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New kids dental benefit now open to some Canadians. Here’s what to know

Click to play video: 'Canada Dental Benefit applications officially open'
Canada Dental Benefit applications officially open
WATCH: Canadian parents can now apply for the federal government's new dental care benefit for kids, which will provide up to $650 a year for each child under 12 for families with a net household income of less than $90,000 – Dec 1, 2022

The Liberal government’s new dental care benefit for children is open for applications, which will help qualifying families get help for their children’s dental costs.

The dental benefit was a compromise between the Liberals and NDP, as part of the supply-and-confidence agreement that will see the New Democrats support the minority government until 2025.

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The Liberals are still working on a wider national dental insurance program, but Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said last month this new interim program will help ease the burden of dental bills for parents of younger children while details are worked out for a second program that will include seniors, people with disabilities and Canadians with “relatively low- or middle-income ranges.”

“What we are announcing today is that parents across the country are now going to be able to afford to send their kids to the dentist. This is a key and essential part of us being there for people, making sure that everyone has the best chance to succeed,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday during an event in London, Ont. marking the opening of the program.

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“This is an important step in the right direction to make sure Canadian children get the dental care they need.”

Lynn Tomkins, president of the Canadian Dental Association, says tooth decay among children remains the most common, preventable childhood chronic disease in Canada.

It is the most common reason for Canadian children to undergo day surgery and also causes many children to miss school, she said.

“Having been in practice for over 35 years, I can tell you that nothing is more heart-wrenching than to see a child suffer with severe dental decay,” Tomkins said during the event in London.

“In addition to the impact on the child’s health, the experience can lead to long term dental fear and anxiety. Therefore, it is so important to ensure that Canadian parents can access dental care for their children.”

Click to play video: 'Feds outline new dental benefit for Canadian children under age 12'
Feds outline new dental benefit for Canadian children under age 12

Most provinces and territories do offer some publicly-funded children’s dental programs, but these programs vary widely, leaving many gaps, Tomkins said.

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That’s why she says her association welcomes the introduction of this new federal benefit, which will allow children not currently covered by other insurance plans the opportunity to have access to some dental care to prevent decay and disease.

“While $650 or $1,300 dollars over two years may not be enough for every single child, it should still be enough for the last majority to obtain the care they need. And we’re very pleased,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Some Maritimers smiling over new federal dental coverage, but gaps remain'
Some Maritimers smiling over new federal dental coverage, but gaps remain

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Wednesday this measure would be “just the first step” in efforts to secure dental coverage for all Canadians.

“We’re going to keep fighting to make sure all Canadians can access comprehensive dental care as part of our health-care system.”

Who can apply?

Families with a net household income lower than $90,000 who do not have private insurance can apply for up to $650 per child under the age of 12 each year.

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The program is based on the Canada Child Benefit, so families need to be a recipient of that benefit to be eligible to apply.

The application includes an eligibility checklist that requires the parent (applicant) to select the period for which their child’s dental care is needed, how many of their children are eligible for coverage and whether they are covered by any other dental insurance plans.

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Families who have their own private dental insurance or employer-provided dental coverage and children who are fully covered by provincial or territorial dental care plans are not eligible for this new federal benefit.

All caregivers who reside in the same household as the child who needs dental care must have filed their 2021 tax returns to access this benefit.

The application was built to include an up-front verification process that determines eligibility based on 2021 tax return information. That means applicants do not have to calculate whether they have an adjusted family net income of less than $90,000 – it will be calculated automatically as part of the interactive application process.

How to apply for the dental benefit

The application can be accessed beginning on Dec. 1 by searching “Canada dental benefit” on the federal government’s website.

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The application portal includes the interactive checklist to determine eligibility, as well as a checklist to help applicants to get ready to apply.

Applicants will be asked whether they have access to a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) “My Account” or a “My Service Canada Account,” either of which can be used to direct them to the application portal for the new dental benefit.

Those who do not have access to online systems can apply by telephone. The dental benefit will have its own dedicated phone line with agents trained to answer questions and take applications. These agents will ask a series of questions to verify the eligibility of the applicant, which will mirror the online application.

Click to play video: 'Ask an Expert: Federal government dental benefits'
Ask an Expert: Federal government dental benefits

What other information will be needed to qualify for the dental benefit?

The system will already have information about children in each household that are eligible for coverage under this benefit, thanks to data from the Canada Child Benefit, so parents will only have to choose the number of children under 12 for whom they are applying for benefits.

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They will then be asked to provide dates of the dental appointments for each child and information about the dental professional who will be performing this procedure.

Information about caregivers’ employers will also be requested, and employers may be contacted to verify insurance coverage.

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Applications to cover a future or upcoming dental procedure for a child under 12 may be made ahead of time. Parents will be asked to keep receipts for all dental procedures and appointments, which may be requested at a later time for verification.

The anticipated wait time for payment is five business days for those who are signed up for direct deposit and five-to-10 business days for those who opt to receive a check by mail.

Similar to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and other pandemic payments, applicants will be required to make an attestation that all information provided is true.

Penalties may be levied against those who provide false or misleading information.

– with files from The Canadian Press

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