Are Children’s Dentist Visits Really Free? Determining Whether Your Family Needs Dental Coverage for Kids

Little Girl Eating Watermelon

I often get asked whether families needs special dental coverage for kids. While many people know that some dental care for children is covered as part of their province’s health coverage, many parents are not sure about which treatments are included and how much treatment their child is eligible to receive.

Not all government plans are created equal, and not all of them cover the wide assortment of dental care that children require. The treatments included, the age of children able to access the oral health programs, and the amount of coverage available vary by province. Just like other areas of health care, Canada does not have a national dental program for kids, so coverage is set on a province by province basis. Below, I’ve highlighted several variations in provincial care:

Nova Scotia’s Children’s Oral Health Program

In Nova Scotia, MSI, the provincial health insurance plan, covers children up to age 14. There are no income restrictions in place, so all children have access to the following services every year:

  • One dental examination
  • Two sets of x-rays
  • Any required fillings
  • One preventative service, such as cleaning
  • Nutritional counselling
  • In specific cases sealant applications on molars will be covered as this is where decay is most likely to occur

Newfoundland’s Children’s Dental Health Program

Newfoundland’s health coverage includes dental for children up to the age of 12 without income restrictions, providing:

  • Two examinations per year (once every six months)
  • One cleaning per year
  • Fluoride applications for 6 to 12 year olds, once per year
  • Routine fillings and extractions as required
  • Sealants

Newfoundland also offers two programs for 13 to 17 year olds of low-income families: Income Support Program and Low Income (Access) Program. For qualified recipients of both of these programs, the following services are covered:

  • One examination every two years
  • Routine fillings and extractions as required

New Brunswick’s Healthy Smiles, Clear Vision

New Brunswick does not offer a universal dental plan, but does offer dental coverage to children of low-income families as part of the Healthy Smiles, Clear Vision program. Eligibility depends on family income, and covers basic treatments such as:

  • Regular exams
  • X-rays
  • Extractions
  • Sealants and fluoride treatments

Why is Kids’ Dental Health so Important?

There is a proven link between oral health and overall health. Children should begin regular visits with a dentist by their first birthday to give them the best possible start. Ensuring children have a healthy mouth and smile early can help ensure their adult teeth will grow in properly, and can even help them reach speech and language development milestones. Poor oral health as been linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and respiratory issue in adults.

Should Your Family “Top Up” with Dental Coverage for Kids?

If your province already covers some children’s dental care, does your family need a dental insurance plan? That depends on what kind of services you think your child could need. For example, the following treatment are not covered:

  • Additional Cleanings: If you’d like your child to have regular cleanings more than once a year, you’ll have to pay for that out of pocket without a health plan.
  • Extractions: Provincial plans usually do not cover extractions.
  • Orthodontics: Braces, retainers and other orthodontic appliances are not covered by provincial plans, so if your child requires treatment from an orthodontist, you’ll have to pay directly.

If any of those services are important to you, or if you live in a province where dental treatments such as fillings are not included, you may want to consider including dental benefits with your insurance plan.

I’d be happy to review all of your options with you and answer any questions about what is and is not covered, and whether you’ll save money in the long run by adding dental to your coverage. Schedule your consultation today!

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