If you need to straighten your teeth, but you don't have any money, you might be looking for free braces. Let's not sugarcoat it — it's going to be difficult to find braces that are completely free, but it's not impossible.
In this article we'll go over the following information:
- Free braces programs
- Free braces on Medicaid
- Other ways to finance your braces
If you need braces we hope this article helps you find them for free, or as close to free as possible.
Table of contents
How much do braces cost?
Braces are an expensive treatment, but with a wide range of prices. There are lots of specialists and specific tools and materials that go into planning and executing treatment. You can have a quick look at the table below to see the costs for different types of orthodontic treatment:
Type of braces
Traditional metal braces
$2,500 - $7,500
$5,000 - $13,000
$3,000 - $10,000
In-office invisible braces
$3,500 - $8,500
At-home clear aligners
$1,200 - $5,000
Before you spend a lot of money on braces, keep in mind that having crooked teeth isn't necessarily a bad thing, and probably isn't negatively impacting your oral health. You can read more about what dentists think about the overuse of braces in this HuffPost article.
Free braces for kids
If you're looking for free braces for your children, or you yourself are under 18, your task has suddenly become much easier. Here are a few ways to find free braces for kids:
The first thing you should do is find out if you are on Medicaid, or eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid is essentially free healthcare provided under the Affordable Care Act for those whose income falls under the Federal Poverty Level.
It can be confusing even just to find out if you are eligible for Medicaid, so the best way to do so hassle-free is to contact a healthcare navigator. They will ask you about your income, and the number of people in your household, and let you know if you or your children are eligible for Medicaid. They can then help you sign up for Medicaid.
You can do all of this on your own, but the process can be confusing, and it's easy to mess up the health insurance application. You can find a healthcare navigator near you by going to this page: https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/ and entering your zip code.
Medicaid covers braces for children if it is considered medically necessary. That's why it's so important to find out if your children are eligible for this program.
You can read more about Medicaid and dental care in our full Medicaid dental guide.
The next thing to consider is dental insurance. There are many plans that offer coverage for braces for children who need them. You can find out more about dental insurance for braces in our guide here.
Smile for a Lifetime
Smile for a Lifetime is a charitable nonprofit that provides braces and orthodontic care to children from low-income families, as well as children in foster care or other less stable living situations.
Children and young adults between the ages of 8 and 19 may be eligible for this program. There is a $20 application fee, and later, there is another fee of $480. There are other qualifications that are required — which you can read more about on the Smile for a Lifetime website.
You can see them in action in the video below:
Smiles Change Lives
Children and young adults between 10 and 18 years of age can get braces from Smiles Change Lives, another charitable nonprofit organization. This program helps children from low-income families access orthodontic treatment at a lower cost.
The application process also requires a small fee, and the other requirements include:
- Have no more than 4 baby teeth
- Have good dental hygiene
- All cavities must be filled
- Meet financial requirements
- Pay $600 investment
How to get braces for free for adults
Finding free orthodontic care for adults is a much more difficult task than it is finding it for children. Your options are much more limited, but even so, there are some opportunities out there like Medicaid and free braces programs for adults. Let's have a look at some of them now.
How to get free braces with Medicaid
In a very small number of cases, adults may get free braces from Medicaid. First, you have to qualify for Medicaid. If you do, then you have to be able to prove that your malocclusion (another term for a misaligned bite and crooked teeth) is negatively affecting not just your mouth, but your overall health.
If you can prove this, then braces could be covered under the health insurance component of Medicaid — not under dental.
Examples of health problems that could be fixed with orthodontic treatment include:
- Repositioning teeth after a non-biting accident
- Treatment for sleep apnea
- Treating temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ/TMD)
Other free braces programs for adults
There aren't any nationwide free braces programs for adults. You'll have to look around near you to see what's available. Oftentimes, going to an orthodontic college may be your best bet. They won't offer completely free care, but they may provide considerable discounts.
For example, Boston University School of Dental Medicine offers affordable orthodontic fees as low as $160/month for adults. They also offer a 10% discount for families with multiple members being treated.
You can find dental and orthodontic schools in your area by using this search page provided by the American Dental Association.
Other ways to finance your braces
Okay, so it's pretty clear that if you're an adult, and you want braces to fix cosmetic problems, or bite problems that aren't affecting your overall health, you're going to have a difficult time finding free braces.
If you have some money, however, there are other options that we highly recommend you take a look at:
- Dental savings plans: For a monthly or yearly fee you get discounted dental and orthodontic treatment
- Dental payment plans: You can set up a payment plan with your orthodontist, to pay for your braces over time
- At-home aligners: These are meant for mild to moderate cosmetic fixes and can cost under $1,000 with payment plans available
- Dental loans: With a loan, you can pay upfront for your treatment, and then pay the loan back over time
Finding free braces for kids is possible if your child is on Medicaid and needs braces for medical reasons. There are also some nonprofits that offer free braces to children who come from low-income backgrounds.
If you are an adult looking for free braces, it's going to be more difficult. You may be able to get free braces from Medicaid if your dental problems are causing health problems that can be fixed with braces.
Otherwise, you can look at programs offered by dental and orthodontic schools, or consider other financing options.
Can you get braces for free?
Maybe. Children are more likely to be eligible for free braces than adults are, especially from charitable programs or Medicaid. Adults may be eligible for braces from Medicaid. But the better bet is to look for other ways to finance dental care, like discount plans, payment plans, or dental schools.
How do you get free braces with Medicaid?
Children can qualify for free braces with Medicaid if it's medically necessary. Adults can only get free braces with Medicaid if they have a health problem that braces could solve. If you have Medicaid, give your healthcare provider or insurance provider that you have through Medicaid a call to ask about your options.
What is the cheapest price for braces?
The cheapest braces are at-home clear aligners which can cost less than $1,000. This type of orthodontic treatment is meant only for mild to moderate cosmetic changes.
How do you get braces removed for free?
If you already have braces, there is no separate cost for getting them removed. Go back to the orthodontist who gave you your braces, and they will take them off for you.
Are there free braces programs near me?
You might be able to find dental and orthodontic colleges near you that offer discounted braces and orthodontic care. Occasionally, clinics may pop up offering treatment as well. Go to your local health center to stay up to date on offers near you.
Huffpost: Who needs braces? Socially Necessary vs. Medically Necessary Treatment. Consulted 15th April 2022.