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Calgary seniors, advocates encouraged by new national dental plan


Calgary seniors, advocates and dentists are celebrating a newly announced dental care plan aimed at helping Canadians better afford oral health care.

The federal government rolled out details of the $13 billion Canadian Dental Care Plan program Monday morning. It will cover routine dentistry costs for seniors based on income.

At a press conference Monday federal Health Minister Mark Holland said the benefit will eventually apply to all eligible low, and middle-income Canadians by the end of 2025, but will begin with coverage for some seniors, and children under 18.

"Far too many people have avoided getting the care that they need simply because it was too expensive, and that's why this plan is essential,” said Holland. "We know we can do better."

The first to benefit from the planned rollout will be seniors 87 years old and older. Applications for that age group will open later this month, others will be eligible to apply in the new year.

Larry Mathieson, the CEO of Calgary‘s Unison at Kerby Centre which advocates for and offers support to seniors, said in a time of spiralling inflation, seniors on fixed incomes are forced into making hard decisions, and dental care often takes a back seat.

”One in four of them are essentially making decisions, maybe not to buy medications that they need, or not to buy food, because those are things that they might see as flexible, as opposed to not paying their rent or mortgage,” said Mathieson.

“A visit to the dentist is just too cost-prohibitive. So this [plan] changes that, and flattens that playing field for sure.”

Holland said nearly nine million Canadians will be eligible to take advantage of this new plan.

“This is the largest coverage rollout in the history of Canada,” said Holland.

“It's going to make life better for eligible Canadian residents who won't have to choose between paying their bills and getting the help they absolutely need."

Seventy-two-year-old Dorothy Began said she likes the newly announced dental program, saying she's cut back on trips to the dentist over the past few years.

“You can't [go to the dentist] as often as when you had a program that was covered when you worked,” said Began.

“You used to go more frequently, every three, six months. I don't do that anymore. Sometimes I stretch it out from a year to two years, as long as I don't have something like an ailment, like a toothache or something where you'd have to.”

Stories like Began’s worry Calgary dentist Anne Kelly, who says dental care is a key component of overall health.

She is hopeful the new federal dental plan will see more seniors coming through her doors.

“Dental care is very important to seniors. Simply for the ability to chew your food, live your life,” said Kelly

“It's incredibly important that we prevent problems rather than just dealing with problems as they arise. It's incredibly important to their overall health and longevity.

Eligible Canadians will receive a letter in the mail that will detail how to enroll in the dental plan over the next number of months.

To qualify, applicants must have filed an income tax return, have a household income below $90,000 and they can't have access to an existing private insurance plan.

In a technical briefing prior to the minister’s announcement, the government laid out the timelines by which seniors will receive those letters:

  • Seniors aged 87 and above starting in December 2023;
  • Seniors aged 77 to 86 starting in January 2024;
  • Seniors aged 72 to 76 starting in February 2024; and
  • Seniors aged 70 to 71 starting in March 2024.

In that same briefing, the services that will be covered were cited as:

  • Preventive services, including scaling (cleaning), polishing, sealants and fluoride;
  • Diagnostic services, including examinations and x-rays;
  • Restorative services, including fillings;
  • Endodontic services, including root canal treatments;
  • Prosthodontic services, including complete and partial removable dentures;
  • Periodontal services, including deep scaling; and
  • Oral surgery services, including extractions.

The federal dental insurance plan is a key pillar in the Liberal's supply-and-confidence deal with the New Democrats to secure the opposition party's support on key votes.

The NDP lauded the news in a statement Monday, styling the plan as "the NDP national dental care program."

More information on the federal dental insurance plan can be found on the Government of Canada’s website. Top Stories

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