Getting braces can be a rather expensive and time-consuming process. Improving your smile can cost on average around $5,000 and typically requires a two-year treatment plan. Orthodontic care is rarely covered by most dental insurance coverage. This causes many to seek out grants to pay for braces. There is in fact a rather exceptional program for children that does just that. But for the rest of us, there isn’t much help available.
If you are interested in having braces because of cosmetic reasons, understand that it will be very hard to find any assistance for that. But if you have a serious medical condition that braces can be used to correct, you might be able to have that covered by insurance. If you are just looking to straighten out your smile, you might want to look into lower cost orthodontic care offered at some dental school clinics operated by university programs across the United States.
Smiles Change Lives
This program was started by a woman who was made fun of as a child about her smile, eventually getting braces late in High School. The foundation was created in 1997 to help children from low-income families get the help they deserve to avoid that sort of teasing. Over the years, Smiles Change Lives has provided this service to more than 5,000 kids. The program is currently offered in every single state through a network of over 700 volunteer orthodontists.
There is a $30 application fee, so make sure that your child is eligible before you apply. SCL offers this service to children from age 10-18. You must have a referral from a dentist as part of the application process. And your income must be determined to be at 200% of the federal poverty guideline or lower to receive assistance. Those selected do have to pay a $600 fee for treatment. But the vast majority of the normal cost to receive orthodontic care is covered by the grant.
If you are an orthodontist interested in volunteering your services through Smiles Change Lives, they are always looking to expand. Almost everything is handled for you by the program and you decide how many cases you are willing to handle through your practice each year. If you have any questions about becoming an SCL provider, email Alexis Barclay at email@example.com.
Medicaid is a federally mandated benefits program that operates locally in all 50 states. It provides access to health care for those with low-income including minor children, pregnant women, blind and disabled and seniors 65 years or older. Under its Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment benefit or EPSDT, Medicaid regulates to states what services must be provided to children under 21. While it is not possible to receive braces for cosmetic reasons, dental coverage through EPSDT must offer services that relieve pain and infections and provide restoration and maintenance of dental health. If your child’s condition is considered bad enough that there is a serious medical reason for orthodontics, braces may then be covered under the program. While this is somewhat of a long shot, if you are eligible for Medicaid and have that medical basis for seeking treatment, you should look further into dental care offered locally by the program. Finding out where to apply for Medicaid in your state is easy. Select your state on this interactive map to find out how to reach the Medicaid office in your particular state.
Dental Schools in the United States
While they do not offer free treatment, if you have trouble finding the help you need to pay for braces or any other dental problem, consider seeking treatment through a dental school clinic. Most major dental programs offer these clinics, providing dental care at highly reduced rates. Care is provided by students serving out residencies and supervised by doctors and faculty members, but this in no way means that the care available is sub par. In fact, often these schools use the newest treatment methods available in the profession. Be aware that seeking care through a university clinic can take a bit longer than what you would see through a normal dental practice. And services may not be available the entire year. But if you don’t have dental coverage and can’t afford to visit a normal practice, this is a great resource that can provide you suitable care. Contact your local dental school directly to find out if it runs a clinic and how to become a patient there.
State Dental Association Free Dental Clinics
While you won’t be able to get braces through this program, in 30 or so states across the U.S. you can in fact get plenty of dental work done through a growing list of Mission of Mercy or MoM events. My mother recently volunteered at the first such event held here in South Carolina at her church and it was a great success. Find out if you have an active dental association clinic coming up in your area. Dentists and hygienists donate their time and see patients for everything from regular cleanings to crown and bridge work. Many states are just now offering their first such clinics this year. Look up your state’s dental association to find out if they are involved in this awesome movement that is helping folks just like you from coast to coast. If they aren’t, ask them why. Be aware that some state associations offer additional programs, like the donated dental services of the Dental Lifeline program, as well. This program allows you to see a local dentist and receive donated work. You must have low-income and have a serious dental situation going on for that program. But if this describes you, check into DDS immediately to find out where to apply in your area.