In this post I will be outlining the cost of my adult braces, payment options, what a flexible spending account is and how to utilized this account to save money on adult braces.
Adult braces. I know, there is no difference between braces and adult braces. For this post I will be referring to them as adult braces because that seems to be the popular term. A quick background on me: I needed braces for years but was never able to afford them. I thought braces had to be paid upfront in all cash and was never able to save up that much. I finally decided to make getting braces a priority and started researching adult braces in 2017.
A few helpful things I learned is that a braces consult is complementary. Anyone can meet with an orthodontist and get a price quote for braces and they will discuss the payment options with you. If you decide to get braces you will need a dentist sign a form stating that you have no cavities and your teeth are healthy enough for braces. You will also need to maintain regular dentist visits on top of orthodontist visits. Lastly, I learned that prices vary greatly so be sure to get multiple quotes for your adult braces.
Now let’s get get into the financial side of adult braces
How much do adult braces cost?
That’s a loaded question. There are so many factors to consider like length of treatment, the materials needed, your location and the orthodontist you choose. I can only speak for myself but I can say that the longer your treatment is the more expensive your treatment will be. My estimated treatment time was 2.5 years with a total cost of $4400. The price and the timeline completely shocked me. I decided to go forward with the treatment because I knew I needed it. For my treatment I chose to go with clear brackets, which are about $200 more than metal. I could’ve saved that $200 if I had gone with metal but I decided to splurge for cosmetic reasons. That $4400 included everything that was needed to complete my treatment. This includes appointments, X-rays, materials, 1 set of retainers and all other costs.
Of course, you can pay for your treatment upfront with cash but that’s not always feasible. If you’re really good at saving you might consider waiting until you have the entire amount saved. For me, I knew I had put off my treatment long enough so I was happy that there were other payment options that I could take advantage of.
There are a few options for paying off your adult braces. First, you can check with your insurance. If you have dental insurance you can ask for a copy of their orthodontic coverage policy. Most insurances, that I’ve looked into, do not cover adult braces. They only cover braces up to ages 17 or 18. Even if your insurance does not cover adult braces that does not mean that they will not cover part of your orthodontic treatment. Sometimes an insurance company will pay a portion of your orthodontic bill. It’s worth it to submit a claim or at least speak with someone from the insurance company.
Secondly, you can apply for CareCredit. CareCredit is a credit card that is accepted at numerous healthcare offices. You can use CareCredit to pay for out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. You can apply online or over the phone. I do want to put the disclaimer out there that I do not recommend CareCredit. That is because they have insanely high interest rates.
Now, you can potentially get a CareCredit card with no interest for 6 months up to 24 months. I only recommend using this card if you can pay off the balance BEFORE that no interest period is up. If you do not pay the balance off before that time you will pay interest on the entire amount borrowed. As I mentioned before the interest rates for this card are very high. So, CareCredit can be a helpful tool if you utilize the no interest period correctly. Otherwise I would not utilize this option.
My orthodontist did not accept credit cards but if yours does that is another option. However, I would advise against using any credit cards unless you can get a no-interest offer. Interest will really add up on a large purchase like adult braces. You do not want to go into debt for your braces treatment. You’re better off waiting and saving up cash to pay for the adult braces.
3. Payment plan with orthodontist
Next, you can ask if your orthodontist offers interest-free payment plans. The key here is interest-free. If your doctor charges interest on the adult braces then you will end up paying so much more. My orthodontist did offer interest-free payment plans as long as you set up an auto-debit. This allowed me to make payments on my adult braces without worrying about high interest fees.
4. Flexible spending account
Lastly, you can utilize a flexible spending account. Check to see if your employer offers this. This account made it so easy for me to save money. I paid off my braces so much faster because I took advantage of this account.
What is a flexible spending account?
A flexible spending account is a special account that you can use to pay for certain out-of-pocket healthcare costs. This account is funded by you and is taken out of your paychecks pre-tax. This equates to double savings. You are not paying taxes on the money that goes into the account and it lowers your taxable income for the year. Win win. Your employer can give you a list of qualifying healthcare costs that can be reimbursed to you from your flexible spending account.
To set up a flexible spending account check with your employer. They will have a specific process for signing up. Typically you have to sign up for this account at the end of the year and use it for the following year. So, for example, your adult braces are going to cost $1200. That means you are able to apply for a flexible spending account for $1200. The total amount is broken down based on how often you are paid. If you’re paid twice a month your employer will take out $50 pre-tax from every paycheck. Which will equal $1200 for the year. This will go straight into your flexible spending account before taxes.
How to get reimbursed from your flexible spending account
The way you redeem that money is by showing receipts for your healthcare costs. You can submit a claim and any receipts to the HR department to be reimbursed. As you submit your claims you will be reimbursed from your flexible spending account.
You can get reimbursement from your flexible spending account each time you submit a claim. There are a couple of ways you can decide to do this. You can submit claims as you pay for your healthcare costs throughout the year. You can also submit one large claim at the end of the year for your total healthcare costs.
A flexible spending account is so great if you utilize it correctly but there are a lot of regulations. It’s basically a use it or lose it account. If you allocate $1200 but you only claim $800 then you will lose out on that other $400. Be careful not to overfund your flexible spending account so you don’t lose out on any money.
A flexible spending account is a great tool that can save you a lot of money. Be sure to do your research before you open one of these accounts. There are so many different rules for how you can use these accounts. I would be happy to do another post dedicated to flexible spending accounts. If you have questions please leave them below
Here is how I paid for adult braces and how I took advantage of my flexible spending account.
The total costs of my adult braces was $4400. My insurance (MetLife) did not cover braces for adults but they did cover $1000 toward orthodontic procedures. That brought my out-of-pocket cost to $3400. I put a deposit of $1000 which brought the total down to $2400. I then agreed to pay $108 for 23 months, with no interest, which would have paid off the balance. To save even more money I opened a flexible spending account.
I opened the flexible spending account for $888 which came out to about $34.15/bi-weekly. That $34.15 was taken out of each paycheck pre-tax for all of 2018. I decided to wait until the end of the year to make my claim from my flexible spending account. At the end of 2018 I received one reimbursement check for $888. I put that check directly toward my treatment balance.
So, I paid $108 to my orthodontist each month for 14 months which totaled $1512. At the same time I was also contributing $34.15/bi-weekly to my flexible spending account (pre-tax). Essentially, I used my flexible spending account as a tax-free savings account and I was able to pay off my braces in 14 months instead of 23 months.
Now let’s wrap this up
I hope that wasn’t too confusing. As I mentioned above there is so much to explain when it comes to flexible spending accounts and I’m happy to do a post dedicated to that in the future. I have had my adult braces for almost 3 years. It was supposed to be 2.5 years but the pandemic pushed back my timeline. Throughout that time I have gotten so many questions about the cost of braces and how I was able to pay for mine so I decided to write this post.
I was able to take advantage of the flexible spending account, my dental insurance and interest-free payments so I didn’t pay any extra out of pocket costs for my adult braces. If you are considering adult braces and you do not have access to these options I highly recommend that you avoid putting this expense on any type of credit that will accrue interest. I know I’ve said this several times but interest, especially on a large purchase like adult braces, is going to end up costing you a lot more money. Try saving up your money or even start a side hustle so you can pay for your braces upfront. Check out my list of 21 side hustle ideas HERE.