Allysone McGreal still wonders whether her son Spencer really needed braces. “His jaw was a little asymmetrical — and it still is. We were erring on the side of caution.” Allysone decided to go through with treatment when her son was 12. The cost? $6,000!

Like many parents, McGreal wishes she had sought a second opinion. She was happy with the orthodontist recommended by her dentist. “But it was very expensive.”

Braces are not only costly. They also require a lengthy time commitment. Has a dentist recommended braces for your child? Here are some questions you’ll want answers to:

At what age should your child get braces?

Research is vital, says Dr. Virginia Luks, a Toronto-based orthodontist. The surge in orthodontists in major cities has led to different treatment philosophies.

Some practitioners begin treating children as young as 7, says Dr. Luks. She frowns upon the practice. “I find it discouraging to see these very young patients. Often, I would postpone treating them until the permanent teeth are in.” 

General dentists offer orthodontic services, without holding degrees in orthodontics. Their levels of expertise vary wildly. Dr. Luks warns parents to be careful.

Should you get a second opinion?

In short, yes. A consultation with an accredited orthodontist is best. They can determine whether your child needs braces. And they can diagnose the signs of a dental issue, such as:

  • An overbite (upper teeth cover lower teeth)
  • Overcrowding of teeth (teeth may overlap)
  • A top or bottom jaw that’s too small, too narrow or underdeveloped
  • Teeth that come in at odd angles and displace other teeth
  • An overjet (bunny or buck teeth)

Signs of an orthodontic issue can show up once adult teeth start coming in, says Dr. Luks. She recommends seeing an orthodontist around age 8.  “In some cases, kids may benefit from an early orthodontic treatment. But starting early means a second phase of treatment will be necessary. We can’t address all the issues until permanent teeth are in,” adds Dr. Luks. A treatment plan can be mapped out for later — usually around ages 12 to 13.

Looking for a top-rated orthodontist in your area?  

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How do you choose the best orthodontist?

Choosing an orthodontist requires investigating credentials, reputation, referrals and policies. Find out:

  1. Are they a trained orthodontist? Or a general dentist who has taken courses but does not have a degree in orthodontics? Have there been complaints? Find out from the college of orthodontists or dental surgeons in your province.
  2. Have you heard positive comments from parents of past patients?
  3. Who will apply your child’s braces:  the orthodontist or assistants?
  4. What is the orthodontist’s rationale for treatment? Can this dental issue get better by itself with time, or will it get worse?  Does this treatment fix a functional dental problem or just improve esthetics? 

How much do braces for kids cost in Canada?

Braces can cost anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000. The cost depends on the type of braces and the complexity of the treatment. 

Do you have access to an employee insurance plan through your work? It may help offset some of the cost of your treatment. Ask your orthodontist for a quote and reach out to your insurance provider. Your insurance provider will determine how much your plan covers. The amount not covered by insurance can be claimed as a tax credit when you file your taxes.

Don’t have group insurance? Dental insurance, included in a personal health insurance plan from Sun Life, can help offset the cost of dental expenses.

Hoping to bring down the cost of braces? These ideas may help:

  • Ask your orthodontist about setting up a more manageable monthly payment plan. Or ask if they offer a discount if you pay in full at the start of treatment. You may score a discount between 5% to 15%.
  • Enquire about discounts for appointments at certain times of the day.
  • Look into universities offering discounted dental treatments.

The payoffs of your child’s braces can include improved long-term dental function and higher self-esteem. “Kids who didn’t smile before can’t smile enough,” says Dr. Luks.

This article is meant to provide general information only. It’s not professional medical advice, or a substitute for that advice.