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Health Canada clarifies eligibility for seniors under national dental care plan

The federal government has posted updated information online on who is eligible for Canada’s national dental care plan.

The additional details come after seniors raised concerns about whether their existing private dental insurance plans disqualified them from the public plan.

A spokesperson for Health Canada told CBC News that people 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insurance plans on their own will qualify for the national program — but only after their existing private policies are no longer in effect.

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, the website says.

Ottawa has now added an exception for retirees who decided not to sign up for private dental insurance offered through their pension plans. If they opted out of those dental plans before Dec. 11, 2023, and aren’t allowed to opt back in, they qualify for the national program.

A spokesperson for Health Canada told CBC News its website was updated Monday.

  • Do you have questions about how Canada’s new dental care plan may affect you? Send an email to
A man in a blue suit and red tie stands in front of a sign that reads "Dental Care Plan."
Health Minister Mark Holland listens to questions after announcing details of the Canadian Dental Care Plan on December 11, 2023. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Health Minister Mark Holland said his department looked at situations where retirees had chosen to opt out of their pension dental plans before the national program was announced.

“[That] put a few people in limbo, where there was a question mark about whether or not they were going to get their coverage. We’ve said no, that’s fair. That person should be able to get the coverage,” Holland said Tuesday during a funding announcement in Iqaluit.

1 million Canadians signed up so far

The $13 billion Canadian Dental Care Plan is expected eventually to cover an estimated nine million low and middle income Canadians who don’t have private dental insurance.

“This is really about filling in the gaps, making sure that everybody gets coverage, as opposed to displacing existing plans,” Holland said Tuesday.

Ottawa has been sending letters to eligible individuals inviting them to apply, starting with the oldest first. In March, eligibility opened to seniors aged 70 and older. Coverage is set to begin in May. The program is expected to be open to all eligible applicants by 2025. 

More than 1 million Canadians have signed up for the plan, Citizen’s Services Minister Terry Beech said during question period last week.

In order to qualify, applicants must have no access to private dental insurance and household incomes of less than $90,000 a year. They also must have filed a tax return and be Canadian residents.

Dental associations have recommended seniors not opt out of or cancel any existing dental care insurance until Ottawa provides more details on who and what is covered.

Do you have questions about how Canada’s new dental care plan may affect you? Send an email to

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