The cost for braces may include more than just straightening teeth

Angie's List: Prepare to pay for perfect smile

TAMPA - No question about it - orthodontia is expensive. The cost to straighten your or your child's teeth will easily run into the thousands of dollars. No one knows that better that Tamara Vergon. She just put her third child through the treatment. And it definitely took a bite out of the family's budget. "My husband always jokes that that's his motorcycle in their mouths," she said. "The motorcycle that he won't have now for a while. They were all about the same and the total was right around $18,000 between 18 and 20 thousand for all three. So it was very expensive."

Angie's List founder, Angie Hicks, said When planning for the cost of braces you need to think about the entire process. "A lot of times people think about the cost for the braces alone, but there could be dental work that needs to be done ahead of time. Do they need any teeth pulled or a deep cleaning? Also, don't forget a lot of times after braces there is a retainer that children need to wear as well and if they lose it, you're going to add that to your bill as well."

The following factors can affect the cost of your dental investment.

  • Types of braces: Braces come in a variety of types, which directly determine how much you'll pay. It's best to do your research on the pros and cons of each before making a decision.
  • Dental issues: As Hicks mentioned, in addition to getting braces and having them adjusted, dental preparation is often needed and will affect your overall cost. Sometimes you'll need standard dental work, like a deep cleaning or filling replacement, before the orthodontist puts your braces on. In some cases, you'll require teeth extractions to facilitate the movement of your teeth. If you need to wear headgear before brackets and wires are put on your teeth, this will increase the cost. You may also need to buy a retainer after the braces are removed to keep your teeth from returning to their original spot.
  • Length of service: The more preparation and dental work you require, the longer the process will take to complete, and the more you'll pay. Once your braces are on, you typically have to see the dentist once a month to have the braces adjusted. The longer the process drags out, the costlier it will be.
  • The dentist: Not all orthodontists charge the same prices for their services. Things such as operational overhead will affect how much they charge. Money saving tip: Shop around before making a choice. If the dentist accepts your insurance (and assuming your insurance covers a portion of the cost), you can end up paying significantly less. In addition, ask if the price of braces is negotiable. Check the price in your area with Healthcare Blue Book, a free online guide that lists fair prices for healthcare services. The fair price is what a health service provider typically allows from insurance companies as full payment, which is substantially less than the billed amount.

"Be a savvy consumer," said Hicks. "A little bit of time spent getting multiple estimates - and don't forget you can also negotiate - can be time well spent."

And remember. It will all be worth it. Take it from Vergon's daughter, Kelsey. "After I got my braces off I was so happy! Before, I was self-conscious about my teeth and my smile but afterwards I really liked the results."

Another reason to smile: Now they can start saving for her husband's motorcycle!

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