22 answers

Am I Paying Too Much up Front for Orthodontics?

This is my 1st experience with orthodontics and I'm wondering if what I'm being asked to pay for a "deposit" is normal. My daughter has to get "Phase 1" treatment (ie. spacers, retainer, braces, etc.) The cost of the entire treatment plan is $3600. The orthodontic office is asking us to pay $2000 up front before they will even start the process. My daughter is only 7. She will start with the spacers but won't be needing the braces until more teeth come in at around age 12. I am wondering why I have to pay so much now for something that won't even be completed until 5+ years down the line. What if we move or their office closes or something? I'm just wondering if this is normal because it set off some flags for me. Any insight into this process and if this is normal would be appreciated. I want to take care of my daughter's teeth but manage our money responsibly at the same time.

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I would wait until all of her teeth came in. I had mine when i was in 7th grade but I taught kids in 4th grade who started getting theirs as young as 7 years old. The problem is that they were told they stood a chance of having them put back on later when all of their teeth came in. That made NO sense to me, but I wasn't their parent. I'd wait on it till she gets older.

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I think I would definitely call other orthodontists to get a quote from them and see if their office has similar rates.

Best of luck with everything.

More Answers

Get a second ( or third + opinion). My son had a slight overbite and some crowding and the 1st ortho we took him to wanted to do a three yr treatment with head gear at night, etc. We thought that was excessive considering his problems didn't seem THAT bad; so we took him to another ortho -- 9 mos in braces and he was done!
Age 7 seems a little young, but sometimes early treatment is necessary to prevent major problems later. Deposits are normal, but $2000 seems excessive. Do you have dental insurance? If so, the deposit is usually your deductible amount. I would call orthos in your area to see what the 'normal' practice is.

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I went through all this when my daughter was in 1st grade and she is now in 4th. I went to see multiple orthodontists and found that this Phase 1/Phase 2(which is braces) to be overwhelming, invasive and expensive. I highly recommend checking out Dr. Joseph Sciarra in Woodland Hills at ###-###-####. He came highly recommended and I have been so pleased. My daughter got a "retainer" to fix a cross bite the summer before 2nd grade and that is it so far. She will get braces later but he feels the mouth has lots of time to grow. I haven't paid him a cent for the retainer as that will be applied when she gets braces. Good Luck - I'd go see him even if just for another opinion.

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I would wait until all of her teeth came in. I had mine when i was in 7th grade but I taught kids in 4th grade who started getting theirs as young as 7 years old. The problem is that they were told they stood a chance of having them put back on later when all of their teeth came in. That made NO sense to me, but I wasn't their parent. I'd wait on it till she gets older.

1 mom found this helpful

M., That's a good question, so glad you asked that.

Off on a tangent here: I don't have kids that need braces, much less at their current ages.
BUT.... if anyone knows, WHY ON EARTH do kids this YOUNG need braces AND for so many years???? It was never started that young when I was a kid. I had gotten braces when I was in 7th grade...but since then, my jaws have changed and as well as my my teeth. SO, the alignment/braces I had back then is sort of moot/useless... because now as an adult... I have to STILL wear retainers! Because as my Dentist said, the teeth STILL move around and even back to their original positions- that the jaw is NOT static.

AND, at these young ages... they don't have 'permanent' teeth yet, and their 'baby-teeth' are still falling out AND their jaw/bone structure is STILL changing AND growing... so I don't quite understand 'why' they need all this stuff "now?" I have had many friends and other Moms at my daughter's school talk about it and wonder the same thing? But they figure it is something you 'have to do', and that it just the way it is?

Does anyone know??? I am really wanting to know why "braces" are started on children at younger and younger ages???

As far as the up-front payment... I would really shop around, and see if other Orthodontists give the "same" diagnosis and regime about your daughters teeth.

All the best,

1 mom found this helpful

Seven seems way too young...no one mentioned that orthodontists and dentists do care about people's mouths and smiles, but they're also in it for the money as well, believe me...we have four kids...two oldest went through the different phases of orthodontia...but at like age 10 - 12...and we never had to put that kind of money up front. Then our twins came along, and sure enough...appeared to have teeth issues...my twin daughter needed a jaw expander which we paid for and the ortho doc said she'd need braces once all her adult teeth were in...12 - 14 or so, also my twin son needed a couple teeth removed which was done around 9 or 10. (Each child had some teeth removed to ready their mouth for orthodontia work and since the doctor said they'd definitely need braces as teenagers). We ended-up moving out of state when the twins were 14 years old so we didn't get around to getting them the braces that the ortho doc said they would definitely need...guess what? Their teeth look great...both of them, with NO braces...they're 17 in a week! I'd advise waiting and seeing and NOT putting that kind of money up front ever! Get another opinion as others have already mentioned!

My 3 (2 nieces and nephew) all had orthodontic work done at a young age...7 - 8...and the different phases were done. NOW that all three are adults...(youngest being 19), ALL 3 of them had to have braces TWO different times because they were done too early. And yes, they had to pay for the braces the SECOND time around, as they did the first...along with all the head-gear, etc. What a pain and expense!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi M., You are looking at a contract for $3600, minus the down payment of $2000 that leaves $1600. Are you paying $100/month? for 16 months. That's probably the time your daughter will be in the phase one of treatment. Then what is the second phase? How long and about when does that start? you can and should get another consultation for peace of mind and a consensus on the extraction of teeth and possible outcome. Those are not the only costs, $ and time, her hygiene and committment to elastics or head gear, and extractions and keeping appointments are part of it. If you aren't sure wait longer and see what happens. I saw alot of cases as a dental hygienist and the ones with thumbsuckers and high palates are the toughest.
really think about your daughter and her capabilities and get your dentist and RDH's opinion too on whether she's really ready. Waiting isn't the worst thing either it gives you time to save...(now a financial consultant) good luck, Deb There are so many individual cases that have a different plan, but I read some of the responses and I wonder what planet they are on? Orthodontists generally don't "drop out of business" so find someone that has a reputation in your area, Dr. Adams and Dr. Whitaker in South Bay are wellknown and not going anywhere. Get some opinions and the spacers most likely are not the ones to prepare for brackets,but to hold the space from an early loss of tooth to reduce tipping. Learn some more and you will be fine.

Our daughters also need spacers and braces. The treatments will cover 26 months...our payment plan is broken down into 25 months, with no huge deposit at the beginning. Jungle of Smiles in Laguna Hills. The dentist & orthodontist share office space & it is such a wonderful environment. Peace to you, B.

I wouldn't do it I would find a different dentist. Bc you don't know if the dentist will move or close down in a year and then your out your money.

Why at 7 is your daughter having this work done. I was in 5th grade and 11 years old before ever going thru anything to fix my teeth I would consider waiting until all her baby teeth are gone and her adult teeth are in.

I beleive you are being RIPPED OFF! Why is she starting spacers at 7 and not getting brances until 12? How will she floss??? How will the spacers impact her other teeth growing in??? I was in 7th grade when I got my braces and got the spacers a week or two before. My sister just got hers same thing a week or 2 before. Forget the money up front (I do believe it is way too much up front), why is she having this "treatment" so spaced out? Will she be doing any followup the whole time? Find a new reputable ortho. I am sure you can get reccommendations on here.

I think I would definitely call other orthodontists to get a quote from them and see if their office has similar rates.

Best of luck with everything.

Are you sure the entire cost is 3600? or just phase 1. If it is the entire cost, I would go somewhere else. My daughter is in ortho and our phase 1 2600, but were not asked for a down only monthly payments drawn directlyout of our account. I have worked in the orthodontic field and that sounds fishy to me. Get a second opinion
Good luck
K. E.

My advice would be to keep looking. Some orthodontists are much more expensive than others... in my experience, that's usually for a reason. For my son, I was willing to pay, but the downpayment was a considerably smaller percentage. Phase one (which included the Xrays, diagnostics and plan, spacers, a jaw expander and the first set of braces/retainers) was about $3600. I believe I had to put down a few hundred (I put down more to keep the monthly costs lower). The second phase cost more (included a lot of oral surgeries, braces, retainers and the like... my boy's mouth was a hot mess!), and I believe I had to put down closer to a grand. This was at Dr. Sauter's office in Upland, but I know he also had one in Orange County, too.

I am 2 weeks away from getting my adult braces off....yay! In the course of the 18 months that I have had my braces I have asked my orthodontist a lot of questions about when to start bringing my kids in for evaluations.

He said to start bringing them in for "evaluations" at age 7. He usually doesn't do anything to their teeth at that age UNLESS there are major issues going on with the baby teeth or unless all of their adult teeth are already in, but that is very rare. If there are no major issues, the second evaluation would be when they are about 12. If they need braces or stuff done, that's the age that it's best to do so because the adult teeth are in. After that the next evaluation would be when they are adults to see if their bite has moved.

My braces cost $5500. But that includes everything. We paid up front to save about $300. And if we moved or changed offices, they would refund me on a prorated basis.

I would definitely see if you can pay monthly, ask about their refund policy, and get a detailed list of what is included for the price. And if you are having doubts, check out other orthodontists.

Ask your dentist, your kids dentist, and any of your friends who have dealt with braces for recommendations. I completely trust my dentist so I asked him for a referral. He recommended the ortho I have know. He is awesome! Dr. Henry in Poway, CA.

I know that a large deposit is fairly normal (but I don't know HOW large), because my mom had to bring in a piece of govt paperwork that excluded us from having to pay the entire deposit because we were military and would be moving in 1-2 years, so we had to pay up front, at time of service for 100% of what was being done.

It was definitely more expensive to pay at time of service (because rates only go up), but it saved us thousands in unused services.

I'm interested to hear what others have to say though, because we're looking at orthodontia, and we sure don't have that govt. opt out/release form!!

In response to Susan:

My sister was in a bike accident when she was 5, flipped over the handlebars, and landed on her mouth...shoving her four front teeth all the way back into her soft palette (extracted), and her 4 growing adult teeth to the right and left in her mouth. So she had orthodontia for years and years fixing the resulting problems.

Accidents are the *probably* most common reason for early intervention orthodontia, followed closely by mouth deformations ((SEVERE under/over bites, that the best chance of "fixing" is during the growth cycle...to either encourage more bone growth in the jaw or less ... (and when I say severe, I mean the classic British "chinless wonders", or underbites so severe that chewing food is impossible, not the little bit most of us have in one direction or the other)... as well as cleft palettes, "shark teeth" - the double or even more rarely triple rows, etc.))

My son's only seven, and we're looking a braces in probably about 3 years, because all we've got are crooked teeth that don't impair eating/talking/breathing... so a cosmetic issue, not a medical one. I do know a lot of people though who start cosmetic stuff young, and that doesn't make a lot of sense to me, either!

some doctors want to secure you in in case you change your mind, since it's 5 years down the road. i say look elsewhere. personally, it's not fair to make you pay that much up front.

AND..it doesn't make any sense to have spacers now..at all. In fact, you don't know if her new teeth coming in may come in perfectly fine and she may not even need braces in the end.

Spacers are usually 2-3 weeks before the braces.

I am paying 100.00 dollars a month starting with no deposit. Where in the heck do you live? Why so expensive there?


Oh yeah. Just reading your post, I got red flags. That seems really expensive, and your right. What if you give them your money and they move or close. That's 5 years away. Alot can happen in 5 years. Just my opinion, but I would check out some other offices. It's important to feel comfortable with the ortho, I know, but you can't let them take advantage either. Good luck hunnie!

Dear M.:

First of all, I agree with all the responses below mine.

I want to offer an answer to your questions. First of all, no one goes to an orthodontist with a seven-year-old unless there's a significant problem (as a mama mentioned below) such as damage, defect or impending doom.

Impending doom?! Yes, I'm sort of kidding, but let me give you an example. When my daughter's front teeth came in, one front top tooth was behind a bottom toot and the other was in front of a bottom tooth. The teeth were rubbing and scraping and wearing big gaps in each other. This was not acceptable to us (they're right in FRONT!). She had to get braces to straighten them out and while they were at it, we got the palate expander. This mitigated further damage UNTIL regular treatment was begun which WAS after all the adult teeth had come in.

We paid about $2000 for this first phase and it was worth it because the damage was stopped in time (Well, sort of. I should've taken her in about a month or two sooner.) Once she reached puberty (about 12-13 years old), all her adult teeth were in so she was in the "window" where orthodontic work is most effective and permanent. This phase was also about $2000.

My son had no problems like that. He just has overcrowded teeth. He'll be getting his braces next month (he's 12) and they'll only be $3000 total.

First-time orthodontic evaluations are free. I'd recommend you see another doctor unless you're aware that your child has a problem such as what I mentioned or the other mama said below.

I'd recommend you only pay for the treatment you're getting right then. Be sure everything is itemized in writing in your contract: Are retainers included? All visits? Appliances? If this is for future braces and we move, how much money do we get back? How and when will we be refunded? Etc. IN WRITING.

Ask them this (because it worries me how you worded it above): Is the first phase $3600 and then I'll pay ANOTHER amount later for the second phase? How much do you project the second phase to be?

M., unless there's a significant problem, how is the $3600 worth it right now? I agree with your red flags!!!

Best wishes,


Your instincts are right. She is too young to be starting off with the procedures. Two, after the whole procedcure, and she becomes an adult, there are 80 to 85% of those who had braces as youngsters, ended up back to square one like they never had braces before, then they had to pay not only the amount they paid before or more to restart another whole new set of braces again. Yes, that is usually about the right prices and it various. It could be more too but its usually roughly between $2500 to $4500. I have dealt with so many adults who had braces as young youth coming back and looking bad. I have been in the field for years (20+) and have dealt with these type of cases. I strongly advise you to wait until your daughter is at least between 17yrs to 20yrs old. It's never too late. Better wait and its worth it than having someone putting pressure on you and lose out in the end. Three, you are right, I have had cases coming to my office of patients who paid up front, then to find out the dental business is either sold to a new owner who won't carry on the former patient treatments, but now they lost out on the money they paid upfront...and to wait five years later, with the economy situation, don't be surprise if you go through with this and you are told to pay more because prices are rising or that to match the incoming fund due to economy. SHE IS WAY TOO YOUNG AND I ADVISE YOU TO WAIT. Better late than sorry. You don't know what the future holds, but to be on the safe side, it's worth it. I'm speaking from experience I deal with for years now...

Listen to your inner voice. Get a second opion. That is a five year span. He could die in a plane crash. I say, "no way!" But, you have to decide.

God Bless!


#1 - your daughter may not need braces yet and you shouldn't have to pay for it yet. My daughter also needed spacers - and we paid just for that. Not the whole 1st phase fee. We waited several years for that.
#2 - both of my kids had braces and we paid $500 deposit for one and a $1000 deposit for the second (2 different offices). Our current office will waive the deposit if you want to pay interest on the balance.
#3 - I'm not totally in agreement with the two phase thing. I realize in some cases it's necessary. But not always. My son was supposed to do two phases and we waited and just did one phase. It worked out fine. Find out WHY you need two phases. And what will happen if you don't. And, get a second opinion. I think 7 is awfully young.

Don't do it. Get several consultations. That's what we did when my daughter got braces. We paid nothing at all up front - it was on a payment plan. We ended up spending $2,500, and her braces are off now and they did a great job. Some kids cost more because they need more work done, but she got one consultation that said it would cost $5,300! And they also said she would need headgear! No one does headgear anymore. So get several consultations, and make sure they have a payment pan.

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