Is a braces payment plan a good idea?

Young woman at orthodontist's office, discussing a braces payment planImage: Young woman at orthodontist's office, discussing a braces payment plan

In a Nutshell

If you’re considering braces for your child or yourself but can’t afford to pay the full costs upfront, you may be thinking about a braces payment plan. Make sure to consider all your options first, and if you decide a payment plan is the best choice, look for a plan that will minimize any interest payments.
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The cost of braces may give you sticker shock: According to the Pennsylvania Dental Association, braces will usually set you back between $3,000 and $10,000.

This type of upfront cost can put braces out of reach for many people. And your dental insurance plan may not cover the full or even partial cost of braces.

So how are you going to pay for them? Maybe you’re considering the braces payment plan offered by your orthodontist. We’ll review what you should consider before you take on this type of debt and what some of your other options may be.

Monthly payment plans for braces

Braces are costly, but they may be worth the investment. According to the American Association of Orthodontics, straight teeth can contribute to positive self-esteem. Braces may also improve the ability to bite, chew food and even speak — as well as contribute to healthier teeth and fewer incidents of gum disease and decay, according to the AAO.

If you’re ready for braces, you should check with your dental insurance company first. While your insurance plan may not offer orthodontics coverage, it’s worth checking to see if it will cover any part of the treatment.

Once you have an estimate of what you’ll have to pay out of pocket, you can begin researching braces payment plans. If you’ve already selected an orthodontist you like, you can ask them if they offer braces payment plans.

A financing plan would allow you to spread out the cost of treatment into monthly payments over a period of time. And some orthodontists even offer 0% financing plans to their patients.

If you’re considering a braces payment plan through your orthodontist, make sure to ask if they’re using a third-party provider to offer you credit or if they handle billing in-house. You’ll also want to understand what payment methods they accept and if you can set up automatic billing.

But before you make a final decision, you may want to consider other types of financing.

Other ways to pay for braces

If your orthodontist doesn’t offer payment plans or you just want to explore another route, you may have other options to spread out the cost of braces.

Personal loan

Another financing option is to apply for a personal loan. You can apply for a personal loan through a bank, credit union or online lender. You may also want to look into lenders that offer medical loans.

You’ll need strong credit scores to qualify for the best rates, but like a braces payment plan through your orthodontist, personal loans also allow you to spread payments out over a set period of time.

Credit card

Another option to consider is paying for the treatment with a credit card. Taking on long-term high-interest credit card debt isn’t usually a good idea because you may end up paying a lot of interest and struggle to repay the debt.

But if you qualify for an introductory 0% APR offer and are confident you can pay off the full amount before the intro rate expires, it may be a good option.

Is a braces payment plan a good idea?

Whether a braces payment plan is a good idea depends on your personal and financial circumstances. Here are four things you should consider before committing to a monthly payment plan.

1. Have you gotten multiple quotes?

It may be a good idea to get a second opinion from another orthodontist. Different orthodontists may recommend different treatment plans, which could mean different costs.

And the price of treatment can vary from one orthodontist to another. The American Association of Orthodontists says that most orthodontists offer free consultations, so it might not cost you anything to get quotes from a couple of different practices.

2. Can you afford the monthly payments?

One of the most important things you should consider is whether you’re able to afford the payments. If you take out a personal loan or a credit card and can’t make your monthly payments on time, your credit will take a hit.

Take the time to review your budget and decide whether a payment plan makes sense for you financially or if you’d be better off saving up the funds.

3. How much interest will you end up paying?

You should also consider how much money the payment plan will end up costing you in interest. If you can qualify for 0% financing from your orthodontist’s office, then taking out a monthly payment plan may be worth it.

But if your only option is to charge the cost of braces to a credit card — and you don’t have an intro 0% APR offer available to you — then it’s probably best to wait and save up the money for treatment.

4. Can you receive a discount for paying in full?

If you have the funds on hand and can pay in full, you may be able to save money on the cost of braces. Ask your orthodontist if they offer a discount for paying in full upfront.

A prepayment discount could add up to substantial savings. For instance, if the treatment costs $6,000 and you receive a 10% discount, you’ll save $600 overall.

What’s next?

Committing to a braces payment plan is a personal financial decision. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you mull it over.

  • Does my orthodontist offer a discount for paying in full?
  • Could I make a sizeable down payment to cut down on the monthly payments?
  • Can I use money from a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) to help with payments?
  • Have I sought out a second opinion from another orthodontist?
  • Does my current orthodontist offer an interest-free financing plan?
  • Can I qualify for a low-interest personal loan or intro 0% APR on a credit card?
  • If I’m considering taking on a payment plan, can I afford the monthly payments?
  • Does it make more sense for me to wait and save to pay for treatment in full?

About the author: Jamie Johnson is a Kansas City-based freelance writer who specializes in finance and business. She covers a variety of personal finance topics, including building credit, credit cards, personal loans and student loans… Read more.