Use Your HSA to Pay for Dental Expenses - and Reduce Your Overall Medical Health
September 3, 2011
Vol. 7, Issue 7
Most people who have an HSA use some of the funds to pay for dental expenses. Not only does this essentially make all of your family's medical expenses tax deductible, but recent studies show that prevention of periodontal diseases may lead to savings not only on dental costs, but also medical care costs.
Gum Disease Raises Overall Health Costs
One of the insights of holistic medicine is that everything in the body is connected - which is why many practitioners try to treat the "whole" you, and not just the specific part where the problem is. In fact, integrative dentistry itself is becoming more widely accepted, as consumers demand alternatives in their search for optimum wellness. But is the entire concept just new-age mumbo jumbo, or can what happens in your mouth actually affect the rest of your body?
Periodontics is the study of gum disease. Periodontal, or gum diseases have been linked to various systemic health conditions - including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory problems. Just recently, a study published in the Journal of Periodontology examined the relationship between gum disease and overall health expenses - and the results were staggering.
This study looked at patients, age 40 - 59, over a 3½ year period. Researchers found that the patients with severe periodontal disease had cumulative healthcare costs that were 21% higher than those without periodontal disease. So, just to be clear, this study was not just showing that their dental expenses were higher, but their overall medical expenses were higher, and by a pretty large amount!
According to Susan Karabin, DDS, President of the American Academy of Periodontology, "Because of the relationship between the mouth and the rest of the body, treating periodontal disease may be one simple way to decrease total health care costs."
Periodontal Disease, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease
A study published in the July 2008 issue of Diabetes Care showed what may be an even more dramatic finding. In the first study exploring whether periodontal infections can contribute to the development of diabetes, these authors concluded that periodontal disease may be an independent predictor of development of Type 2 diabetes.
This study found that individuals with elevated levels of periodontal disease were nearly twice as likely to become diabetic in a 20 year timeframe. While this study does not necessarily prove that treating your gum disease will prevent diabetes, it does highlight the connection between the health of your mouth and the rest of your body.
Researchers have also found that diseased gums release high levels of bacterial pro-inflammatory components, such as endotoxins, into the bloodstream. These bacterial components also trigger the liver to make C-reactive proteins, which are a predictor for increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Use Your HSA to Pay Your Dental Expenses
Approximately 15 percent of adults between 21 and 50 years old and 30 percent of adults over 50 have gum disease. Yet it is very treatable and preventable. Most dentists pay much more attention to gum health than they did in years past, and regular checkups will enable you to catch any problems before they become too serious.
Funds from your HSA can be used to pay virtually any medical expense. Because individual dental insurance can be quite expensive, many people choose to pay for their dental expenses out-of-pocket instead of purchasing dental insurance. But then many make the mistake of simply forgoing dental care, often because they simply don't know that problems are developing.
As most regular readers of Maximize Your HSA know, I encourage you to be a smart consumer when purchasing medical care, including dental care. Compare prices, and don't be afraid to negotiate. Tell your dentist or periodontist that you do not have dental insurance, will be paying for the treatment out of your own pocket, and ask if a cash discount may be available.
Keep in mind that even if you have not funded your HSA enough to cover the entire expense, you can still reimburse yourself from your HSA, tax-free, at a later date. So you should always be saving all receipts for all medical expenses, to make sure that you take advantage of this valuable tax benefit.
Act Now to Save Money in the Future
One of the common characteristics I find among people who carry HSA plans is a sense of personal responsibility. When you set up and fund an HSA, you are making an investment in your own future, with the understanding that saving money to cover possible future medical expenses is just common sense, and when you can do so tax-free it becomes a no-brainer.
In additional to being forward thinking about your finances, you should also be forward thinking about your personal health. As more studies are showing, keeping your mouth healthy may actually save you quite a bit of money on your other medical expenses.
Our objective is to continue to provide tools and information that can help you minimize your medical costs, and maximize the benefit you get from having an HSA. I encourage you to forward this newsletter on to others who have an HSA, or might benefit from getting one.
P.S. - Next month we'll talk about the impact of income taxes, and how powerful tax-deferred vehicles (like Health Savings Accounts) can be in helping you achieve your financial goals.