Most of the dental expenses you pay for during the year are tax deductible and include payments you make to receive basic, non-routine and emergency care. You can deduct payments you make for dental services for yourself and your spouse if you're married and file a joint return. If you have dependent children, their dental expenses are also tax deductible. However, you can deduct only the eligible expenses that you actually paid for during the year, regardless of when the work is actually performed.
Deducting Preventive Services
Preventive and routine dental services are tax deductible. These services include cleanings, x-rays and exams, which are usually performed every six months. For children, routine services may include fluoride application, sealants and fitting mouth guards. Services in this category are performed to promote basic oral hygiene and screen for potential issues and diseases such as oral cancer, cavities and gum disease.
Deducting Emergency and Non-Preventive Services
Emergency and non-preventive dental services are also tax deductible. You may need emergency dental treatment if you have a broken tooth, exposed root or abscess. Non-preventive services may include those that are required, but are not an emergency. Examples of non-preventive services include cavity fillings, root canals, crowns and braces.
Dentures and dental implants are also tax deductible with the IRS and included in the non-preventive category, but elective cosmetic procedures, such as teeth whitening and veneers, are not tax deductible.
Deducting Prescription Medications
Some dental procedures may require antibiotics, pain relievers or anesthetics. Any medicine prescribed by your dentist is tax deductible. This includes any medication required prior to a procedure to reduce the risk of infection and during or after a procedure to promote healing.
If you pay out-of-pocket for the medicine, the entire cost is deductible. However, if you have insurance coverage and are only responsible for the copay, then just that amount is deductible.
Deducting Premiums and Copays
If you have dental insurance, you may deduct the cost of your insurance that is not paid for with pretax payroll deductions through your employer. You may also deduct copays for appointments and services, as well as any other out-of-pocket expense. These may include amounts that aren’t covered by your insurance or that you must pay before reaching your deductible.
Taking the Dental Tax Deduction
Although most dental expenses are eligible for deduction, the actual amount you're allowed to deduct depends on two things. First is whether you take a standard deduction or itemize since if you opt for the standard deduction – a set amount allowed by the IRS based on your filing status – you won't be able to deduct any dental expenses. If you itemize, on the other hand, you calculate specific amounts you spent on items like medical expenses, mortgage interest and property taxes. The second factor involves your adjusted gross income.
When you itemize, the IRS allows you to deduct medical and dental expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income for tax year 2020. For instance, if you had $3,000 in dental expenses and made $20,000, $1,500 of your expenses are deductible. However, if you have $3,000 in expenses, but earn $50,000, none of your dental expenses are deductible since they equal less than 7.5 percent of your income.
With a background in taxation and financial consulting, Alia Nikolakopulos has over a decade of experience resolving tax and finance issues. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent and has been a writer for these topics since 2010. Nikolakopulos is pursuing Bachelor of Science in accounting at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.