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I see ads for perfect teeth in only one or two visits to the dentist. How is orthodontic treatment different?

The ads you are seeing may be for veneers. They cover teeth and mask the problem, but do not address the structure in the mouth or how the upper and lower teeth meet. Veneers are not permanent. Many require removal of significant amounts of tooth enamel. If plaque collects where the veneer and the remaining natural tooth meet, the area will be susceptible to what is known as “recurrent decay,” more commonly known as cavities. 

Orthodontic treatment is far more than simply treating how teeth look. It’s about aligning teeth and jaws so that they meet and function effectively. It just so happens that when teeth and jaws are functioning well, they look good, too.

I am pregnant and want to begin orthodontic treatment. Is this OK?

Pregnancy brings on bodily changes that can affect the mouth. Soft tissues such as gums become more susceptible to infection. Discuss this question with your medical practitioner/physician and orthodontist before you start orthodontic treatment.

How much does orthodontic treatment cost?

The fee for orthodontic treatment is determined by a variety of factors, including the severity of the problem to be corrected as well as how long the treatment is expected to last. Fees may be different from orthodontist to orthodontist, and from one region to another. The type of device (braces, aligners, etc.) that is used in treatment may also affect the fee. When you consider the lifetime benefits of orthodontic treatment, it truly is a great value.

How much does insurance cover?

Insurance for orthodontic treatment is intended to cover a portion of the fee, not the entire fee. Check with your employer or your insurance company to determine your specific benefits.

Is free orthodontic care available for patients in need? Does the American Association of Orthodontists offer scholarships for braces?

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) does not provide funding for orthodontic treatment, but there are several programs that offer orthodontic treatment to patients in need at little or no cost.

The American Association of Orthodontists Donated Orthodontic Services Program (DOS) is offered to patients in need throughout the U.S. Applicants must meet financial need requirements.

Other U.S. programs providing orthodontic care to those who meet eligibility requirements: 

Smiles Change Lives and Smile for a Lifetime Foundation provide orthodontic treatment in many regions of the U.S.

Advantage Smiles for Kids – Washington, Oregon, and Idaho

The Colorado Orthodontic Foundation – for children in Colorado.

Assisting Children to Smile and Sunshyne Smiles Orthodontic Program – South Dakota 

Also check with your state or local dental society to ask if they are aware of any programs that exist in your area.

In Canada: 

Smiles 4 Canada – British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Labrador.

How do I find an orthodontist who takes Medicaid?

Contact the department within your state’s government that administers the Medicaid program and request a list of providers who are orthodontists.

If you have a Medicaid card, there may be a phone number to call for information. Your state’s Medicaid contact information might also be available online.

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is open exclusively to orthodontists – only orthodontists are admitted for membership. The only doctors who can call themselves “orthodontists” have graduated from dental school and then successfully completed the additional two-to-three years of education in an accredited orthodontic residency program.

When you choose an AAO orthodontist for orthodontic treatment, you can be assured that you have selected a specialist orthodontist, an expert in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics who possesses the skills and experience to give you your best smile. Locate AAO orthodontists through Find an Orthodontist at

Do I have to have insurance for orthodontic treatment?

Insurance is not required to have orthodontic treatment.

Are orthodontic expenses tax deductible as a medical expense?

Please check with your tax advisor for a response specific to your circumstances. In general, orthodontic treatment falls under the IRS description of medical and dental expenses that may be deductible from taxable income if the taxpayer meets the overall limits. Some people use an employer benefit called an FSA (flexible spending account) to cover some or all of their orthodontic expenses. FSAs are funded by pre-tax dollars and have an annual limit. Check with your employer to see if you can take advantage of this benefit.