Does Medicaid Cover Braces?

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Licensed DDS

Table of Contents

  1. Medicaid Plans
  2. Dental Coverage
  3. Braces Coverage
  4. Ortho Insurance
  5. Ortho Care Payment
  6. Medicaid for Braces
  7. References

If you are covered by a Medicaid health plan, dental coverage may or may not be included. Unfortunately, states are not required to provide dental coverage to adults, though they may decide to do so.

Children who are insured by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are covered, in every state, to receive routine dental screenings and medically necessary dental services. The specifics of what constitutes “medically necessary” vary by state.

Medicaid Health Plans

As of June 2020, 68 million people in the United States receive health care coverage through Medicaid. Medicaid provides affordable health coverage to qualifying low-income adults, children, elderly individuals, people with disabilities, and pregnant women.

Medicaid is funded in part by the federal government and in part by each state. States must meet federal requirements for how Medicaid health plans are administered, though states have some discretion over which benefits they choose to offer.

For adults, dental care coverage varies by state. States can choose whether they provide dental benefits or not. Again, states are required to provide dental benefits to all children who receive health coverage through Medicaid and CHIP.

Medicaid Dental Coverage

Children covered by Medicaid and CHIP automatically receive dental benefits as part of the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit. Children must receive a referral from their primary doctor to see a dentist for routine dental exams.

These basic dental services must be provided to children covered by Medicaid:

  • Dental health maintenance
  • Pain relief services
  • Treatment of infections
  • Teeth restoration services

In addition to the above basic services, all services that are determined medically necessary must be covered. During routine screenings, for example, conditions that require additional treatment might be discovered. The costs of those medically necessary treatments must be covered by Medicaid. What is considered to be medically necessary, however, varies by state.

According to Medicaid.gov, less than half of states currently provide comprehensive dental care to adults. Most states do provide some level of coverage for emergency dental services, but there are unfortunately no minimum requirements for adult dental coverage.

Braces are not typically considered to be a medical necessity, though children from low-income families may still qualify for coverage.

Medicaid Coverage for Braces

If your braces, or your child’s braces, are deemed to be medically necessary, they may be covered by Medicaid. In general though, only medically necessary services are covered, so if you are looking for braces for purely aesthetic reasons, it will be tough to get coverage.

Even if children could benefit from braces, unless it is noted as necessary for a clear medical reason, coverage is hard to come by.

Some states do provide braces for low-income children. To find out if you live in one of these states, contact your Medicaid caseworker or state health department.

Orthodontic Insurance

If the cost of braces is not covered by the Medicaid plan in your state, you could purchase a supplemental orthodontic insurance plan. Even major medical insurance plans rarely include orthodontic coverage for adults and only some offer coverage for children under 18.

Supplemental orthodontic insurance for braces covers the cost of braces for reasons beyond just medical necessity, such as the following reasons:

  • To straighten teeth
  • To close spaces between teeth
  • To correct bite irregularities
  • To properly align lips and teeth

Orthodontic insurance plans can help to greatly reduce the overall cost of braces, though they will not likely cover the full cost. These plans are meant to supplement the costs of devices, like braces, that are used to fix abnormalities in the teeth or jaw. Orthodontic insurance plans are offered by most major insurance companies.

How to Pay for Braces or Other Types of Orthodontic Care

Braces can come with a price tag of up to $8,000 or more. Few families have the financial means to pay that much out of pocket.

Fortunately, there are ways to make the cost of braces more affordable. Consider these ways to get braces at a lower price tag:

Apply For Free Braces
Organizations, such as Smiles Change Lives, offer programs that cover the costs of braces for children ages 7 to 18. You must apply to be part of the program, meet certain qualifications, and pay a $650 financial investment per child.
Apply For A Medicaid Or CHIP Grant
For families that are near the poverty line, additional Medicaid and CHIP grants are sometimes available to help cover health care expenses. You will need to check with your state’s Medicaid plan to see if your family qualifies.
Visit A School Dentistry Program
Many universities around the country, such as the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine or the University of California San Francisco School of Dentistry, offer high-quality dental and orthodontic services from well-trained students and staff at affordable prices.
Ask About A Payment Plan
If your family does not qualify for any programs that offer grants or free braces, ask your orthodontist about setting up a payment plan. While you will still have to pay for the braces yourself, paying in installments can make braces slightly more affordable.

Medicaid for Braces

Medicaid insurance offers affordable health coverage for millions of Americans. Unfortunately, braces are not typically covered by Medicaid. If you or your child needs braces, you may need to get creative about how you pay for them.

Before you pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for braces, explore some of the available options to reduce the costs. If those options don’t work out, you can always purchase a supplemental orthodontic plan.

You can also look into other forms of orthodontic treatment that are more affordable, such as doctor-monitored, at-home aligners. You may be able to get the straight smile you want with a shorter treatment timeline and lower overall cost than braces. While some cases of misalignment may be too severe to correct with aligners, this form of tooth straightening works well for most people with mild to moderate cases of misalignment.

Everyone deserves to have healthy and straight teeth. Don’t let the cost of braces stop you from getting the smile you want.

References

Dental Care. Medicaid.gov.

Medicaid. Medicaid.gov.

Organizations That Help Low-Income Children to Get Braces. (July 2017). Pocket Sense.

Supplemental Orthodontic Insurance for Braces: A Must-Have. (June 2020). Health Markets.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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