How Much Should You Budget to Save for Your Child’s Orthodontic Work? What Do Braces Cost?

Somewhere round about age 8 or 9 you start realizing that although the Tooth Fairy has been bringing lovely healthy adult teeth to your child, they seem to have brought ones wrong size. Teeth are coming in at odd angles or in strange places. With a tinge of sadness and worry you realize that your child may be going to need braces to look presentable or to eat comfortably. And with another twinge you realize that you don’t have long to save up for this unplanned expense: Didn’t your nephew get his braces on at 12? And your neighbour’s kid at 13? How much do you need to save for orthodontic work for your child or, worse, your children?

Orthodontists Know You Are Already Afraid of Braces So They Don’t Scare You with Online Prices

Orthodontists are very considerate. They know many parents are already scared of getting braces put on their child’s teeth. What if they hurt? What if they have to have healthy teeth pulled? What if they don’t brush properly and end up with dozens of cavities? What if they use whitening toothpaste while wearing braces and end up with permanent “checkerboards” on their teeth? So Orthodontists don’t usually put the cost of treatment on their websites: instead, they invite you to visit for a consultation.

That is why, right? It isn’t because they’re afraid you might shop for prices online? Or faint?

What Does It Cost to Get Braces?

Orthodontists are quick to point out that every mouth is different and costs can vary widely.

Fair enough. It is true that someone who has a malformed jaw or needs four teeth extracted or is missing permanent adult teeth will need different treatment that someone who just has a mild overbite.

However, as a parent I need and needed some number to budget with. Were we looking at $2000, $5000, $7500 or over $10 000?

Friends and Family May Be Reluctant to Share the Cost of Their Child’s Braces

Surprisingly, to me, many friends and family seemed embarrassed when asked a vague “what price range are braces these days?”

I suspect they were all afraid they’d been “taken” and didn’t want to quote a number in case they discovered they’d paid thousands more than they needed to.

Orthodontics are also a very expensive procedure and people often feel someone is going to accuse them of spending too much on their child “just to look pretty.”

What Did We Pay for Orthodontics Specifically Braces?

I can tell you what we paid, in southern Ontario where there are quite a few orthodontists available.

For a child who only really needed correction of a fairly severe over-bite, it cost $6500.

That’s for the initial installation, all the adjustments over 2.5 years (estimated), a retainer, and an “appliance.”

That’s not including any extractions or any sophisticated appliances to change jaw shape or length. (I was hugely relieved that no extractions were required. I doubt we would have gone ahead if they had been.)

We had guesstimated $10 000 for budgeting a few years ago, so we sighed a bit with relief because we had the money waiting in the bank.

What Did Other People Pay for Braces?

Since I had a hard time getting numbers from relatives and friends, I used the anonymity of the internet to try to get a few other opinions.

Here are some of the results:

  • For a child in 2013, $6910
  • For a teen for 5 years of treatment including a Herbst appliance and braces, $10 000
  • For a child, two quotes for the same work in 2014: $6500, $7000
  • For a child, for braces for 1 year, in 2007, $4500
  • For a child in 2004, $5500
  • For a child in 1999, $5000
  • For an adult, 28, in 2014: 5800
  • For an adult $7-8 000

So there seems to be a bit of a range.

What Should You Budget for Orthodontic Work or Braces for Your Child?

First, I’d check what, if any, coverage your work place provides for braces for a dependent child. As I mentioned in another article, our work coverage pays for only $1500 of work per child, and it costs us more than that in premiums to get it!

Then, I’d start with a budget of $10 000 per child less the amount paid for by insurance.

If you’re like most people, that may be “an impossible dream!” Still, it gives you a number to shoot for.

A more practical number may be $6 000 per child less the insurance amount.

Remember it is possible for adults to get braces, so unless you child is experiencing pain or in dental distress, you may decide not to get any orthodontic work done at all. It may be more important to save for your own retirement or for your child’s education than for cosmetic dentistry.

Don’t get bullied into spending money you don’t have!

How Can You Ensure You Get the Best Value for Orthodontic Work

Several people mentioned

  • Always wear your retainer for the recommended time to prevent teeth shifting back
  • Don’t start getting orthodontic work too early if the child is comfortable: wait till the jaw has grown
  • Always make sure you consider the “do nothing” alternative; It doesn’t mean you are a “bad” parent!

Related Reading

Join In
Did your child need orthodontic work? Did you have some or all of the money saved? Did you have insurance help? If you are comfortable doing so, it would be great to add to our list of possible costs by adding your bill to a comment for others’ budgeting benefit. Please share your opinions and facts with a comment.

4 thoughts on “How Much Should You Budget to Save for Your Child’s Orthodontic Work? What Do Braces Cost?

  1. We were told quite early on in our son’s life that he would require braces later in life. He is currently 11 and has a spacer and a couple of other “appliances” in an effort to minimize later potential complicated issues since his teeth seem to be coming in at all angles and he has an overly small jaw as we have been informed. Not sure when the dentist thinks we will implement braces, but she has warned us as we go, and she always is checking where we are at financially for the future need. Kudos for her in doing that.

    So she has told us that for the first 2 years, it will be the most cost in and around 5-6K, and then for a couple of years after that depending on how the realignment goes 1-2K for each year following. Given our plan coverage maximum is similar to yours, we have set aside 1k each year since he was 5, and have accumulated $$7,800 so far in an account specifically set up to cover those costs. The dentist on our last visit was impressed with our effort, and suggested we not add any further new money to the account… I guess that means we’re in that comfortable range based on her experience… Not sure what the future will bring, but at least we’ve got a good chunk of it sitting in an account to cover it… amazing what long-term planning can accomplish! – Cheers.

    • Excellent! Your planning and saving has paid off!

      It is worth planning for expenses not just coping with them when they strike. Technically braces are not an “emergency” and shouldn’t really require raiding an emergency fund. Or worse, as the financial person at our orthodontist said “some people pay it from their HELOC.” I guess that’s better than credit card debt but not a great way to finance braces!

      OTOH for those making minimum wage and working 4 part-time jobs just to pay the rent, orthodontistry must be a huge burden. It would be nice if there was some government money available for truly necessary work (e.g. for someone experiencing pain or difficulty eating) especially since that’s a very low number of the total people getting braces.

  2. I agree, government money should be there to help offset costs for mouth work that would otherwise improve someone’s long term health. Any straightening for aesthetics or personal self esteem should/would not be covered and be considered a luxury – Cheers.

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