Grants and Subsidies for Braces: Making Orthodontic Care Accessible

Orthodontic treatment, including braces, can be prohibitively expensive for many families. However, various grants, subsidies, and programs are available to help offset the costs, making braces more accessible to those in need. Here’s an in-depth look at the options available for obtaining financial assistance for braces.

1. Nonprofit Organizations

Smiles Change Lives: Smiles Change Lives is a nonprofit organization that helps families afford braces for their children. The program provides braces for children aged 7-21 who meet specific financial and clinical criteria. To qualify, families must demonstrate financial need and the child must have a moderate to severe orthodontic problem. The application process involves a non-refundable fee, and approved applicants pay a small portion of the treatment cost, typically between $650 and $750.

The Smile for a Lifetime Foundation: The Smile for a Lifetime Foundation offers free braces to children and young adults who cannot afford them. The organization partners with orthodontists across the country who donate their services. The selection process is based on financial need, and applicants are required to submit an application, including photos and a recommendation letter.

2. State and Federal Programs

Medicaid and CHIP: Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide medical coverage for low-income families, which in some cases includes orthodontic treatment. Eligibility and coverage vary by state, but if the braces are deemed medically necessary, these programs can cover the costs. Families should check with their state’s Medicaid or CHIP office to determine if their child qualifies for orthodontic coverage.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): For children who receive SSI due to a disability, Medicaid coverage can often extend to orthodontic care if it is deemed necessary for the child’s health. This route requires thorough documentation from healthcare providers demonstrating the need for braces.

3. Dental Schools and Community Health Clinics

Dental Schools: Many dental schools offer orthodontic services at a reduced cost. These schools, such as the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Dentistry and New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry, provide care from students supervised by experienced orthodontists. The fees are typically lower than private practice rates, making braces more affordable for families.

Community Health Clinics: Some community health clinics offer orthodontic services on a sliding scale based on income. These clinics may receive funding through federal or state grants to provide affordable dental care. Families can locate a nearby clinic through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) website.

4. Employer-Sponsored Programs and Insurance

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs): Employers may offer FSAs and HSAs as part of their benefits packages. These accounts allow employees to set aside pre-tax dollars for medical expenses, including orthodontic treatment. Using these funds can significantly reduce the out-of-pocket cost of braces.

Dental Insurance Plans: While many dental insurance plans have limitations on orthodontic coverage, some do offer benefits for braces. It’s important for families to review their dental insurance policy to understand the extent of coverage and any limitations or waiting periods involved.

5. Crowdfunding and Community Support

Crowdfunding: Platforms like GoFundMe can be used to raise money for braces. Families share their story and financial needs with a broad audience, often receiving donations from friends, family, and even strangers. This can be a useful way to gather the necessary funds for orthodontic treatment.

Local Charities and Civic Organizations: Local charities, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, and other civic organizations sometimes offer financial assistance for medical needs, including orthodontics. Families can contact these organizations to inquire about available support.


Access to orthodontic care, including braces, should not be limited by financial barriers. Through a combination of nonprofit organizations, government programs, educational institutions, employer-sponsored plans, and community support, families can find the necessary resources to afford braces. By exploring these options, more children can achieve the healthy, beautiful smiles they deserve.