I Knew Braces Were Expensive But Damn

I Knew Braces Were Expensive But Damn


Orthodontics came in fast and hot at my house this winter, like a financial nuclear bomb that I didn’t even see coming. I swear, when I was growing up, these conversations didn’t happen until seventh or eighth grade. But here I am, leaving my 8 and 10-year-old’s sons first orthodontic appointments (per dental recommendation), and while there are a lot of future decisions to be made, one thing is very clear: this sh*t is expensive as hell!

Like, how did I miss this? I walked into the first appointment with very few expectations. I mean, I knew braces weren’t cheap, but I think I underestimated the whole thing. At least I assumed our dental insurance would cover a big chunk rather than a (very) small portion.

The office was lovely, with super friendly, personable staff and video games; my kids were in heaven. While our cold, quiet dentist’s office waiting room reeks of depression and doom, this place felt upbeat and welcoming. There was a creatively decorated dry-erase board on the wall welcoming all the new clients, a before-and-after smile slideshow on the big screen, and an acrylic case filled with potential patient prizes earned by hitting teeth-changing milestones.

My two kids headed in happily to be checked; we were all so naive. The appointment was quick — fifteen minutes, maybe? The doctor sat us all down and took a few minutes to go over the quick X-rays that were taken and to discuss the findings.

My oldest was told to come back in a year and that he most likely would require a little straightening, but there is nothing to worry about right now. My second, on the other hand, was a different story. Crowding, gaps, an articulation issue, palette expanders, and possibly early teeth pulling and braces. Fantastic. The next step was to come back for a full pallet-expander workup.

Easy enough, right? In and out in 25 minutes with a few games of Pac-Man under our belt. But as I grabbed my coat and headed toward the door, the lovely, friendly receptionist called my name. “Ma’am,” she said, “You can stop by my desk on your way out to pay for the x-rays.”

She turned her monitor slightly as I approached the counter so I could see the charge as I walked closer. “That will be $495. You can pay today with cash, check, or card.”

I actually think my eyes popped out of my head as I stared at the screen. How did no one warn me that this experience would be such a financial hit right from the start? We have dental insurance, so why isn’t that kicking in? It’s not very often that I go into a place totally unprepared to spend $500 and then fork it over moments before the exit.

About a week after this appointment, I was presented with our “Phase I Plan.” This part of the plan includes only a palette expander and will set me back a whopping three grand. I mean, how the hell am I going to afford the reminder of the procedures and whatever else my other three kids need down the line?! At this rate, I might have to remortgage my home for my kid’s orthodontics. Maybe a little tooth crowding isn’t so bad?!

No, no. I’ll do it. I’ll stick to the payment plans to get my people through the process. It still seems crazy that it is so astronomically expensive to straighten someone’s teeth. So, if your dentist just told you to grab your kid an orthodontic consult — go in with a little less naivety than I did. The good news is your kid will be fine, and they might even have fun. The bad news is you might go broke. Good luck.

Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.





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