Broken teeth and infected gums: 46K claims filed so far with Canadian Dental Care Plan | CBC News (2024)


An Ottawa dentist who signed up to provide care under the new public dental insurance program says he hasn't seen mouths in such bad shape since he did mission work overseas. The number of oral health care providers in the plan is growing, despite some dentists's concerns about how the program is being run.

Nine thousand oral health care providers have signed up as Ottawa works to simplify insurance program

Broken teeth and infected gums: 46K claims filed so far with Canadian Dental Care Plan | CBC News (1)

Marina von Stackelberg · CBC News


Broken teeth and infected gums: 46K claims filed so far with Canadian Dental Care Plan | CBC News (2)

Massive cavities, mouthfuls of broken teeth, bleeding gums and abscesses — they're just some of the serious dental issues Dr. Melvin Lee has treated in less than two weeks of providing care under Canada's new public dental insurance plan.

"I've seen a lot of patients that have infections. Not just dental emergencies, but borderline medical emergencies," the Ottawa dentist said.

"I haven't seen patients in this condition since I did overseas mission dentistry work in Haiti and Peru."

Lee is one of nearly 9,000 oral health care providers who have signed up so far to provide care underthe Canadian Dental Care Plan (CDCP).

That number has grown significantly since last month, when Ottawa said 5,000 had registered. There are approximately 30,500 oral health care providers across the country that couldsign up.

The public plan eventually will provide dental coveragefor one in four low- and middle-income Canadian residents who don't have private dental coverage.

As ofMay 1, eligible seniors 70 and older are coveredand registration has opened for seniors 65 and older. To date, 1.9 million seniors have been approved for the plan.

Lee began treating patients on May 1 and hasseenabout20 seniors through theCDCP.

Seventy-nine year old Morton Brisardwas one of his first patients. He booked an appointment the first day he was covered.

"We are so happy,"Brisardsaid, adding he hadn'tseen a dentist in five years because of the cost.

"The dentist is expensive, so that is why I wait, I wait, I wait, till the problem was very bad," he said."Every morning when I wake up I have blood come from my mouth."

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Dr. Lee said most of theseniors he's seen under the CDCPhave beenin asimilar state, having avoidedvisitingan oral health care provider for years because they didn't have private insurance and couldn't afford to pay out of pocket.

"I've been reminded time and time againof the moral and ethical duty to serve, with every one of these patients that comes through," he said.

The federal government said that 46,000 claims have been processed under the CDCP to date.

Lee said his clinic has beenreimbursed for the procedures within 48 hours by Sun Life, the insurance company that Ottawa contracted to administer the plan.

"It's been seamless," Lee said. "It's been no different than regular insurance."

For most of the procedures he's done, Lee said, the federal government isreimbursing him at about80 to 90 per cent of what the Ontario Dental Association recommends. That's similar to private plans, he said, where dentists charge their patients the difference.

WATCH: First phase of national dental care plan begins

Broken teeth and infected gums: 46K claims filed so far with Canadian Dental Care Plan | CBC News (3)

First phase of Canada's national dental care plan begins

14 days ago

Duration 2:02

The first phase of the Canadian Dental Care Plan began on May 1, providing coverage to nearly two million seniors aged 70 and older.

But provincial dental associations across Canada have raised concerns aboutthe CDCP, arguingthe national program requires dentists to agree to unnecessary terms and conditions.

Ottawa has attempted to deal with those complaints.It announced recently that oral health care providers can begin accepting patients and billing directly to the plan starting July 8, without registering as a provider.

"We want this program to work," said Dr. Brock Nicolucci, president of the Ontario Dental Association.

The auditing process also allowsSun Life to request individual patient records, which isn't something other insurance programs require and could lead to privacy issues,Nicoluccisaid.

"We are committed to working with the Health Canada to get this right. And we hope it doesn't take much longer," he said.

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Dr. Carlos Quiñonez, director of dentistry at Western University in London, Ont. and an expert in dental public health, said he's optimistic about the program's prospects forsuccess, especially asdentists and their patients getused to the new system in the weeks and months ahead.

"Based on my discussions with leaders in dentistry and dentists alike, there seems to be a sense that we are moving in the right direction with respect to discussions with the federal government," Quiñonez said.

"That gives me hope that in the end, this will just be another public dental care plan within the countrythat is remunerating fairly, that covers the services that patients need, and that is just part and parcel of delivering dental care in our country."

At a cost of $13 billion over the next five years, the CDCP is being rolled out gradually through 2025, starting with seniors first.

In June, the program will expand to people with disabilities and teenagers. An interim dental plan has been covering kids under the age of 12 since December 2022.

Do you have questions about howCanada's new dental care plan may affect you? Send an email to


Broken teeth and infected gums: 46K claims filed so far with Canadian Dental Care Plan | CBC News (4)

Marina von Stackelberg


Marina von Stackelberg is a senior reporter at CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. She covers national politics and specializes in health policy. Marina previously worked as a reporter and host in Winnipeg, with earlier stints in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her by email at or on social media @CBCMarina.

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    Broken teeth and infected gums: 46K claims filed so far with Canadian Dental Care Plan | CBC News (2024)


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