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I Want to Cry: The $12,000 Dental Bill

Unexpected medical bills are the worst and they can totally destroy your budget. Here's what one family did when they were hit with a $12,000 dental bill that was not in their budget for the month. They survived and it didn't bankrupt them! Having some savings and some side hustles makes it a lot more bearable, even though it still sucks.

Today’s post will probably be a little short.  I’m overwhelmed and sort of just want to curl up into a little ball and cry for a while. I really need to find the best dental insurance.

Hubby’s Dental Bill

Long story short, we just spent about $5500 total last week for two wisdom teeth removals, a root canal, a crown, and deep cleaning/scaling for the top part of hubby’s mouth (you can click that link if you missed the post on his dental phobia and background crap).

The second surgery (scheduled for mid-September) will be about $6500 again to remove the bottom wisdom teeth, fix a crown (his one from 3 years ago cracked), have 6 cavities filled, and do the deep clean/scaling on the bottom part of his mouth.

Out of all of that, about

$4200 is just for an anesthesiologist

to monitor IV sedation (total of 8 hours over both visits) and the other $7800 is for actual dentistry (and that part would have been about $900 more if I hadn’t asked for a 10% cash discount).  So our total cost by this time next month will be $12,000.  That is about what my stupid Chevy Aveo cost us brand new in 2005.

Yep, I want to cry.  And throw things.  And kick the last dentist in the balls.  And cry some more.

Trying to Stop Moping

Mr. BFS feels like shit.  He knows that this could have been avoided over the last 25 years.  But I don’t think that feeling like crap about it is going to help.  He has taken amazing care of his teeth over the last year and will continue to do so.  Hopefully that combined with having all of the major work done will keep us from having anything like this again.  But it’s hard to look at the bright sides immediately, right?

That said, we think this can be taken off on our taxes somehow.  Anybody know those rules off the top of your head?

Also, at least we had enough cash on hand to cover all of this.  It is literally wiping out our emergency fund and then some by a little, but we still have some padding in the account we use to pay ourselves biweekly.  We also have some general cash in accounts labeled for specific things like a new-to-us car and home maintenance. We’re also on the lookout for some guaranteed life insurance because we both need it. We don’t skimp on insurance coverages and always seem to find ways to save more in this category.  So this isn’t going to kill us, but it is definitely painful.

Lastly, I’m trying to see this as motivation for us to find other income sources.  Mr. BFS is already reffing his butt off this football season and should be bringing in $4000 overall (working 5 days a week most weeks from September through the beginning of November).  Hopefully we’ll find another side venture online or something and earn a bit more.  Our main business is doing fine, but we need to make up this $13,000 pretty quickly for it to stop hurting so much.

Need Help?

That said, anybody need help?  I’m totally throwing my hat in the ring for being a blog manager and a staff writer again.  I’m also still a commenter-for-hire (I comment on other blogs as “Crystal @ YourSite” and link to your blog).  If you have a job you think I’d be a great fit for, please let me know.

Over here in Houston and Spring, TX, I’m starting to babysit and pet-sit again.  If you come to The Financial Blogger Conference, I’ll have both my eBooks for sale in their paperback versions (now available at Amazon too).

Mr. BFS is reffing and developing a new board game…we’ll see what happens.

To say that this has knocked me on my butt would be about right.  I know why kids want to throw temper tantrums.  🙂  But I bet the sting will be way better once this is all over and life rolls along.

Any crappy expenses that you’ve had to deal with lately?  Whine away!

36 thoughts on “I Want to Cry: The $12,000 Dental Bill”

  1. Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies

    If I remember right, if you itemize, you can deduct health expenses that are > 7% of your gross income. So definitely keep receipts!

  2. Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle

    I once delayed a car repair and it ended up costing me a lot more than I had planned. I will never make that mistake again and I do regular maintenance on everything, including my teeth.

    Very sorry that you have to shell out so much money but you should be pleased that you are in such a financially stable that all of this didn’t end up on your credit card.

  3. Savvy Financial Latina

    Holy crap that’s a huge bill!
    My mom’s having some medical procedures on her back and she doesn’t have insurance that provides the coverage, so we will be paying out of pocket. I know how you feel.

  4. Important part first: will the new board game be ready for playtesting at fincon?

    Speaking as someone who did a bad job of taking care of my teeth 15 years ago and is still paying for it: once you hit a certain point, you’re looking at a slow slide into either a mouth full of crowns or dentures.

  5. Beat The 9 to 5

    it’s tough when you have to spend a lot of money on something that could have cost less. Though, it’s good that you and your husband managed to learn from the experience.

  6. PaulM

    Have you thought of getting the work done elsewhere? Countries like Mexico and Costa Rica have U.S.-trained dentists that charge a fraction of what you’d pay at home. The savings more than pay for the trip. Check the International Living website (internationalliving.com) and search those countries.

  7. Elizabeth L

    My surgery ended up costing me way more than I expected and I keep getting all these little bills for labs and tests that I didn’t know was going to happen. Luckily, I only have to about 10% of everything (yay for working in a hospital and getting a discount!), but where I thought it would be $1,000, maybe $1,500, but I passed that a while ago. I’m hoping all the bills are done, but I said that last week and got another bill this weekend.

    At least I’ll get to write it off on my taxes.

  8. retired

    If you decide to deduct, save all receipts, as I vaguely remember that if you live in a state without taxes you can deduct taxes paid on purchases. You have to spend more than 7% of your income. If you put money in a simple IRA it will reduce your taxes more,. I think you could have saved $10000 in taxes last year by contributing to a simple IRA rather than a Roth. You can use funds from ira to pay for health bills, if you had a self directed health savings account it would lower your taxes significantly and covered most of your expences. You have high deductible insurance, so you qualify for a health savings acct.. Any fillings filled recently only last a few years, as they have found some heavy metals poison people, so they are using safer, but less durable fillings. I would ask dentist, but each filling will need to be redone in 5 to 6 years. We have found second and third opinions reduce the amount of fillings needed. One daughter has gone to 5 dentists in past 5 yrars, switching when one finds a cavity she does not feel or see. The next dentists never sees the cavity until about 3rd visit, then we go to a new dentist. This last one says she had a scale build up on surface that looks like a cavity on xray. If all this work is needed, then make sure they are using best, most durable fillings, as you really shouldnt go under more than is needed. Sorry about the hit. Thing is dental insurance for our family would run $6000/yr and would not cover general anesthesia , so you would still be taking this hit , even with insurance. You need to get his phobia fixed, he will need further work in the future. Pretty sure phobias are easier to cure than compulsions, well at least you can learn to control it. One thing is not to allow a fear to determine how you run your life.

  9. Todd @ AllThingsFinance.net

    Wow that’s just insanity. Isn’t plastic surgery cheaper than that? If you’re looking to save on sedation, I heard MJ’s doc is looking for work…

    This whole bill scares me. I recently did get some work done, which would have been $2000, b/c I don’t have the money for it. But they kept telling me if I keep waiting it will only get more expensive…yikes.

  10. Linda

    OK, I just summarized this for my BF who is also afraid of the dentist. He has avoided the dentist for years; I know he hasn’t gone to one since we started dating 5 years ago, and I have no idea how long he avoided it before we met. I’m hoping that hearing this makes him want to do something soon!

    Anyway, the details about whether you deduct this on your taxes has already been given. With a bill that high and your normal medical expenses this year, it may be that you’ve spent enough for the deduction.

    I know it’s tough to dip into the EF. That’s what it’s there for, though. Good for you on saving up for something so major!

  11. Keren @ Stepping It Down

    Oh Em Gee. I want to cry with you. Prior to last year, we never saved medical receipts. Last year we did, but didn’t meet the 7% expense minimum for deduction. We probably won’t this year either, but we’ll keep saving receipts. I’m already of $1K in medical expenses this year.

  12. Crystal @ BFS

    @Mrs. Pop, receipts kept!

    @Jane, yeah, but knowing that all of your main padding is gone just sucks.

    @Savvy, good luck!

    @Jason, Mr. BFS doesn’t think it’ll be ready in time but we’ll see. He says you should take a trip down to Proto-spiel Houston in March (it’s debut), playtesting for a whole 3-day weekend. 🙂

    Yeah, the dentist said that after this, maintenance cleanings every 4 months for a year or two and then twice a year after that should pretty much take care of him for the next 20 years or so at least as long as he continues taking really good care of his teeth at night. Fingers crossed.

    @Beat the 9 to 5, I already knew actually…but I get your point.

    @PaulM, if we ever have to deal with something huge again, maybe. At this point, we already paid the $5500 and just want all of this over for the other $6500. Not to mention, the idea of talking my husband into going to another country for dental work would be worse than pulling the teeth myself…

    @Elizabeth, sorry to hear that. When Mr. BFS had a back abscess taken care of, we ended up getting 4 different bills…it was so stupid.

    @retired, we’ve kept all of the receipts and I have the checkbook register and the credit card statements.

    A simple IRA had the same $5000 per person limit as a Roth IRA last year, so the most we could have squirreled away last year was $10,000, and that would have saved us $2500-ish on our taxes last year compared to having the $10,000 grow tax free for the next 30-40 years. I think the Roth IRA made more sense for us. But we will be opening a SEP IRA next year most likely, and we’ll be able to put in up to about $40,000 most likely if we have that much to spare…that should save us about $10,000 a year on taxes. And we can max out the Roth IRA’s too (now $5500 a year). We couldn’t do that last year since we used our spare $75,000 in cash from 2011-2012 to pay off our first house and put 20% down on our current one. We went real estate vs. SEP IRA.

    I am totally thinking about getting an HSA. It’s a bit trickier when we have individual policies than with a company policy, so I have been putting off doing the research. It would have come in handy for sure.

    His phobia is way more under control now than it used to be. For example, he’s been to a dentist office 7 times in the last 3 years. And he is accepting that he’ll have to go in for cleanings every 4-5 months after this last major surgery. I think that is huge progress from when he broke into cold sweats just thinking about it and avoided them for 20-25 years. It’s not running his life anymore, but we are going to have to take care of these two big surgeries to get him caught up a bit. I think we all have something we put off for years, sometimes it’s just worse than other stuff.

    @Todd, lol about MJ’s doc. Good luck handling your stuff.

    @Linda, if you two marry, drag his butt in using “I’m the wife” points if necessary. It really does just get worse. Dipping into the EF isn’t what has made me shut down, it’s the fact that it is totally empty after this that has me freaked out.

  13. Bryce @ Save and Conquer

    From irs.gov, “For years beginning after December 31, 2012, you may deduct only the amount by which your total medical expenses exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income.” Like others have said, keep the receipts for this work plus all other medical expenses.

  14. suba

    You can deduct your expenses, insurance premium, even parking, mileage and toll to/from the hospital. BUT –
    1) you need to itemize, if you font have any other deduction to beat the standard deduction, it is a moot point.
    2) It is NOT 7% as previous commentors mentioned. It is 10% starting from this year. So if your income is 100000, you can deduct anything above 10000, in this case, you can deduct 2000+premium+tolls+parking,etc.
    Sorry to be a killjoy, I would rather you have the right information. Definetly work out taxes either way – standard & itemized to see which one works out better.

  15. Rachel

    Check out the below IRS publication summary for guidance on the medical costs. You can also see the full publication through the link. The IRS publications are actually quite user-friendly IMO.


  16. Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans

    Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that your emergency fund is wiped out. I’m sure you’ll get in replenished in no time.

  17. Mom @ Three is Plenty

    I agree with PaulM, when I lived on the border, we went to Mexico for pretty much all of our routine medical needs – we even had good insurance. But for routine stuff, we’d just cross the border (it also helped that my dad actually worked *in* Mexico). The doctors and dentists are all the same between there and the US, there might be some cultural differences in bedside manner, but otherwise, they’re just as skilled.

    I do understand hubby’s reluctance though – there’s no way I can get Dad to Mexico even as a tourist, so there’d be no way to get him to go for medical services.

  18. retired

    I was not referring to how much you put into your ira account. Talking about amount it would reduce your taxes to use simple IRA over using a ROTH. Let s say you made 1100000, after adjustments, then put 10K into simple ira s . Then u would only pay taxes on 100K. Sometimes this is difference between going up tax bracket. For us it pays for itself, up front, not down the line, as it affects all of our taxes in a positive manner. The health savings account is this easy. You go to a bank, open the account and write yourself checks for the amount you spent on medical, minus whatever your insurance paid. You only verify that you have high deductible insurance with the bank. If you want more, you can look for one through a broker and invest the savings while you are not using it, but that seems stupid, as it may not be available when you need it.. The health savings rolls over year to year. The amounts put in both simple IRA and Health savings accounts are tax deductible, so that both deduct from your adjusted gross income, thus lowering your tax payments significantly. ROTH IRA only helps if you will be in higher tax bracket when you retire . Even though the interest on a traditional ira is taxable when you retire, it will still be at a lower tax rate, unless you rolling in the dough. You pay more at earning peak, you can controll when you retire, and do not need to take any out of the account until you are over 70. Use Roth when you are in lowest tax bracket, traditional when its higher, unless you have college kids, then use traditional to help lower your taxable amounts showing on FASA if it helps. Point is, a bird in hand is worth a million flying about when its time to eat. Would you not feel better if that tax savings was in your emergency fund, instead of covering a possible windfall investment of ira funds, especially if you can controll when you use it, therfore controll how much tax you would pay.
    You are worth more than a babysitter. Branch out, use your creativity, the sky s the limit.

  19. christie

    You write that there may be a difference in tax bracket between 100k and 110k. Because the tax system is tiered earning more does not put all of your money in a higher tax bracket. EX: Let’s say that everything under 100k is taxed at 25%. Money over 100k is taxed at 30%. ( I am making the tax percentages up… trying to keep it simple.) If you made 110k then 100k would be taxed at 25% and 10k would be taxed at 30%.

  20. catherine

    Crystal, for that price you could fly to me in nova Scotia and I would make sure your husband was taken care of!!! This breaks my heart. I have no idea how your insane US medical system works, could you pick up dental insurance now for the work that is needed in the fall?

  21. retired

    @christie, true.

  22. Crystal @ BFS

    @Bryce and Suba, thanks, I just saw that too!

    @Rachel, thanks for the link!

    @Lisa, thanks.

    @Mom, exactly…Mr. BFS just wouldn’t trust it. I wouldn’t want to go to that much trouble either. Lazy…

    @retired, I understood what you meant. But since I could only contribute $10,000, I was showing how it would have been able to help me at best. But it’s moot for us since we are smack dab in the middle of a bracket anyway, lol. We’re right in the middle of the 25% bracket of married filing jointly ($72,500 – $146,400). $100,000-$115,000 is where we will most likely fall. We also pay the employer’s part of taxes, so we are basically at 33% of AGI.

    Roth IRA’s are better for us for several reasons. First, it’s way easier to withdraw early if necessary. Second, we have at least 30 years before we are at age 60, and I actually do think our tax rate will be higher by then. Lastly, if we open a SEP IRA as well (and with the 401k we have that is growing from my last job via interest), we can take withdrawals from the 401k and SEP IRA to take us to the max in the low tax bracket and just supplement any extra we need from the then-tax-free Roth IRA’s. I think we talked about this before.

    I’ll look into opening an HSA this month. And yes, babysitting is below my normal pay scale, but it gets me out of the house, which is a nice side benefit.

    @Christie, true and I see that retired knows too. 🙂

    @Catherine, dental insurance now would help us pay for cleanings, lol. They would have a one year restriction on things like crowns and extractions. I get it too…they don’t want people like us sponging off of them just when it’s convenient.

  23. Andy Hough

    You have already said Mr. BFS wouldn’t do it but going to Mexico or Costa Rica would save you a lot of money and you could make a vacation out of it. I need to get some dental implants and have some other dental work done and I’m seriously considering going abroad to do it. It would save me a lot of money and it is just as safe as in the U.S.

  24. Squirrelers

    I had a wisdom tooth removed last year, and it wasn’t cheap. However it didn’t cost that much, and I did get IV sedation (couldn’t imagine not getting that). Seems like those costs for the work he got done are WAY beyond what I paid and outrageously expensive.

    Anyway, its interesting how dealing with something like this can motivate us to take better care of our teeth. I haven’t had a soda in all of 2013, after having them regularly prior to the wisdom tooth removal. That’s something good that can come out of such an experience.

  25. Tushar @ Everything Finance

    Wow, that is really incredibly expensive. I can’t even imagine! That’s a brand new car, but oral health is so important to overall health that it’s good that it’s done.

  26. Elena @ Funny Chuckles

    Yes, dentists’ bills can be really high, especially if you don’t take care of your teeth on a daily basis. An ounce of prevention always worth a pound of cure, that’s for sure!

  27. Julien @cashsnail

    That’s a pretty insane cost… You could get 17 ounce of gold teeth for the price 🙂
    My wife is also insanely afraid of dentists, it took 3 emergency fix (a few cavities, wisdown teeth removal & fix of an implant) before she agreed to do some “maintenance”.
    Luckily it was around 200$ in the end, so no big financial stress on top of the white blouse stress 🙂

  28. [email protected] Free in Dubai

    I know how your husband feels. I have a very intense fear of dentists as well. Until I’m rolling on the floor in pain, I won’t visit one. Lol.

    My last vist was a few weeks ago for a toothache. Before I knew what was going on, I was told I had 6 cavities and needed special cleaning. Insurance covered only 80% of the bill. I was so mad. I had an emergency fund but paying that much from it was the last thing on my mind that day. Since then, I,ve become more detailed with my teeth care. I’m using some special toothpaste for sensitive enamel lik mine, floss after brushing and chew xylitol gum after every meal. The dentist told me to return in 6 months. Good luck with that one madam dentist. Lol.

  29. Little House

    Yikes! That’s a heck of a lot on dental work. But I’m sure you two will quickly recover by working your butt’s off.

  30. Wendy

    Of course you can deduct dental expenses on your taxes! Take a look at line 1, Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, “Medical and Dental Expenses”. All dental work can be deducted here, subject to the new 10% floor beginning with filing year 2013. This means you’ll have to deduct 10% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) from the total medical and dental, so any deduction taken is dependent on your income from the year. You can also take off mileage to and from the dentist. Medical mileage is usually 14 cents a mile, but that is subject to change depending on the tax laws. They haven’t messed with medical mileage over the last few years, though, as they have business mileage. Any parking fees are also deductible, bus, taxi, etc. If you have to travel for the medical/dental care, hotels, food, etc., can also be deducted to a certain extent.

    If you haven’t been able to use Sch A in the past, depending on your AGI for 2013, you may end up with a medical deduction that you can add to your home mortgage interest, real estate taxes paid, local taxes paid, charitable contributions (stop selling your stuff and donate it to charity, get a receipt. Keep a detailed list of what you donate, and assess it a value based on condition. Most valuations are based on thrift store value, but even then, set it high. Every little bit of a deduction will help you from here on out). Do you consider the visits and things you do with the nursing home residents charity? Sit down and create a log of your mileage going back and forth there. Charitable mileage is also 14 cents a mile, and it will all add up and can all be deducted on Sch A. Any job expenses you might have for any W-2 job either of you have can also be deducted on Sch A, dependent on another 2% floor. If you have to buy something for any of these jobs and you’re not reimbursed, get a receipt and take the deduction. Have you had any casualty or theft losses this year? That deduction also goes on Sch A. You just about have to have a catastrophic loss in order to use this deduction, but it is available and it’s allowed on Sch A.

    I’m not sure how you deduct the health insurance premiums you do pay. You may be deducting them on the front of your 1040 as an adjustment to total income. You can add those health insurance premiums to your medical expenses on Sch A. For filing year 2013, prepare your tax return 2 ways. Take the premiums off the front and see what the numbers are. Then, see if it would be more beneficial to add those insurance premiums to your medical expenses on Sch A. If you’re paying out $4000 in insurance premiums, for example, and add that to $12,000 in dental, you’ve got medical expenses of $16,000. If your AGI is $100,000, that leaves a possible Sch A medical deduction of $6,000 instead of the $2000 from just the dental. Dig out every single receipt you have for dr visit co-pays, prescriptions, etc., for 2013, because all of them are going to count toward the medical deduction.

    Take a look at an HRA, Health Reimbursement Account. I’m not sure how your business is currently structured, and that makes a difference on whether you can set up and use an HRA. (A sole Prop filing Sch C can’t use an HRA, for example) What an HRA will do, completely unlike an HSA, is allow you to deduct all medical and dental 100% for all members of the family. With an HRA, you can also deduct over-the-counter meds and medical purchases as long as they are medically necessary and the doc writes you a note saying so.

    I’ve been meaning to set up an HRA and haven’t gotten it done yet this year. My bad, my bad. That’s going to cost me come tax time. Let me dig out my notes about HRA’s and send them to you.

  31. Kyle | Rather-Be-Shopping.com

    Dang, that hurts, no doubt you guys will pull through it. Give me the address of your dentist and I’ll go kick him in the balls for you.

  32. Deborah Collins

    This wouldn’t be Aspen Dental, would it? My husband went for his free yearly cleaning from my employer’s insurance and came home with a credit card receipt for $975! They insisted on doing that scaling you mentioned; that’s why it rang a bell. I actually bullied them into removing the charge after we returned all the expensive gadgets they pushed on him. I checked reviews for this national chain and saw that they use these tactics regularly. I also personally know a man they insisted had six cavities who then went to another dentist who confirmed what he suspected: that he had zero cavities! Beware of Aspen Dental and any dental office that uses strong arm tactics. They literally would not let my husband leave that day until he got out MY credit card and paid them.

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