Last Updated on March 2, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

SARPE (Surgically Assisted Rapid Palatal Expansion) surgery is an orthodontic procedure that can help widen the upper jaw and align the teeth. During SARPE, oral surgeons cut the bones of the upper jaw to help rapidly expand the palate. This allows orthodontists to correct issues like crowding, crossbites, and misalignment.

While SARPE offers many benefits, the costs can be daunting. This article provides a comprehensive guide to understanding and planning for SARPE surgery expenses. We’ll explore insurance coverage, out-of-pocket fees, financing options, and tips for budgeting for this intensive dental procedure.

How Much Does SARPE Surgery Cost?

The total cost of SARPE surgery depends on several factors. Pricing can vary widely based on the oral surgeon, hospital, anesthesia, appliances used, and insurance coverage. However, patients can expect to pay anywhere from $6,000 to $50,000 out-of-pocket on average.

ArchWired forum, for example, mentions a range of costs for SARPE surgery, with one individual reporting a cost of $6,000 for the procedure in the Chicagoland area. Another user shared a higher cost of $38,000, which included various expenses like consultations, x-rays, medicine, surgery with multiple oral surgeons, hospital fees, and anesthesiologist fees.

Breakdown of Surgery Expenses

The main expenses associated with SARPE surgery include:

  • Oral surgeon’s fee – This covers the surgeon’s time and expertise. Fees often range from $5,000 to $15,000.
  • Hospital fee – If performed in a hospital, fees cover operating room time, equipment, nursing staff, etc. Hospital fees often range from $2,000 to $10,000.
  • Anesthesia – General anesthesia is required for SARPE. Anesthesia fees typically range from $2,000 to $5,000.
  • Appliances and surgical guides – Custom orthodontic appliances used during surgery may cost $2,000 to $5,000.
  • CT scans or X-rays – Diagnostic imaging prior to surgery will cost $300 to $1,000.
  • Follow-up orthodontic treatment – Braces before and after surgery average $5,000 to $8,000.

Factors Affecting the Cost

Several factors can influence the overall price tag of SARPE surgery:

  • Geographic location and cost of living
  • The oral surgeon’s experience and credentials
  • Whether the surgery is performed in a hospital or office setting
  • Complexity of the dental issues being corrected
  • Extensive surgery time and anesthesia needs
  • Choice of palatal expansion device used
  • Need for bone grafts or other supplemental procedures

Comparison to Similar Surgeries

SARPE surgery is generally more intensive and expensive than traditional orthodontic treatments. However, it also offers more dramatic tooth alignment and jaw widening than options like palatal expanders alone.

Compared to similar orthognathic surgeries like LeFort, SARPE is less invasive. However, it still costs significantly more than non-surgical palatal expansion, which can range from $3,000 to $6,000 in total.

Insurance Coverage and Out-of-Pocket Costs

Unfortunately, insurance often provides limited coverage for SARPE surgery. However, understanding policies and planning ahead can help reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

Insurance for SARPE Surgery

Many dental insurance plans classify SARPE as an elective cosmetic procedure, rather than medically necessary. However, some providers may cover a portion of costs if SARPE is needed to treat issues like:

  • Severe crowding or misaligned bite
  • Breathing problems like sleep apnea
  • Inability to chew or swallow food properly

Patients should discuss insurance options for SARPE with both their orthodontist and insurance provider. Pre-authorization is required by most policies before surgery. This involves submitting X-rays, treatment plans, and evidence of medical need.

Even with insurance approval, deductibles, co-insurance, and uncovered expenses will lead to significant out-of-pocket fees.

Deductibles and Co-Pays

Most insurance policies have annual deductibles patients must meet before coverage applies. Deductibles typically range from $1,000 to $5,000 per year. Even with insurance, SARPE patients must often pay this amount out-of-pocket before insurance contributions begin.

Insurance will then pay a percentage of covered expenses, while the patient covers the remaining co-pay, often 10%-50% of costs. So with a $10,000 surgery bill, $5,000 deductible, and 20% co-pay, the patient’s responsibility would be $7,000 total ($5,000 deductible + $2,000 co-pay).

Additional Costs and Financial Planning

Beyond the surgery itself, related expenses can quickly add up. Careful financial planning is key to budgeting for SARPE surgery.

Post-Surgery Care and Associated Costs

After SARPE surgery, patients need to account for:

  • Follow-up appointments – Frequent orthodontist visits to adjust appliances.
  • Medications and supplements – Pain relievers, antibiotics, nutritional shakes, etc.
  • Soft foods – Diet limited to soft foods for 4-6 weeks.
  • Lost wages – Taking 4-6 weeks off work to recover.

These costs following surgery may total $2,000 to $5,000. Having an emergency fund or disability insurance can help cover time off work.

Planning and Budgeting for Total Costs

To fully budget for SARPE surgery:

  • Get an itemized cost estimate from the oral surgeon.
  • Calculate deductibles, co-pays, and non-covered charges based on insurance.
  • Account for pre-op orthodontics, post-op follow-up care, and time off work.
  • Look into financing options (see next section).
  • Start saving well in advance – at least 6-12 months before surgery.

Ideally, patients should plan to have $15,000 to $30,000 available to pay for the procedure and recovery time. Keeping costs affordable requires diligent financial planning.

Financing Options and Assistance

If unable to pay out-of-pocket, patients have alternatives to fund SARPE surgery and orthodontic treatment.

Did you read our articles about the cost of jaw surgery, braces, and Invisalign?

Exploring Financing and Payment Plans

Many orthodontists and oral surgeons offer flexible financing and payment plans at low interest rates. This spreads costs over 12-24 months.

Third-party medical lenders like CareCredit also provide financing for dental procedures. They offer longer repayment terms of up to 5 years.

Non-profit organizations like Smile for a Lifetime can provide financing assistance if patients qualify based on financial need.

Seeking Financial Assistance and Grants

SARPE Before and AfterAdditional options to lower SARPE costs include:

  • Using tax-advantaged savings plans like FSAs or HSAs.
  • Applying for grants from non-profit groups like the AAO Foundation and AAO Donated Orthodontic Services.
  • Contacting your state or county to learn about low-income dental programs.
  • Seeing if any dental schools offer discounted treatment.

Scholarships and pro-bono assistance can make SARPE possible for those in financial need.

Final Words

While SARPE surgery offers dramatic improvements for corrected bites, it requires extensive financial planning. Key takeaways include:

  • SARPE costs range from $10,000 to $50,000 out-of-pocket on average.
  • Insurance coverage is limited, expect high deductibles and co-pays.
  • Account for all pre-op, surgical, and post-op costs.
  • Financing options and assistance programs can ease the burden.
  • Start saving well in advance and budget diligently.

With proper planning, patients can undergo this transformative orthodontic surgery in a financially responsible manner.

Those considering SARPE surgery should speak with their orthodontists and insurance providers to learn about costs and financing. Make sure you understand all options before moving forward with this intensive procedure. With careful planning, achieving a beautifully aligned smile is possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is SARPE surgery necessary?

Whether SARPE surgery is necessary depends on the severity of the orthodontic issues present. Common reasons SARPE may be required include:

  • Severe upper jaw narrowing making correction with braces alone difficult or impossible. SARPE expands the palate to properly align teeth.
  • A large overbite or overjet of 6 mm or more. SARPE can impact the jaw to improve the bite relationship.
  • Crossbites causing shifting of upper and lower teeth. Widening the upper jaw with SARPE allows teeth to align properly.
  • Crowding or misalignment that cannot be fully fixed with braces, headgear or other orthodontic appliances alone.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea resulting from a narrow or misaligned jaw. SARPE can open airways.
  • Inability to properly chew food due to bite problems or misaligned teeth.

Overall, SARPE may be necessary if non-surgical options cannot adequately improve bite, alignment, breathing, or other orthodontic issues. An orthodontist can best determine if SARPE is right for a patient’s needs.

How long does SARPE surgery take?

The SARPE procedure itself takes 1-2 hours to perform under general anesthesia. Total surgical time will depend on the patient’s specific orthodontic issues being addressed.

Here’s an overview of the length of SARPE surgery:

  • Patient preparation and anesthesia induction takes approximately 15-30 minutes.
  • The oral surgeon will then make incisions into the maxilla (upper jaw) and use tools to manually expand the palate sutures, which takes 30-60 minutes.
  • Finally, the surgeon closes the incisions with sutures, which takes 15-30 minutes.
  • The patient is then monitored in recovery for 1-2 hours post-surgery.

So in total, patients can expect the entire surgical process to take approximately 2-3 hours from anesthesia to recovery. However, most of this time is hands-off for the patient while under anesthesia. The hands-on surgery itself only spans 1-2 hours.

Post-surgical orthodontic treatment lasts much longer, often 12-24 months on average. But the SARPE operation alone is typically a short, 1-2 hour procedure.

What is the relapse rate of SARPE?

Like all orthodontic treatments, there is a risk of relapse following SARPE surgery if proper retention protocols are not followed. However, relapse rates with SARPE are generally low.

  • With good patient compliance, research shows relapse rates of 5-20% in the years following surgery. Much lower relapse compared to non-surgical expansion.
  • Factors that reduce relapse include wearing retainers as directed, attending follow-up visits, avoiding tongue thrusting, and protecting the expansion with lingual retainers.
  • Bone healing and regeneration after SARPE helps stabilize results long-term. The body incorporates the new palate width into the healed maxilla.
  • Some minor relapse can occur in the first 1-2 years before bone healing and maturation fully stabilizes results. Using retainer wear at night helps prevent relapse.
  • Most relapse occurs from poor patient compliance with post-op orthodontic treatment. Careful retention is key to success.

Overall, SARPE offers relatively stable, long-lasting expansion results. Patients who follow their orthodontist’s post-op recommendations can expect a lifetime of improved dental function and facial aesthetics.

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