Grants for Braces Help Kids Get New Smiles

| August 23, 2013 | 41 Comments

Grants For BracesGetting 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

Free dental clinics offer help in 30 states through a Mission of Mercy.

Medicaid EPSDT
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.

Get free dentures through these grants that will make you smile.

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Category: Medical Grants, Other Grant Information, Personal Grants

About the Author ()

Kipp is the Contributing Editor for, covering sources of potential funding in the world of grants. His mission is to assist people like you by locating and sharing private, non-profit and government grants. Got a question or a tip on a neat grant? Connect with him now at Facebook Twitter

Comments (41)

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  1. Breelyn says:

    I am in need of braces and currently living in Virginia. Is there a dental school that can give me braces for free? I am willing to travel to other states. I will be waiting for your email.

  2. Angelita Rodriguez says:

    I recently aged out of the foster care system and have been doing my best to be responsible. I dont think my need for braces will qualify me for a grant but it was worth a try.

  3. Kelly Lucio says:

    Hello i am an aspiring actor and am in need for having my teeth straighten because in the film industry image and appearance is everything can you give me resources to grants or funding for individuals who have no insurance or are low income? thank you.

  4. Evie says:

    I am 49 yr old woman needing braces. I have always needed braces but couldn’t afford them. My kids needed braces and the sacrifices were made for all 3. Because of the crowding and overbite, I’ve always had to take extra care with my oral hygiene and have. Do dental schools take adults or is it exclusive to kids?

    • Debby says:

      Evie, did you ever get anywhere on your question?? I am 47 and have the same issue as you

    • Kipp Shives says:

      Sorry for the late reply, Evie. You are ineligible for the Smiles program as it’s only available for kids under 18. Dental schools take patients of all ages and offer discounted rates on dental work. This often will get you the same care for about half of what you would have to pay through your local dentist. Check into your local school, for sure.

  5. Crystal says:

    My son is 15. He’s on Medicaid and needs braces but I can’t afford them or I would gladly get them for him. Somebody told me that their are grants or scholarships for kids who need braces. We live in Spartanburg, SC. Do you know where or who I can contact about this? Please. I’m desperate!

    • Kipp Shives says:

      Hi Crystal. I’m right down the road from you here in Columbia. South Carolina recently held a free dental clinic in Rock Hill, SC. If you can’t wait for their next event as this is a fairly new program, it may be worth heading up 85 to Charlotte for the next NC MoM dental event as that state’s is more established and has way more yearly events, some even for kids your son’s age only.

  6. Mary K. Granke says:

    My 12 year old son needs braces because he has two teeth coming in and there is no room for those teeth. I had heard that there are grants for braces? Could u help me find them?

    • Kipp Shives says:

      Hi, Mary. Have you read this article? Sounds like your son is a perfect candidate for the Smiles Change Lives program. It only costs $30 to apply and if accepted the cost of braces only runs $600. Hopefully this is something that can help your son.

  7. Trini Maldonado says:

    Hi my son needs braces and we have been denied twice. We have medical and dental insurance but I am both low-income and disabled. I have another referral for my son who is 14. He is in need of braces but keeps getting denied even though our dentist who keeps submitting the referral. How can I apply for an RBIS grant for my son? I live in California and receive SSI.

    • Kipp Shives says:

      You’ve been denied for the Smiles program twice? Check out the ADA Cares program which is fairly extensive in California. They offer free dental clinics that assist around 12,000 patients each year. That’s almost $10 Million in free dental work. Perhaps they can help you with your situation. Your dentist should be familiar with your state dental association’s foundation as most likely he is a member. If not, call them at 1-800-232-7645 to find out where their next MoM event is being held in your area.

  8. Shaylan Powell says:

    I need help getting braces. I’m 17, almost 18, and I have some health issues and can’t afford them. I have a class 3 under bite and a serious gap that affects my smile. I live in Indiana. Can you help?

    • Kipp Shives says:

      Shaylan, last year alone the Indiana Dental Association provided over $1 Million dollars worth of free dental work through the Donated Denatal Services program for almost 500 people just like you. Contact them also to find out if they have started to offer a free dental clinic through the Mission of Mercy program we covered in our article, last year. It looks like they are a MoM member state but I can’t find anything about this year’s program on their website. Also, if you aren’t 18 yet, contact the Smiles Change Lives program immediately as time is running out for you to benefit from their discounted braces program.

  9. Yasmin Cash says:

    Hey, I am 15 years old and my name is Yasmin. I am in need of braces and consider myself unfortunate but blessed. I am a sophomore at midfield high school in Birmingham Alabama. I go through a lot from name calling to people laughing at me. I don’t really smile because I am ashamed of my wide gap. I want braces so that I can feel more confident when I smile. I understand how the program works and I just need help so I can give my life a boost. I’m tired of being hurt and I’m tired of crying I just want to feel like somebody. Thank you for listening to my story.

  10. Matt Latji says:

    I would really like to have braces and I need them so desperately. Please help me!

  11. Marcella says:

    Hello, I am 20 almost 21 and I have always needed braces but my parents are low income and have never been able to afford it. I am currently a full time student so saving up for it right now is impossible. I would like a nice smile for my college graduation, is there anything that I qualify for?

  12. Ashley Nicole says:

    I’m 20 and live in Detroit, MI. I got my braces put on after I gave birth but I wasn’t able to continue with my payments. Is there a program that can assist me?

    • Kipp Shives says:

      Ashley, unfortunately the Smiles Change Lives program only works with people who are 18 or under. Try approaching the Dental Lifeline Network in Michigan as we covered in our article on grants for dentures. Don’t worry. They don’t ONLY offer help with people who need dentures. Also, your state started having Mission of Mercy events in 2013. Check the state MoM website for information about their event in 2015 where you can get help with any form of free dental work for you and your family. For more information about that program, check out our article on free dental clinics we published last year about this awesome program that most folks have never heard of.

  13. Miranda says:

    Hi! I have a 16 year old that has been needing braces since he was 13. We are on medicaid. He would already have had them if I could afford it but I am a single mom of 3 so there is no way! Please help with any ideas, grants or whatever! We’re in Monroe, Louisiana.

  14. Lydia Bettencourt says:

    Hello, We would appreciate the opportunity to apply for this grant. Two of our three daughters have been screened for braces. Both of them need intervention because one or more of their teeth are causing them pain. Our oldest is 13 and has an orthodontic plan lined up with our local doctor but we just cannot afford it. It’s been on hold for two years, now.

    • Kipp Shives says:

      Lydia, have you tried applying for the Smiles Change Lives program we wrote about in this article? They work exclusively with 10-18 year old children from families who are low to mid income. They specifically work with children with pain issues caused by misaligned teeth. And if you’re accepted to the program, the patient costs is only $600. Here is the application page. Let me know if you’ve looked into it. This is a really great program I feel could really help you.

  15. Judy Boheler says:

    Hi! My daughter is 14 and she has needed braces for over 2 years now. We had the amount that it would cost us over $6,000. I’m hearing impaired, Not working and Not getting child support from her dad. Her teeth are is badly crooked and her front teeth are growing inward. both her front teeth are outward. I never took one picture of her smiling. To me she is a beautiful young lady. But her self esteem is very low. She had been made fun of because of her teeth. It breaks my heart to see her putting herself down. She is on SC medicaid and we are from Blacksburg SC. Please let me know if I can get help for my daughter. Thank you very much.

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