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How to Afford Orthodontia

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Foster Child teen with Severe Overbite

Nov 2012

I am the new foster parent of a 15-year old boy with a severe overbite. He tries to hide his teeth by holding his lips over them or putting a hand over his mouth, and it saddens me to see him hiding his teeth this way; he is very self conscious and makes me delete any photos that show his teeth. His worker has told me that there is no funding for braces and the stipend I get from the county doesn't even cover his monthly expenses. This child has been moved around a lot and I can't help thinking that it's due in part to his appearance, he is a sweet kid. Has anyone dealt with a similar issue? I hesitate to take out a loan for orthodontics when I am struggling to make ends meet, plus ours is a new relationship and there's no guarantee he won't be moved again. Berkeley Foster Mom


I am a foster parent with experience in this exact issue. Can you believe it? That's why I love BPN.

I became a kin foster parent by surprise right before moving from San Francisco to Davis, so I was not experienced in the system AND not in our county, which makes it harder to get services. But I got my son braces, after also being told I couldn't. Things you can explore:

1) Denta-Cal. Find a Denta-Cal orthodontist and ask for an evaluation. Denta-Cal has a point system; if your teeth are bad enough, you get coverage for braces. It's got to be REALLY bad; since my son had had phase 1 of his braces while still with his bio mom, we didn't qualify. Make sure the orthodontist really knows his/her way around Dental-Cal.

2) Are you a San Francisco foster parent? There is actually a fund for this in San Francisco which none of our social workers had heard of. This fund paid for the whole thing with one check. The person who manages the fund is with the Human Services Agency, which was all I was told. I found this out from University of the Pacific Dental School, without even a name, and suddenly my social worker got it taken care of after months of my asking questions.

3) See what University of the Pacific's dental school will do for you. I personally was underwhelmed; my research suggests they're just another (expensive) Denta-Cal provider. But it's worth asking what they'd charge, if they have a relationship with your county, etc. Their ''discounted'' estimate was slightly higher than my Davis Dental-Cal provider's price.

4) Don't give up. I made more than 25 phone calls over a period of about 10 months before I got funding. Do not take no for an answer. Don't assume because your social worker says not that there is no option. Social workers are often well-meaning but wrong. If nothing else works, try calling orthodontists and asking if they have a charity program. Emphasize the difference they can make in your son's life.

Feel free to get my email from the moderator. Good luck and don't give up! fighting the good fight


My advice is to contact ALL of the local orthodontists in your area via email, explain your situation, send photos of the front and side of your foster kid's mouth, and see if anyone will do a probono case. I know there is a great orthodontist in Antioch who picks one ''scholarship'' case a year, and my guess is that there are more who do this. People really do like to change people's lives, and orthodontia is certainly one way to do that And, thank you, for fostering a teenager. Blessings to your and your family. wife of a dentist
I spoke with Shamorra in the office of my sons Orthodontist, Robert Iezman in North Berkeley. She said there is Berkeley Clinic Auxillary that will qualify your son and if approved, Dr. Iezman accepts these patients. However, he can go to other Orthodontists who accept these patients that may be more convenient to where you live, since going to your appointments often is what it takes! Call: Berkeley Clinic Auxillary is 510 525-7844. good luck. You are a good mom to figure this out for him. Smiles are so important.
University of the Pacific School of Dentistry in San Francisco might be an option. http://www.dental.pacific.edu Brenda
The Berkeley Clinic Auxiliary (BCA) subsidizes orthodontia. I learned of this organization (which has a thrift shop in Albany) through one of the orthodontists at Berkeley Orthodontics, which makes referrals to BCA. He advised making an appointment at one of their offices and suggested that their North Berkeley office at 910 Ensenada would be best (510) 528-1511. Bring up BCA at the appointment, and the rest should happen automatically. It could however be a concern if the child is moved out of the area, because the fee structure would likely not be accepted by another orthodontic practice if the treatment has to be transferred. Presumably BCA takes referrals from other orthodontists as well, but I don't have any information about that. This sounds like a worthy effort and I wish you well with it. optimoms
My daughter sometimes volunteers at the Turnabout Shop on San Pablo near the El Cerrito Theater--the shop raises money for a program that provides orthodontic care for kids in need. I don't know how hard it is to get into the program, but I'm sure one of the Berkeley Clinic Auxiliary volunteers at the shop could give you info. (510) 525-7844. Diane
As a child in the foster care system, this child should be eligible for Medi-Cal and Denti-Cal. I would encourage you to contact UCSF's Center for Craniofacial Anomolies: http://dentistry.ucsf.edu/patient-services/directory-of-clinics/center-for-craniofacial-anomalies They can determine the best course of treatment and are based in UCSF's School of Dentistry. Thanks for being a concerned foster mom. jr
I just happened to be sitting in my son's dentist office when I read your post. I read it to the well known Dr. Katsura and he asked that I put you in touch with his practice administrator Mahi Amerino it seems they work closely with a practice that may be able to help. I would be so, so happy that if by my paying for my teen sons cleaning it could extend to having your teen son become a proud, smiling and confident young man. Many thanks for taking one of our teens under your mama wing ! Monika

How to afford orthodontia?

Sept 2011

After two consults over the summer, we have concluded that my daughter does need braces, sometime in early to mid-2012. I don't have insurance coverage, and the cost is amazing! I got fees ranging from $4,600 up to $5,400. Has anyone else been in this situation? What have you done to pay for this? Any suggestions gratefully received! Thanks.


Orthodontia is tough! You have probably discovered that most dental insurance does not cover orthodontic work (though some will help some). Most orthodontists will allow you to pay over time. For my son's work, his insurance paid $1000 (his lifetime benefit), we paid $500 down and then $100/month for two years (these are approximate figures). We worry our daughter may have to start soon. And then either or both could need 'touch up' work later.

On the other hand, if there is a way to swing it, your kids will thank you. My son's teeth are gorgeous and his jaw is shaped better for eating and and the work improved his jawline. I wish my parents had done it! ortho poor


I hear you. We have insurance, but it only covers the first $1000. Many employers allow you to set aside money pre-tax (up to $5000/year) to pay for medical expenses. Depending on what tax bracket you are in, that can save you up to 35%. --parent of twins (who both need braces)

What if I don't get my son braces?

Aug 2011

My 10-yr-old has a small mouth and was diagnosed with crowding of his teeth early on. He has space maintainers now but will need braces. His insurance pays very little and I know I won't be able to afford it. Orthodontist wants a set amount per month ongoing and can't cut me a deal or recommend any affordable alternate treatment. Should I try getting referred to a different ortho? What happens if I let his teeth come in crowded in hopes they can be corrected later? Are there affordable ways to address this?


The world will not come to an end! Your son will likely end up with more cavities because it is harder to get in between his teeth, but unless he has an extremely small jaw there will probably not be any problem other than a cosmetic one.

I did do the whole ortho package for both of my children starting at 9 years old and went through making monthly payments for 2 years on each. The process is shorter when they are young and about 50% of the time it means you are done. The other 50% of the time you have to pay again for more work because the teeth shift as the kids age. Plenty of people wait until the kids are in high school, plenty don't do it and let the child make their own choice as an adult (and pay for it themselves).

Don't feel pressured into having to go one particular path - most of us grew up without and we survived! Maggie


Hi, I'm a dentist who is currently a SAHM. I know that braces nowadays, especially in the Bay Area, are very expensive. However, I'm not sure if you were informed that at 10 years old, you are catching this window of opportunity where your child's bone is still developing. Getting braces now can utilize the growth spurt and the teeth that are still coming in to align properly, rather than waiting after all the teeth are out and moving them around later. I had to get braces twice myself, and although controversial, some people believe that getting braces can be traumatizing to roots of the teeth if the movement is too rapid. Which means, shorter roots, and less stable teeth. Although it's been 10+ years since I've completed braces myself, I feel that my teeth rock a little.

If the current orthodontist doesn't have any more affordable ways to treat your child, I don't think it would be wrong to get a second or third opinion. Although, make sure you do the research on the orthodontist, more affordable doesn't always mean better.

One more suggestion, if it's possible, you can try the dental schools in San Francisco- UCSF and UOP both have orthodontic programs. To be a patient, you may need extra patience. All the residents in the programs are graduated dentists with dental licenses, but they are training to be orthodontists. Usually it is a bit more affordable, but you may need to jump through more hoops as far as school protocols and getting faculty approval. Good luck! vh


My pre-teen needs braces - we can't afford it!

June 2009

My preteen son has medical insurance through his dad, but not dental insurance. I am low income and have no medical or dental insurance myself. His dentist has told us that he will need braces for his teeth. Cost is $6,000. I am divorced and my ex-husband and I share all the costs related to our son. Needless to say, I cannot afford to pay even half of this. Is there not a way to reduce the cost of braces for low income people? I appreciate your input in this matter. Would like to have affordable braces


I had to get braces for both of my boys, whew! Expensive! But I did research it here on BPN and elsewhere and found Dr. Kevin Carrington in Oakland. His price was less than half of the other quotes I got! Also, he is not over-agressive in his practice, or try to talk you in to fixes you don't need. He's located on Broadway at 17th, his phone number is 548-4746. He also works on payment plans for most of the amount. Good luck! two boys in wires
Try University of the Pacific, San Francisco for low cost braces. I believe they offer braces on a sliding scale. Marie
I don't know how you can get financial assistance with paying for the braces but I can tell you that 6K sounds like a lot! We are paying $3,800 or thereabouts for both our kids at Berkeley Orthodontics. That seems to be about the going cost (+/-) of the places I checked out recommended by our dentist. While that won't help assist you it might reduce the cost 30% just by going to another orthodontist. We are quite happy at Berkeley Orthodontics. Good luck. Tracey
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