HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. (WTVD) -- As many families try to cut costs during the COVID-19 pandemic, an organization that provides braces at a tiny fraction of the full cost said it has been extremely busy.
Dr. Kristen Fritz of Fritz Orthodontics partners with Smiles Change Lives to help families afford the cost of orthodontic care.
"So many people lost their jobs during the pandemic and we don't want that to delay treatment for their children," Fritz said.
Even during good economic times, Fritz said many children's families couldn't afford braces. And for those with badly misaligned teeth, having them straightened was transformational.
"The difference in those patients from before to after is amazing because their confidence grows, their entire life can change, they're proud of their smile," Fritz said.
Smiles Change Lives said it has seen a marked increase in applications for its services since the pandemic began.
To qualify, kids need to be between the ages of 7 and 18 and have a moderate to severe need for braces.
The child's family income must be no more than twice the poverty level, although foster children are automatically considered.
There is a $30 application fee and the organization expects those accepted to invest $650 in the orthodontic work.
While that price tag is high, Dr. Fritz said that's only a small fraction of the full cost of braces.
She said anyone who is concerned about coming to her office during the pandemic can apply for the program contact-free through her website.
"If they use their smartphone it will walk them through different pictures of their teeth that they can send us and we can tell them if they would qualify for Smiles Change Lives and get them the information to apply," she said.
Dr. Fritz said while she provides her services for free, she's rewarded handsomely.
"Why we do what we do is because of the before and after changes and how much we see their personality blossom afterwards and their confidence levels change."