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Are Dental Expenses Tax Deductible?

Updated on January 8, 2024

At a Glance

  • Deductible dental expenses exceed 7.5% of AGI and must be itemized on Schedule A (Form 1040).
  • Costs include preventative care, treatments, and surgery—excluding cosmetic procedures.
  • Keep detailed records; non-reimbursed, necessary expenses qualify.
  • Consult IRS guidelines for updates.

Dental health is not only crucial for overall well-being but also can have an impact on your financial health. With rising healthcare costs, it’s important to understand how dental expenses can affect your taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides guidelines on what can be considered as deductible expenses, which can potentially lower your taxable income.

IRS Guidelines for Deductible Dental Costs

In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows taxpayers to deduct unreimbursed medical expenses, including dental expenses, that exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income (AGI) when they itemize their deductions.

However, the specific rules and percentages can change, so it’s always best to check the current IRS guidelines or consult with a tax professional.

The deduction is claimed as an itemized deduction on Schedule A (Form 1040 or 1040-SR). To itemize deductions, you must forego the standard deduction, which means itemizing only makes sense if all of your itemized deductions, including dental expenses, exceed the standard deduction available for your filing status.

Eligibility for Deducting Dental Expenses

According to IRS Publication 502, dental expenses must primarily prevent or alleviate dental disease to be deductible. Cosmetic procedures are typically not included. Tax Topic 502 clarifies deductible expenses further, including payments for dentist visits for cleanings, fillings, and certain non-cosmetic procedures.

What is Considered a Dental Expense?

Here’s what generally constitutes a deductible dental expense:

  1. Preventative Care: Routine teeth cleanings, dental check-ups, sealants, fluoride treatments, and the like.
  2. Treatment: Services like fillings, crowns, bridges, extractions, dentures, and root canal treatments.
  3. Dental Surgery: Oral and maxillofacial surgery, including surgery for jaw issues, extractions of impacted teeth, and gum surgery.
  4. Orthodontics: If it’s medically necessary, expenses for braces or other teeth straightening services might be deductible.
  5. Other Dental Appliances: Dentures, bridges, and similar items.
  6. Travel Expenses: Costs of getting to and from the dental office for treatments can sometimes be included (at a standard mileage rate for medical expenses, plus tolls and parking).
  7. Dental Treatments for Medical Conditions: Treatments for conditions that affect your entire body, such as a reconstructive surgery after an accident, may be deductible.

What Isn’t Considered a Dental Expense?

However, there are several important notes and exclusions to be aware of:

  • Cosmetic procedures: Generally, expenses for purely cosmetic procedures (like cosmetic teeth whitening) are not deductible. These procedures are also not covered by insurance and must be paid out-of-pocket or with a personal loan.
  • Reimbursed expenses: You cannot deduct expenses that have been reimbursed by insurance or other sources.
  • Non-Prescription Drugs and Toiletries: Things like toothpaste, toothbrushes, and non-prescription dental rinses are not deductible.
  • Insurance Premiums: While health and dental insurance premiums may be deductible, the specific rules can be complex and are based on whether you are self-employed, whether the premiums are paid with pre-tax dollars, and other factors.

How to Maximize Deductions on Dental Work

Maximizing your dental deductions on taxes involves careful planning, good record-keeping, and a solid understanding of what can be deducted. Here are some tips to help you maximize your dental tax deductions:

  1. Know the Qualifying Expenses: Review IRS Publication 502 to understand which dental expenses are deductible. Expenses should be primarily to alleviate or prevent a physical or dental ailment.
  2. Itemize Deductions: You must itemize deductions on Schedule A of your Form 1040 to claim dental expenses. This is only beneficial if all your itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction for your filing status.
  3. Timing is Key: If you’re close to the 7.5% AGI threshold, consider timing your dental treatments so you can bundle them into one tax year to surpass the threshold, rather than spreading them out over two years.
  4. Non-Covered Treatments: Opt for treatments that are necessary for medical reasons but not covered by your insurance, as these can be fully deducted if they exceed the AGI threshold.
  5. Keep Comprehensive Records: Save receipts, invoices, and insurance statements to prove your expenses in case of an IRS audit. Detailed records of both your expenses and your income are crucial.
  6. Include Travel Expenses: Keep track of mileage, parking fees, and tolls associated with dental appointments. The IRS allows for the deduction of these costs when calculating medical expenses.
  7. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs): Use FSAs and HSAs to pay for dental expenses with pre-tax dollars, but remember that expenses paid with these accounts cannot also be itemized for tax deductions.

Resources for Dental Tax Deductions

Information on government programs like those found on Benefits.gov that offer support for managing healthcare costs and their implications for tax deductions.

Final Thoughts

Savvy management of dental expenses can offer significant tax benefits. Staying abreast of IRS rules enables taxpayers to identify deductible costs, which can alleviate the overall financial impact. Proper timing, meticulous record-keeping, and strategic use of FSAs or HSAs play pivotal roles in maximizing potential deductions. For the most current regulations and personalized advice, always consult the latest IRS guidelines or a tax professional. Remember, a proactive approach to dental health can lead to fiscal perks come tax time.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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