Braces: Behind the curtain
When the twins were six we started talking about whether or not they'd need braces. It was an interesting topic for me, because I've never had them. I was excited. By the time they were nine we knew the direction we were headed in, so I called a few Orthodontists in Texas to get an idea of the process and cost. Here's what I didn't expect to find out - it's a secret. It's like Fight Club. Seriously.
I actually said to one receptionist, "Just tell me this...are we looking at $2,000 per kid or $10,000 per kid. Ballpark the norm for me sister". Nothing. OBGYN's can. dentists can, why not Ortho? They literally wouldn't tell me anything about the cost or process; just make an appointment for consultation. It was annoying, but I lost interest and decided to wait until we moved to Massachusetts.
Here we are, ready for braces again, and the Ortho offices here won't talk about it either. Obviously they don't know exactly what the cost or circumstances will be on a case by case basis, but now that we've gone through it, I know that it's entirely possible to generalize for the sake of planning. I can't tell you how many times during our consult that the assistant said "this is the typical time frame, cost, visit frequency, etc". Of course she wasn't willing to talk to me about it until my kids were in the chair having molds made. We're doing two at a time for crying out loud. Do we pay for it all up front? Do we schedule the initial appointment months before we hope to start the process? Weeks before? Day of? How long do kids usually wear braces?
I checked out three local Orthodontists here, because I like to shop around. Our kids are currently split between two dental offices for the same reason, to see which is a better fit. The neurosis doesn't escape me. I made the appointment, figuring we were prepared to move forward immediately, or in three months, and knowing that our insurance covered a small portion but we had to cover the bulk of the cost. So, especially for military families with the same dental insurance, here are the nitty gritty details.
- If your kids have all of their adult teeth, no current dental issues like cavities, and are otherwise healthy, you can make the braces appointment for the next available day after your consult. That was a week later for us.
- For a typical situation, overcrowding, bite alignment, etc. the average time frame is 18-24 months. The more serious the issue, the longer it may take. Adults tend to take longer and cost more.
- For a typical situation, the average cost is between $4,000 and $5,000 per kid.
- Active Duty insurance (MetLife) covers about $1,700 per kid. It's a one time deal, per child. If they need braces again later, there's no coverage.
- If you don't want to pay it all up front, you go on a monthly payment plan. You can usually adjust it to meet your needs.
- You have to make a down payment, and that dictates the monthly payment. For example, the down payment is $1000 per kid, and your monthly payment is $100 per kid for 20 months. Personally, it would've been nice to know we'd need to throw down $2,000 cash that day. The Sailor needed a drink after that phone call.
- This price should cover all appointments, gear, adjustments, etc. throughout the process. If at the end of 26 months [or whatever your Ortho decides] they're still not finished, you re-visit the cost.
The overall cost of braces didn't throw me, but I did wish that one of the five Orthodontist offices I called in Texas and Massachusetts were willing to fill me in. We've met a lot of adult military "brats" (I hate that term) over the years whose parents never took them to the Orthodontist. Like I said, the office isn't forthcoming, it's expensive, and it's cosmetic. I think it's important though. Of the ones we've known who never had their teeth fixed, most were openly insecure about it, and hesitant to go through the process as adults, especially because it's usually more expensive and invasive at that point. My two sense: get your kid's teeth fixed. The smile is one of the first things you notice on someone, and you don't ever want your child to be afraid to smile.
If you're on Cape Cod, and looking for an Orthodontist in the near future, message me and I'll tell you who we saw. I've been so impressed with the experience, office and staff. In case you're curious, the twins did great. They're sore and complained about eating for the rest of the day, but overall they have a good attitude about it.