What Do I Need to Know about Dental Care in Canada?

The Canadian Dental Care Plan (CDCP), was first proposed by the federal government in 2022. In 2023, the federal government announced the plan would provide coverage for uninsured Canadians with annual family income of less than $90,000.  At the time of the announcement, it was revealed Canadians under 18, people with disabilities, and seniors would initially be covered under the program with plans to cover 9 million eligible Canadians by 2025.

Prior to the Canadian Dental Care Plan (CDCP) was announced in 2023, Canadians have been responsible for financing their own dental care and have typically done so in the following four ways:

  1. Third-party insurance (employment-related dental coverage);
  2. Private dental insurance (not-employment related coverage);
  3. Directly out-of-pocket, and;
  4. Various levels of Government-subsidized programs in some provinces.

While thousands of Canadians have already applied for the program (you can find information about eligibility and how to apply here), the Canadian Association of Retired Persons awaits further details, as questions remain and the actual implementation of the program will be key.

How is CARP Advocating?

The CDCP is intended to help millions of people without dental benefits access essential oral health care. Although this is an historic investment, the CDCP has been developed under tight timelines and with limited involvement of practising dentists. 

CARP is continuing to follow the negotiations between the governments, provinces and Dental Associations closely.  CARP’s discussions with the Dental Association, elected officials and public servants make clear there are still many unanswered questions.  

CARP will continue to press the government to address the many legitimate concerns. While CARP applauds the intention to provide essential oral care to those who need it, we must get the details right. 

A positive development is that while the government originally indicated those on the plan would need to pay up front and wait for reimbursement for the portion of the cost for which they are eligible (a challenge for many low-income older Canadians), this has now CHANGED thanks to CARP and other advocate’s push back.  Instead, plan members will be able to access the benefit at the point of sale.

CARPs concerns include:


  • What will be covered? There is not yet clarity on precisely what will be covered, but the government has provided information about dental services that, “could” be covered.
  • When will services be covered? No word yet on when those who have signed up and have a “card” will actually be able to benefit from the proposed plan.
  • Dentists Not Yet on Board: Surveys show that as few as 15% of dentists plan to offer the Federal Dental Plan. This means your dentist may or may not offer the plan. Patients will need to search for dentists who agree to participate, despite the unclear terms and conditions set by the government. There is no guarantee of availability in small communities with few (often just one) dentist.
  • Provinces Opting Out: Alberta and Quebec have opted out and others have threatened to do so.
  • Will the Promise Hold for Long-term Care Residents?: CARP continues to advocate for mobile health services in which dental hygienists can bill the government directly for their services, enabling dental care for residents in long-term care facilities. While this has been promised, we don’t yet have details on its implementation. CARP is continuing to advocate with provincial governments to make sure this aspect of the dental program is implemented.


  • Third Party/Private insurance exclusion: CARP has been vocal about concerns regarding whether seniors existing plans disqualify them from the public plan.  Recently the government made some clarifications and an exception. CARP is urging the government to do better.
    • Those who purchased private dental insurance plans on their own will qualify for the national program — but only after their existing private policies are no longer in effect. Given the lack of clarity, opting out of private insurance in order to qualify for a yet-to-be finalised plan could leave seniors without any coverage.

    • Those with access to private dental coverage through their work or professional organizations remain ineligible for the Canadian Dental Care Plan. They’re ineligible even if they decided to opt out of their private insurance, haven’t made a claim, or have to pay a premium. CARP knows many seniors are struggling with the cost of their insurance. Why won’t the CDCP allow these seniors to opt out of their private plans and join the federal dental plan?

    • The government has made an exception for retirees who decided not to sign up for private dental insurance offered specifically through their pension plans. If they opted out of those pension dental plans before Dec. 11, 2023, and aren’t allowed to opt back in, they qualify for the national program.
  • Taxes: CARP understands that support will be contingent upon having filed taxes. Those who do not need to pay taxes, on account of their very low incomes, do not always file taxes.  We encourage everyone to file taxes, and this adds impetus given it will enable those eligible for the dental care support to receive it.

The Canadian Dental Association shares many of CARP’s concerns.  See their reaction here.

It has been suggested that no coverage will be available until at least the fall of 2024. Given the shifting timelines and lack of clarity on implementation, CARP is urging members not to delay needed dental work.

How Can I get Involved?

As always, if you feel strongly, reach out to your elected officials and let them know you are not happy with how the situation is going.

There are many ways to get involved.  Find out more.