Does Medicaid Cover Braces for All Ages?

Wondering, does Medicaid cover braces? The answer is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – it depends on factors such as age, medical necessity, and where you live. This article breaks down the conditions under which Medicaid covers braces, helping you understand the requirements and navigate the application process efficiently, without fluff or complex jargon.


Key Takeaways

  • Medicaid provides orthodontic coverage for individuals under 21 and limited coverage for adults when it’s medically necessary, with states determining specific eligibility and scope of services.


  • Medicaid’s criteria for braces coverage focus on medical necessity – including improvement of oral health, chewing, or speech – and generally prioritize patients under 21, with exceptions for adults in medically necessary cases.


  • The coverage and application process for Medicaid orthodontic services vary by state, and seeking an orthodontist who accepts Medicaid can involve online directories and non-profit resources for affordable care.

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Understanding Medicaid and Orthodontic Coverage

Medicaid is a government healthcare program designed to provide affordable health coverage to:


  • low-income adults
  • children
  • elderly individuals
  • individuals with disabilities
  • pregnant women who are eligible


Its goal is to ensure that these individuals have access to the healthcare they need, including dental benefits. It provides a lifeline for these individuals, providing extensive coverage for a range of medical services, such as orthodontic treatment.


Understanding Medicaid and Orthodontic Coverage

Orthodontic treatment, particularly for children, forms a significant part of what Medicaid offers. Medicaid covers braces to improve dental health. Dental braces serve a dual purpose – not only do they align teeth, but they also play a critical role in rectifying bite and tooth alignment, which holds significant importance for long-term oral health.


What is Medicaid?

Medicaid, established in 1965 alongside Medicare, is a government healthcare program that provides extensive medical coverage to individuals with low incomes. It does not directly administer healthcare but instead relies on private managed care plans to cover most beneficiaries. Medicaid reimburses healthcare providers, such as hospitals and doctors, for the services provided to eligible patients.

The Medicaid program is jointly funded by the federal and state governments, with the federal government providing a specified percentage of the program costs. Medicaid coverage encompasses a wide range of healthcare services, including:


  • Inpatient and outpatient hospital services
  • Physician services
  • Laboratory and x-ray services
  • Home health services
  • Early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment services


Orthodontic Treatment and Medicaid

Braces and other orthodontic treatments can be a significant investment. Luckily, Medicaid provides coverage for orthodontic treatment based on orthodontic and financial need.

Most notably, does Medicaid cover braces? Yes, it offers coverage for braces for children who are under the age of 21 through the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefits, which also include emergency dental services.

For adults, Medicaid provides coverage for orthodontic services only when they are considered medically necessary, such as in cases of severe misalignment of the teeth that impairs essential functions. Keep in mind that Medicaid does not cover braces for purely cosmetic reasons.

Medicaid’s Criteria for Braces Coverage

Medicaid has established certain guidelines for braces coverage. Firstly, braces are deemed medically necessary by Medicaid when they are used to treat or prevent a condition, injury, or symptoms that impact oral health, chewing, or speech. Braces may be deemed medically necessary when they are utilized to:


  • Reposition teeth for improved chewing function
  • Make bite adjustments for treating temporomandibular joint disorders
  • Prevent sleep apnea caused by teeth restricting airflow


Secondly, there are age restrictions in place. Medicaid coverage for braces is generally restricted to individuals who are under the age of 21. However, exceptions can be made if the braces are deemed medically necessary for adults.


Medical Necessity

The concept of ‘medical necessity’ is a key determinant in assessing eligibility for Medicaid’s orthodontic coverage. States define ‘medical necessity’ for braces as the treatment of a malocclusion (including craniofacial abnormalities/anomalies) that compromises the individual’s health.


How to get free braces with medicaid



Conditions that indicate ‘medical necessity’ for braces under Medicaid include functional impairment, restoration of optimal chewing function, and correction of bite issues. To establish ‘medical necessity,’ the documentation required may encompass additional dental records, X-rays, or letters from healthcare providers elucidating the medical necessity of orthodontic treatment.


Age Requirements

The age of the patient is a major factor in Medicaid’s coverage of braces. Medicaid orthodontic coverage is generally accessible for children and adolescents below the age of 21, provided that it is considered medically necessary. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), under Medicaid, extends coverage to children under 19 years of age.

Children typically receive more extensive coverage compared to adults, especially due to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Although Medicaid does offer coverage for adults, the coverage for children, particularly under the children’s health insurance program, was broadened by the Affordable Care Act to encompass more services.

Orthodontic Services Covered by Medicaid

Medicaid covers a variety of orthodontic services, including:


  • Removable appliance therapy
  • Fixed appliance therapy
  • Interceptive orthodontic treatment
  • Comprehensive orthodontic treatment


The coverage for each of these treatments under Medicaid varies by state, so it’s important to check if your state’s Medicaid cover includes the specific treatment you need.


Will medicaid pay for braces for adults



For example, fixed appliance therapy encompasses the use of traditional orthodontic braces to address more intricate dental concerns and can also be employed to manage habits such as thumb sucking or tongue thrusting. On the other hand, removable appliance therapy involves the use of removable devices, such as retainers or aligners, to address minor orthodontic issues.


Removable Appliance Therapy (D8210)

Removable appliance therapy in orthodontics encompasses the utilization of removable orthodontic appliances, also referred to as removable orthodontic retainers. These appliances are commonly employed for addressing single tooth rotations and are specifically structured to prevent the teeth from undergoing misalignment once again.

Orthodontic conditions that are amenable to treatment through removable appliance therapy include:


  • Overbite
  • Gaps
  • Teeth crowding
  • Open occlusion
  • Overjet
  • Deep malocclusion
  • Posterior crossbite


Medicaid includes coverage for removable appliance therapy under the D8210 code and for orthodontic treatment in conjunction with removable appliance therapy under the D8220 code.


Fixed Appliance Therapy (D8220)

Fixed appliance therapy (D8220) involves treatments such as traditional metal braces utilized for the realignment of teeth. These treatments are covered under Medicaid. Fixed appliance therapy is employed to correct more intricate dental concerns and can also be used to manage habits like thumb sucking or tongue thrusting.

The coverage for D8220 under Medicaid may differ by state, so it is important to examine the benefits and eligibility criteria that are specific to each state’s Medicaid program for fixed appliance therapy.


Interceptive Orthodontic Treatment (D8060)

Interceptive orthodontic treatment involves early interventions in orthodontics with the goal of preventing or minimizing the severity of future dental malocclusions. Medicaid typically includes coverage for this form of treatment as part of its range of orthodontic services for eligible beneficiaries.

Interceptive orthodontic treatment (D8060) aims to prevent or minimize the necessity for comprehensive treatment in the future by intervening early in a developing issue. It may encompass the use of appliances such as space maintainers, palatal expanders, or limited braces.


Comprehensive Orthodontic Treatment (D8080)

Comprehensive orthodontic treatment (D8080) generally encompasses the initial six months of treatment, final records, photos, and panoramic x-rays. It is specifically tailored to the adolescent dentition, typically addressing the teenage years when permanent teeth have fully erupted.

Comprehensive orthodontic treatment aims to address dental and skeletal irregularities in the adolescent dentition. Some of the procedures that are generally encompassed in this treatment include:


  • Expander
  • Partial fixed appliance
  • Headgear
  • Re-evaluation

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State-Specific Medicaid Coverage for Braces

As the Medicaid coverage for braces is not uniform across all states, understanding the differences in eligibility criteria and covered services becomes important. While some states offer generous benefits for orthodontic treatment, others may provide limited coverage.

To ascertain if your state’s Medicaid program includes coverage for braces, you can reach out to your Medicaid caseworker or the state health department for the most accurate information.


State-by-State Comparison

The differences in Medicaid policies for braces across different states are attributed to various coverage options and eligibility criteria. This variability is contingent upon the individual rules and funding of each state’s Medicaid program.

The age requirements for Medicaid braces coverage generally prioritize individuals aged 21 and below, although there may be variations in specific criteria across different states. Some states may provide coverage for these services, while others may only offer them in cases of medical necessity.


Finding Your State’s Medicaid Information

To comprehend the specific coverage options and eligibility criteria for braces, it is important to find your state’s Medicaid information. You can visit the State Overviews section on and directly contact your state’s Medicaid office to access this information.


Does medicaid cover braces in new york



Understanding state-specific Medicaid information is vital due to each state’s authority to determine its coverage options for orthodontic treatment. To gain insight into orthodontic coverage in a particular state, it is crucial to review the state’s Medicaid information.

Resources and databases such as the State Resource Center and Medicaid & CHIP Open Data site can aid in comprehending state-specific Medicaid information.

Applying for Medicaid Orthodontic Coverage

There are several steps involved in applying for Medicaid coverage for orthodontic treatment. Firstly, you need to obtain an evaluation by a certified orthodontist to verify the necessity for braces.

For adults, it is essential to demonstrate that braces represent the most economical and effective method to address a non-dental health issue.

After the orthodontist validates the need for braces, you need to prove the cost-effectiveness of the treatment. Here are the steps to establish cost-effectiveness for Medicaid:


  1. Analyze the costs of orthodontic treatment.
  2. Identify the factors that influence the price.
  3. Explore potential affordable payment plans.
  4. Assess the overall cost-effectiveness of the treatment for Medicaid.


Assessment by an Orthodontist

An orthodontic assessment plays a key role in evaluating the eligibility for Medicaid coverage of braces. During the assessment, an orthodontic scoring system is utilized to evaluate the severity of the orthodontic condition. Factors such as:


  • oral hygiene
  • dental check-ups
  • cavity status
  • the extent of the orthodontic condition

are taken into consideration by orthodontists during the Medicaid’s orthodontic assessment.

To be eligible for Medicaid coverage, the orthodontic provider must submit the following:


  • A completed copy of the HLD Index
  • Accompanying documentation to verify the score by dental
  • Additional documentation such as a medical diagnosis and surgical treatment plan
  • Detailed documentation of extenuating circumstances
  • Detailed documentation from a mental health professional


These documents are necessary to verify eligibility for Medicaid coverage.


Demonstrating Cost-Effectiveness

The demonstration of cost-effectiveness is important for Medicaid orthodontic coverage. It allows Medicaid programs to offer adult coverage for economically viable preventive dental procedures, improving oral health outcomes and reducing healthcare costs.


How to get free braces with medicaid for adults



Cost-effectiveness in the realm of orthodontic treatment involves the assessment of the intervention in relation to the resources utilized. Reimbursement for orthodontic treatment for Medicaid is contingent upon orthodontic and financial need, and the criteria are determined by Medicaid.

Finding an Orthodontist Who Accepts Medicaid

Locating an orthodontist who accepts Medicaid might seem challenging. However, online directories such as Zocdoc or organizations like Kool Smiles can help locate orthodontists who accept Medicaid.

Certain orthodontists may also offer a complimentary consultation for Medicaid beneficiaries, although the availability of this service can differ, so it is advisable to inquire directly with the orthodontic office.


Limitations and Exceptions to Medicaid Coverage

Despite Medicaid being a lifeline for many for orthodontic treatment, understanding its limitations and exceptions is important. Medicaid has limitations on both the duration and scope of orthodontic treatment coverage, and it is generally limited to individuals under the age of 21.

Exceptions can be made if the braces are deemed medically necessary for adults. As for the frequency of Medicaid-covered orthodontic visits, it is generally recommended to have 1 visit every 6 months for oral health screening or assessment.


Alternative Options for Affordable Orthodontic Care

In case Medicaid coverage is unavailable or inadequate, other affordable options for orthodontic care exist. Nonprofit organizations such as the Smile for a Lifetime Foundation and Smiles Change Lives are known for offering affordable orthodontic care to individuals in need.


Does state insurance cover braces for adults



Dental payment plans can also ease the financial burden of orthodontic treatments by enabling patients to spread the cost through manageable installments.

Cost-effective alternatives for orthodontic treatment encompass options such as:


  • Retainers
  • Traditional metal braces
  • Ceramic braces
  • Clear aligners


These options present varying costs and aesthetic appeal.


In conclusion, Medicaid can be a valuable resource for individuals in need of orthodontic treatment. While the coverage varies by state and certain restrictions apply, it provides a lifeline for many, particularly children under 21.

It’s essential to understand the specific coverage options and eligibility criteria in your state, and to find an orthodontist who accepts Medicaid. If Medicaid coverage is not available or insufficient, there are alternative options for affordable orthodontic care. Remember, a healthy smile is an invaluable asset, and achieving it might not be as costly as you think.

Frequently Asked Questions



How to get Texas Medicaid to pay for braces?

To get Texas Medicaid to pay for braces, the member must have a severe handicapping malocclusion or special medical conditions such as cleft palate or skeletal anomalies involving the oral cavity. These are the conditions for which comprehensive orthodontic services are covered by Texas Medicaid.


Does Medicare cover braces?

Medicare typically covers orthodontic care only if it is deemed medically necessary, such as for severe misalignment impacting your health. Cosmetic orthodontic care is generally not covered, unless you have a Medicare Advantage plan with that specific benefit.


Does Medicaid pay for braces in SC?

Yes, Medicaid in South Carolina covers braces for children if they are medically necessary under the EPSDT benefit.


Does Medicaid cover braces in New York?

No, Medicaid in New York only covers braces for children under 21 with severe physically handicapping malocclusions, for a limited period of time.


What is the objective of Medicaid’s coverage for orthodontic treatment?

The objective of Medicaid’s coverage for orthodontic treatment is to enhance dental health for eligible individuals.

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Russell Noga
( Medicare Expert )

Russell Noga is the CEO of ZRN Health & Financial Services, and head content editor of several Medicare insurance online publications. He has over 15 years of experience as a licensed Medicare insurance broker helping Medicare beneficiaries learn about Medicare, Medicare Advantage Plans, Medigap insurance, and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.