Dental Insurance In Canada

Dental Insurance In Canada

Written by Matthew Taylor
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated September 27, 2021

In Canada, around 70% of the total cost of health care is covered by public insurance. However, dental services are not included in this. Usually, Canadians will cover these costs through private out-of-pocket insurance, insurance offered by employers, or simply out-of-pocket. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, about 37.6% of total spending on dental services is out of pocket, and those who do not have insurance are roughly three times likelier than those who have insurance to skip going to the dentist because of the cost. 

Having dental insurance is a great way to save money on dental treatments and to maintain good oral health.

What Is Dental Insurance? 

Dental insurance covers treatments and services offered by dental professionals. This usually includes treatments applied to your teeth and often to your gums as well. However, most dental insurance plans do not fully cover the cost of dental treatments. You may still have to pay for some of the cost out-of-pocket.

Types Of Dental Insurance Coverage 

There are four types of dental insurance coverage: basic, comprehensive basic, major, and orthodontic.

  • Basic Dental Insurance Coverage – As the name implies, basic dental insurance covers only the most basic dental services, like x-rays, exams, and dental cleaning. Depending on your insurance plan, your insurer will cover these services at different frequencies. For example, a more expensive plan might cover routine exams every six months. While cheaper plans will cover routine exams every year. There is usually no waiting period for this coverage.  
  • Comprehensive Dental Insurance Coverage – Comprehensive dental insurance provides the same coverage as the basic plan but includes extras like root canals, denture cleaning, and periodontal treatment.
  • Major Dental Insurance Coverage – This covers treatments not covered by the basic and comprehensive plans, such as bridges and crowns. It often has a waiting period where you can’t use the coverage, which can be up to three years.
  • Orthodontic Dental Insurance Coverage – This kind of coverage covers braces and other kinds of alignment that help to straighten jaws and teeth. Like the major coverage, it usually has a waiting period, which can be up to three years.

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How Dental Insurance Works In Canada?

As mentioned, Canada’s public health care system does not cover dental treatments and services. In general, there are four ways that Canadians pay for their dental treatments.

Third-Party Insurance

This kind of insurance is offered by many employers as a benefit. Interested parties must pay a premium, which is often deducted from their paycheques, and in return, they receive some form of dental insurance. In fact, according to the Canadian Dental Association, 56.2% of total spending on dental services in 2015 came from third-party insurance and private dental insurance. 

Private Dental Insurance

People can purchase their own private dental insurance from many insurance companies such as Manulife, Desjardin, and Canada Life. Each company offers a variety of plans whose rates vary based on the type and amount of coverage you want. Generally, those who are not covered by an employer will opt for private dental insurance.

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Directly Out-Of-Pocket

People pay, out of pocket, for dental services when not covered by insurance or a government-subsidized program. According to the Canadian Dental Association, out-of-pocket spending accounted for 37.6% of total spending on dental services in 2015. 

Government-Subsidized Programs

Municipal, provincial, territorial, and federal governments provide discounted or free dental care to certain eligible individuals. These individuals include the disabled, certain Indigenous individuals, children, and seniors. According to the Canadian Dental Association, these programs accounted for 6.3% of total spending on dental services in 2015.

Cost Of Dental Insurance In Canada

There is no set cost for dental insurance in Canada. The cost really depends on the dental clinic you choose, the kind of coverage you are seeking and the province or territory you live in as well, because the cost of dental services varies greatly depending on where you live. However, on average, Canadians spent $378.60 on dental services, according to the Canadian Dental Association. 

Provincial Government Dental Plans 

Each province and territory has different dental plans:

Alberta

There are many government and community oral health programs in Alberta, mainly targeted towards low-income residents. Children, adults, and seniors are all covered in some way through Alberta’s Low-income Community Oral Health Programs. Basic services, such as x-rays and exams, as well as preventative services, such as fluoride application, may be covered.

Alberta Government Dental Plans

British Columbia

Adults who are eligible for general health supplements, receive disability assistance or qualify as someone with persistent multiple barriers receive basic dental coverage, as do youth under 19 whose families are on assistance. The program provides basic dental services as well as certain complex procedures such as crowns and bridges (under special circumstances). 

British Columbia Government Dental Plans

Manitoba

The Manitoba Health and Seniors Care provincial health plan covers some dental procedures if they require hospitalization.

Manitoba Government Dental Plans

New Brunswick

The Health Services Dental Program in New Brunswick provides clients of the Department of Social Development who are over 19 years of age (and their dependents), those who have special health needs, and those who qualify for assisted health care. The program covers exams, x-rays, dentures, repairs, and certain fillings provided that they do not have other dental insurance.

The Healthy Smiles, Clear Vision program provides basic coverage, such as exams, x-rays, and extractions, as well as some preventative treatments, to children of low-income families.

New Brunswick Government Dental Plans

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Children’s Dental Health Program provides access to certain dental services such as exams and cleanings, for children 12 years old and younger.

The Income Support Program provides basic coverage, including exams and routine fillings and extractions, to children aged 13 – 17 whose families receive Income Support.

The Low Income (Access) Program provides basic coverage for children aged 13 – 17 who are enrolled in the Access Plan of the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program. This includes exams and routine fillings and extractions

The Adult Dental Program provides basic services, including exams and x-rays, as well as dentures, to those who are enrolled in the Foundation Plan of the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program.

Newfoundland and Labrador Government Dental Plans

Northwest Territories

The School-Based Oral Health Program allows for all children attending schools in the Northwest Territories to receive preventative oral healthcare, such as oral examinations, specialized treatment, and referral to a dentist.

The Extended Health Benefits for Seniors Program provides coverage to those over 60 years of age with dental services as well as prescription drugs, vision care, medical supplies and equipment. Please note that people from the ingenious communities can also gain access to dental insurance programs through the Métis Health Benefits Program and the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program.

Northwest Territories Government Dental Plans

Nova Scotia

The Nova Scotia Children’s Oral Health Program, which is available to all children aged 14 and younger who have a Medical Services Insurance card, provides for exams, x-rays, preventative services, fillings, and extractions.

Nova Scotia Government Dental Plans

Nunavut

The Nunavut Children’s Oral Health Project provides free dental screenings, which may result in referrals for other treatments, extractions, or temporary fillings. Children who are in grade 7 or below are eligible.

Nunavut Government Dental Plans

Ontario

The Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program offers free routine dental services for seniors making less than $22,000 per year or less than $37,100 a year if they’re a couple. 

The Ontario Cleft Lip and Palate/Craniofacial Dental Program cover up to 75% of specialist dental treatment not covered by private insurance for cleft lips, cleft palates, and other craniofacial conditions.

Healthy Smiles Ontario provides free dental services, including dental exams, preventive care, and other treatments to those under 17 years of age.

Ontario Government Dental Plans

Prince Edward Island

The Prince Edward Island Provincial Dental Care Program provides those on social assistance and low-income individuals and their dependents with annual and emergency dental exams, dental fillings, dental extractions, some preventative services, and dentures.

The Children’s Oral Health Programs offer preventative dental services for children ages 3 – 17, and more extensive services for children who do not have a private dental insurance plan, who require a pediatric dental specialist, or who have a cleft lip and/or palate.

Prince Edward Island Government Dental Plans

Quebec

Basic services for children under the age of 10, including exams, x-rays, and extractions, are covered by Quebec health insurance. This coverage notably excludes cleanings. Certain oral surgery services are also covered for everyone, such as removals of cysts or tumours. Those who receive financial assistance are eligible for different dental services depending on how long they have been receiving assistance.

Quebec Government Dental Plans

Saskatchewan

In Saskatchewan, only those who are eligible for supplementary health benefits receive dental coverage. If they are eligible for emergency benefits, they are covered for services to relieve pain and control infection. If they are eligible for full benefits, they are covered for preventive, restorative, exodontic, and prosthetic services so that they can maintain good oral health.

Saskatchewan Government Dental Plans

Yukon

The Yukon Children’s Dental Program offers free diagnostic, preventative, and restorative dental services to children up to Grade 8 or Grade 12, depending on where they live in the territory.

Yukon Government Dental Plans

Best Dental Insurance Providers In Canada

There are numerous private dental insurers in Canada. Depending on the provider you choose and the coverage you need, the rate you’ll be charged will vary. 

Manulife Dental Insurance

Manulife offers both healthcare and dental insurance to those who don’t have insurance through their employer or who want to supplement their coverage. There are seven plans to choose from for all kinds of budgets and needs. Depending on the plan, up to $920 of dental expenses are covered per year. Moreover, if you sign up for the Manulife Vitality program, a program that helps you save money and rewards you when you make healthy choices. Through it, clients can save 5% on their premiums during their first year, and up to 10% in their second year. 

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Desjardins Dental Insurance

Desjardins offers personalized health insurance that can be supplemented by optional dental coverage. There are two levels of coverage, one of which includes orthodontic treatments. When you choose Desjardins, you’ll also get access to complementary services like 24/7 phone assistance services.

Canada Protection Plan Dental Insurance

Canada Protection Plan offers a variety of health and dental plans that can help cover the cost of both medical and dental services. Different levels of coverage are offered, meaning that you can pick a plan that works best for you. Moreover, if you have group insurance benefits and want to switch, you can apply for dental insurance with Canada Protection Plan without requiring a medical questionnaire or exam. Currently, Canada Protection Plan offers two main health and dental care programs: 

  • Flex Care – This program allows you to choose the type of coverage you want based on your budget and needs. You can opt for a basic or more comprehensive dental plan. It also allows you to add medical and drug coverage if you want. 
  • FollowMe – This program is for those who recently lost their group insurance or want to switch. If you apply within 90 days of losing or quitting your group insurance, you do not need a medical questionnaire or exam. Moreover, it offers 4 different plans that provide coverage for prescription drugs, dental care, vision care and hospital benefits.

Canada Life Dental Insurance

Canada Life offers a variety of plans for all kinds of budgets and needs. The PlanDirect Basic, Comprehensive, and Premier plans are great for those who are retiring or who are losing their dental coverage. The PlanDirect Core, Core Plus, and Elite plans are great for those who don’t have benefits from their employer or who are self-employed. Depending on the plan, you may have to go through a waiting period, and you may be covered for a portion of diagnostic services, such as exams, preventative services, like fluoride application, and oral surgery, such as tooth extractions.

Ontario Blue Cross Dental Insurance

Ontario Blue Cross offers plans starting at $64.45 per month. This insurance is intended to supplement the Ontario Health Insurance Plan by covering some of the costs of oral surgeries and common dental treatment that the Plan doesn’t cover. Moreover, there are no deductibles and all plans come with a 24/7 virtual health care service that offers free advice and support to manage your health. 

Dental Insurance FAQs

How do you make a dental insurance claim?

To make a dental insurance claim, you have to fill out and submit paperwork provided by your insurance provider. This paperwork includes what treatment you received and how much it costs. Your insurance provider will approve or deny your claim based on whether you followed their process correctly and if your insurance plan covers the treatment you received. 

What is group dental insurance?

Group dental insurance is part of the benefits that employers purchase for their employees to cover dental expenses.

Does Canada offer free dental care?

Although there is no universal free dental care in Canada, each province and territory has free dental care for certain eligible people. 

Should You Get Dental Insurance?

Dental insurance is always a good idea. Besides being able to save money on expensive dental treatments, you will also be able to better maintain your oral health if you see a dental professional regularly. By purchasing dental insurance, you are investing in your medical and financial health – and there are few better investments that you can make.

Matthew joined the Loans Canada writing team in 2021 while was finishing up a Bachelor's degree at the University of Saskatchewan. It was there that he discovered his love of writing. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Canadian Student Review and NewEngineer.com. In his spare time, Matthew enjoys reading, geocaching, and spending time with his family and pets.

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