When it comes to dental insurance and filing taxes, both take research and time to fully grasp. Fortunately, we’ve done the research in both fields to help you understand what is and isn’t considered a deduction for dental expenses this tax season. Take the time to fully understand how to deduct dental expenses and what deductions you deserve – and which you don’t.
But don’t wait too long. One in five Americans files their taxes between April 8 and 22, just days before the cut-off. This could lead to a rushed filing and missed opportunities if you’re itemizing your deductions. Get to know what your options are when it comes to deducting dental expenses and get going on tax season! If you’re itemizing your deductions, make a list of the dental expenses from last year.
Remember: You can only deduct medical and dental expenses that are more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI) when filing for years prior to 2019. For 2019 and beyond, this number jumps to 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. In most cases, your AGI is lower than the total income you report on the first lines of your tax return. Your AGI will never be more than the total income you report on the first lines of your tax return. To calculate your adjusted gross income (AGI), click here.
Can I Deduct Dental Expenses?
A document from the US Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service called Publication #502 specifically lays out what an acceptable medical deduction is, including dental expenses. But their lingo can be tricky to understand, so we’ll help break it down.
IRS publication 502 says, “Medical expenses are the costs of diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, and for the purpose of affecting any part or function of the body.”
That means that when you do what we call “preventive care” at the dentist, you’re helping mitigate – or relieve – unhealthy damage from occurring. This prevents your mouth from developing complications down the line like gum disease or tooth decay and is considered preventive care. Preventive care in the mouth stops harmful bacteria from spreading to other parts of the body, like the heart, brain, or pancreas.
Preventive Treatment Examples:
- Standard dental procedures, like teeth cleanings, sealants, and fluoride.
The document goes on to say: “These expenses include payments for legal medical services rendered by physicians, surgeons, dentists, and other medical practitioners.” When you’re a subscriber with Delta Dental, you can always rest assured that your expenses are for legal medical services rendered, or given, from a dentist.
“[Deductible expenses] include the costs of equipment, supplies, and diagnostic devices needed for these purposes.” A toothbrush is considered a “general health item” by the IRS and can’t be deducted.
Dental Treatment Examples:
- X-rays, fillings, braces, extractions, dentures, crowns and root canals, and other dental ailments.
Did you know that transportation to and from these dental appointments are also deductible?
- Out-of-pocket expenses related to getting to the dentist, such as the cost of gas and oil, can be deducted when you or a dependent has a preventive care appointment. Car insurance costs, general repair, or maintenance expenses are not deductible on your taxes.
The IRS says, “If you don’t want to use your actual expenses for 2018, you can use the standard medical mileage rate of 18 cents a mile.”
Don’t forget to keep your receipts when parking! You can deduct parking fees and tolls from these appointments, too. Add up any fees and tolls related to appointments for you or a dependent’s oral health whether you use actual expenses or the standard mileage rate.
What Not to Include When Deducting Dental Expenses
When it comes to the IRS, compliance is key. Remember that the following procedures and items can’t be deducted from your taxes:
- Cosmetic dental procedures are used to improve the appearance of someone’s smile and are not considered preventive dental care. Teeth whitening and veneer application fall under the category of cosmetic dental procedures.
Sometimes a dental procedure is considered preventive because of the circumstances. If a dental implant was done to repair damaged teeth, it’s helping to give you better oral health and could be deducted. The IRS uses the code your dentist writes on your dental chart to indicate the procedure and determine if it can be deducted from your taxes.
If you use a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) for medical or dental expenses, that money you spent on expenses was pre-tax and cannot be claimed or deducted.
Want to learn more? The IRS’ YouTube Channel has videos on health care taxes, as well as videos on other factors you may have questions about when it comes to filing.
While you may have deductions surrounding your dental costs, this article is not specific to your personal financial situation. Please seek professional advice based on your particular circumstance.
Editor’s Note: Content updated March 2019.