately it really didn't change much in that five years span between the first and the last."

Tamara says, "Orthodontia can be expensive. My husband always jokes that that's his motorcycle in their mouths.  The motorcycle that he won't have now for a while.  They were all about the same and the total was  between 18 and 20 thousand for all three.  So it was very expensive."

"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," advises Angie Hicks.

Orthodontist Dr. Robert A Stoner says, "All patients get retainers when the braces come off. Most patients get removable retainers and they wear the top retainer full time for about six months to a year and I have them wear the bottom retainer every night."  Dr. Stoner continues, "Many patients will lose their retainer. What they do is they wrap it in a napkin and place it on a lunch tray and throw it away."

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 more costly 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.

Tamara Vergon says, 'Probably in the beginning I wasn't real clear on what was involved. I've never had orthodontia myself, so I really was clueless. However, one of the things I considered when picking an orthodontist is location. I wanted it to be something convenient, assuming it would require somewhat frequent trips. And that's one of the things that I've just been so pleased about. I mean, it is convenient to my home, but in addition, their hours were convenient, their availability was excellent. They were really willing to work with you to avoid your child having to be pulled out of school frequently."

Tamara's daughter Kelsey recounts her experience, "I liked going in and talking to the staff there. They were always really nice and they would always let me pick out the colors and if it hurt they would stop and give me a second, so it was never really a bad experience. I thought it was going to be a lot worse than it was. After I got my braces off I was so happy because before, I was self-conscious about my teeth and my smile but afterwards I really liked the results."

When selecting your orthodontist you don't want to rely on price alone. Braces will typically cost anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000. Also check the credentials of the orthodontist. How long have they been practicing? Are they are member of the American Board of Orthodontists? And do they accept your insurance. These are all important factors in making your decision.

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.

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