One of the great things about an FSA is that it can be used to cover a wide range of medical expenses. But there are so many FSA-eligible items and services, some people miss out on saving for some major expenses.
Well, here's a reason to smile -- if an orthodontist recently recommended braces for your child, you can use your FSA to pay for them.
So, what's covered?
Orthodontists recommend braces for a variety of different reasons. Underbites, overbites, crooked teeth, overcrowding, and gaps all warrant treatment. While many of these issues may seem like cosmetic issues, they can lead to serious medical problems down the road if left untreated. Tooth decay, toothaches, gum disease, and headaches can all develop from misaligned teeth.
Because of this, the IRS defines orthodontia treatment as medical care, which means it's FSA-eligible.
What to expect with treatment (and payments)
Braces are an expensive, long-term treatment. While the cost will vary based on the severity of your child's case, the average cost of traditional braces is $5,000-6,000.
Fortunately, many dental plans already cover part of the treatment costs. You can then use your FSA to pay for any remaining costs that aren't already covered. And if you don't have dental insurance, your FSA can be put towards the total cost of treatment.
Since braces are usually needed for an extended period of time, payment doesn't always coincide with each treatment. Your child may need to visit the orthodontist several times in a single month (especially in the beginning), and there may be times where you'll go several months without needing an adjustment.
Because of this, many orthodontists offer multiple payment options. These options allow you to pay for everything up front, or set up a monthly installment plan. Regardless of which payment method you use, you can use your FSA to cover the costs.
If you do choose to pay monthly, most orthodontists will require a fee upfront before treatment begins. The good news is that this too is an eligible expense.
If required, most FSA administrators even allow for prepayment of orthodontia expenses. This makes orthodontia treatment unique from more traditional dental procedures like extractions or fillings, which need to be paid for and performed within the benefit period and after the service has been incurred.
So, what are my choices?
There are quite a few types of braces available these days, and fortunately, all of them are eligible for FSA coverage. Traditional metal braces are a popular option since they're the most effective and usually the most affordable.
But your child may prefer a less noticeable option like ceramic braces, which are still mounted to the front of each tooth, but are white so that they aren't quite as noticeable. You might even consider lingual braces, which are worn on the inner-side of the teeth.
Invisalign braces are another popular choice since they're virtually invisible (hence the name) and are considered more comfortable to wear.
Getting braces usually requires X-rays, moldings, and consultation fees prior to treatment. These expenses typically aren't included in the cost of the braces and are billed separately.
The good news is that these expenses are also FSA-eligible, as are additional products that may be recommended by your orthodontist, like headgear, dental wax and elastics, oral remedies for discomfort and irritation, and retainers once the braces finally come off.
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For many people, braces are a necessity in establishing and maintaining good oral health. There are a lot of different reasons that an orthodontist might recommend you braces, but crooked teeth, gaps, and overbites are among the most common.
If left untreated, these issues can lead to serious dental diseases and quickly become much more than a simple cosmetic problem. Because of this, braces are considered a way to treat and prevent disease, so they're eligible for FSA reimbursement.
Getting braces is a long-term treatment that's often very expensive. Most people need braces for around 24 months and the average cost for traditional braces is around $5,500. Your dental insurance may cover some of the cost, and you can use your FSA for the balance.
Paying for orthodontic expenses is a little different than paying for typical treatments. Most dental expenses, like fillings or extractions, need to be incurred during the current plan year to be eligible. But with braces, you can use your FSA funds to cover orthodontic payments even if your braces were put on before the current plan year began.
Before you get braces, you'll likely need an initial exam that includes photos, impressions, and x-rays. You might even need teeth extracted to help correct overcrowding. While the cost for these won't be included in the price of your braces, they will still be FSA-eligible. Regular appointments and adjustments are an essential part of the treatment process and will be included in the overall price of your orthodontics.
You'll also need to continue seeing your dentist for regular cleanings and exams to maintain your oral health. As always, your FSA funds can be used for any dental expense not covered by your dental insurance.
All options are considered
There are a few different kinds of braces available, and each of them is FSA-eligible. While not all orthodontists offer all treatment options, you might be able to choose between:
- Traditional metal braces - The most inexpensive and efficient option
- Ceramic braces - White braces that are less noticeable than traditional braces
- Lingual braces - Attach to the inside of each tooth
- Invisalign - An invisible option especially popular with adults getting braces later in life
Don't forget about the extras
Because so much pressure is being applied to your teeth and jaw, your mouth will be more sensitive over the course of treatment. But there are some products available that can help make having braces less of a pain - many of which are also eligible for FSA reimbursement. These include:
- Ortho wax
- Heating pads
- Pain relievers (Eligible with a prescription)
You'll probably find that your orthodontist has several different payment options available. You can pay for the entire course of treatment upfront (which may get you a small discount). There will also be a monthly or bi-monthly payment option available. If you choose this, you'll have to pay an upfront fee and stay up to date on your monthly payments.
No matter which option you choose, you can use your FSA funds (although FSA funds generally require that you pay for services you will incur within the plan year, so if you're planning to prepay, make sure to check in with your administrator first to ensure that they'll allow it).
Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.