[2022] Free Dental Care in Canada: The Complete Guide

Posted by Dr. Joanne Baldos and Dr. Adam Szymczak on Jun 15, 2022 1:43:23 PM

If you are wondering if free dental care is available in Canada, you have come to the right place.


This blog post will discuss how to access free dental care in Canada and what services are covered. We will also provide resources that can help you find free or affordable dental care in your area.


There are a few ways to access free dental care in Canada. One way is through provincial or territorial health insurance plans. Each province and territory in Canada has its own health insurance plan and programs that provide free or low-cost dental care for residents:

Also, there are 4 long-standing federal government programs for free dental care:

  • (NIHB) Non-Insured Health Benefits, free dental care for eligible First Nations people and Inuit, paid by Health Canada.
  • (IFHP) Interim Federal Health Program, free emergency dental care for refugees, paid by the Government of Canada.
  • (VAC) Veterans Affairs Canada, free dental services for Canadian veterans, paid by Veterans Affairs Canada.
  • (CSA) Correctional Services Canada essential health services to federal inmates paid by Correctional Services Canada.

We will discuss these 4 programs later in this blog post. But, first, let's turn our attention to the newly announced Federal Dental Care Program for Uninsured Canadians:




(Free Dental Care for Middle-Income and Low-Income Canadians)

Justin Trudeau Jagmeet Singh coalition


In a political move that allows Justin Trudeau to remain the Prime Minister of Canada until 2025, his minority Liberal federal government made a deal with the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Jagmeet Singh. This coalition, formed in March 2022, gives Justin Trudeau majority federal government control. In return, amongst other concessions, the NDP gets to advance its vision of universal dental care for all Canadians.


Who is eligible for the Liberal-NDP free dental care?

Families with an annual income of less than $90,000 and lacking employer-based dental insurance would be eligible for coverage.


About 6.5 million Canadians are estimated to be eligible for the plan.


For families with an income below $70,000, the dental fees would be fully covered by the government.


There would be a co-payment fee for families with an income between $70,000-$90,000. Co-pay is a flat fee that is paid by the patient to the provider when a person uses the plan.


When will the Liberal-NDP free dental care start?

The plan is to be phased in over three years before the Liberal-NDP agreement expires in 2025.


Starting later in 2022, children under 12 would become eligible for the program.


In 2023, the coverage would be extended to 18-year-olds, seniors, and people living with disabilities.


The program would be fully implemented by 2025 under the proposed timeline.


How do I apply for the Liberal-NDP free dental care program?

The application process and mode of access have not been announced yet but the government.


What type of dental procedures will the Liberal-NDP free dental care program cover?

The government has not yet released the details of which dental procedures the program will cover. However, one can make an educated guess based on Jagmeet Singh's 2019 election campaign platform, in which he promised that an NDP government would cover comprehensive dental care, including:

  • diagnostic services, including examinations and radiographs;
  • preventive services, including scaling, polishing, sealants, and fluorides;
  • restorative services, including fillings and crowns;
  • endodontic services, including root canal treatments;
  • periodontal services, including deep scaling;
  • prosthodontic services, including partial and complete dentures;
  • surgery, including extractions;
  • orthodontic services, including non-cosmetic braces;
  • and adjunctive services, including sedation and general anesthesia. 

Nothing is "free" how much will this "Liberal-NDP free dental care" cost taxpayers?

The proposed dental care under the new Liberal-NDP agreement will deliver the most significant expansion of Canada's public health care system in decades.


The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) estimated the cost of the NDP's dental plan during the 2019 election campaign. The PBO estimated the cost to be about 1.7 billion dollars ( $1,700,000,000) per year!


However, the first 12 months of the program is expected to cost the taxpayers 4.6 billion dollars due to an expectation that an initial surge of people with unmet dental needs would seek care when they become eligible.





( free dental care for eligible First Nations people and Inuit)

Indigenous People of Canada

The Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Program is a national health-benefit program for eligible First Nations people and Inuit. This program provides coverage for various health benefits that are not covered through other social programs, private insurance plans, or provincial or territorial health insurance.


The program covers a range of dental services, including diagnostic (e.g., X-rays), preventive (e.g., cleaning, fluorides), restorative (e.g., fillings, crowns), endodontic (including root canal treatments), and periodontal/ oral surgery.



The Non-Insured Health Benefits Program is Health Canada's national, medically necessary health benefits program that provides coverage for benefit claims for a specified range of drugs, dental care, vision care, medical supplies and equipment, short-term crisis intervention mental health counseling, and medical transportation for eligible First Nations people and Inuit.


A benefit will be considered for coverage when:

  • The item or service is on a NIHB Program benefit list or NIHB schedule;
  • It is intended for use in a home or other ambulatory care settings;
  • Prior approval or predetermination is obtained (if required);
  • It is not available through any other federal, provincial, territorial, or private health or social program;
  • The item is prescribed by a physician, dental care provider, or other health professional licensed to prescribe; and
  • The item is provided by a recognized provider.


An eligible recipient is entitled to receive benefits such as vision care, prescription drugs, or other benefits or services from the NIHB Program.

An eligible recipient must be identified as a resident of Canada and one of the following:

  • A registered Indian according to the Indian Act;
  • An Inuk recognized by one of the Inuit Land Claim organizations; or
  • An infant less than one year of age whose parent is an eligible recipient.

When recipients are eligible for benefits under a private health care plan or public health or social program, claims must be submitted to these plans and programs before submitting them to the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program.



  • Diagnostic services (e.g. examinations or x-rays);
  • Preventive services (e.g. cleanings);
  • Restorative services (e.g. fillings);
  • Endodontics services (e.g. root canals);
  • Periodontal services (e.g. deep cleanings);
  • Prosthodontic services (e.g. removable dentures);
  • Oral surgery services (e.g. removal of teeth);
  • Orthodontic services (e.g. braces); and
  • Adjunctive services (e.g. general anaesthetics or sedation).


First, you must be an eligible client under the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program. Then, you must be examined by a dental provider who will establish a treatment plan and discuss the services you require.


The dental provider should tell you what is covered by the NIHB Program because certain services may need to be pre-approved by the NIHB Program.


Suppose your provider doesn't know whether the NIHB Program covers the service. In that case, you can obtain that information by contacting the Health Canada regional office or the National Dental Predetermination Centre (NDPC) for those regions which have been centralized and asking about the dental benefits staff and what is and is not covered.

What does "predetermination" mean?

  • Predetermination, also known as pre-approval, is obtaining approval in advance. This process involves reviewing the case against established NIHB policies, criteria, and guidelines before the service is rendered.

  • Predetermination or pre-approval is required for specific dental services.

  • Your dental provider's office must send all cases requiring predetermination to the appropriate Health Canada regional office or NDPC for review and a coverage decision before treatment begins.




(free dental care for resettled refugees)

free dental care for resettled refugees


The Interim Federal Health Program (IFPH) covers emergency dental care for refugees. “Emergency” is defined as procedures to reduce pain and active infection, bleeding, and the result of oral trauma.


The IFHP provides limited, temporary coverage of health-care benefits to people in the following groups who aren’t eligible for provincial or territorial health insurance:

  • Protected persons, including resettled refugees;
  • Refugee claimants; and
  • Certain other groups.



(free dental care for Canadian veterans)

Canadian veterans


Canadian veterans are entitled to various health care benefits, including dental treatment. Federal: GOVERNMENT/ DEPARTMENT: Veterans Affairs Canada.



Veterans may qualify to receive financial support for treatment benefits if they are:


Provides coverage for basic dental care and some pre-authorized comprehensive dental services. Services provided should be generally accepted practices and the most cost-effective treatment essential to good oral health.


The VAC dental program covers up to 100% of the Provincial Dental / Denturist Association fee guide rates.


Examples of services that are covered:

  • annual basic treatments up to $1500 annually
  • exams, polish, and fluoride treatments every 9 months
  • scaling (8 units per year)
  • fillings and extractions
  • standard dentures once every 7 years


Examples of dental services that require pre-authorization from VAC: (Before any treatment is received, a dental treatment plan is to be submitted to VAC for preauthorization.):

  • basic treatment exceeding $1500 annually
  • crowns
  • bridgework (x-rays required)
  • specialist treatment (referral required)
  • early replacement of dentures as determined by your dentist or denturist


Examples of services that are not covered:

  • gum surgery
  • implants
  • equilibrated/custom/semi-precision dentures



(free dental care for federal inmates)




Correctional Services Canada provides essential health services to inmates (access to screening, referral, and treatment services). Essential services shall include dental care for acute conditions. Federal: Correctional Services Canada.



All inmates of federal prisons.



Dental care for acute dental conditions where the inmate is experiencing swelling, pain, or trauma; preventive treatment (i.e., necessary fillings, extractions, etc.) subject to the motivation displayed by the inmate to take an active part in the process; and removable dental prostheses as recommended by the institutional Dentist. All other dental care will be initiated and funded by the inmate.





For many years, free dental has been available in Canada through the federal government only for particular groups of people: First Nations people and Inuit, refugees, Canadian veterans, and federal inmates. Respectively, the dental services have been paid for by the Non-Insured Health Benefits, Interim Federal Health Program, Veterans Affairs Canada, and Correctional Services Canada.


More recently, in March 2022, the federal government unveiled a national dental care program plan. This new federal dental care program for uninsured Canadians aims to provide dental care coverage for middle-income and low-income Canadians. Stay tuned as more details will be released by the federal Liberal government later in 2022.


In the best interest of your health and well-being,

Dr. Joanne Baldos and Dr. Adam Szymczak


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