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Minister of Health Mark Holland speaks to reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Jan. 31.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The federal government is rolling out another plank of its promised dental care program, extending coverage to all seniors 72 and over.

Speaking on Parliament Hill on Wednesday, Health Minister Mark Holland announced the next step in the government’s rollout of the Canadian Dental Care Plan will begin Thursday with the inclusion of seniors from the age of 72 to 76.

“Making sure that folks have access to strong oral health is essential,” Mr. Holland said, noting one-third of Canadians currently do not have access to insured dental services.

Since the start of the program in December, 2023, with individuals 77 and over, Mr. Holland said more than 400,000 previously uninsured Canadians now have access to oral health care.

Citizens’ Services Minister Terry Beech, who spoke alongside Mr. Holland and other cabinet ministers, said about 20,000 individuals have signed up daily through its phone application system.

“This is literally the largest rollout of any benefit in Canadian history,” Mr. Beech said. Nine million Canadians are expected to be eligible under the plan.

What will the federal dental insurance plan mean to the average Canadian? Here’s what to know

Between February and June, Service Canada will notify people in four age groups of their eligibility to register for the dental plan.

On Mar. 1, Canadians 70 to 71 will be able to apply, then those 65 and older in May. The online application system will also launch in May.

In June, eligibility will extend to individuals with a valid disability tax credit certificate and children under the age of 18. Eligible individuals between 18 and 64 will be able to apply starting in 2025.

The plan’s coverage is divided into three categories which determine if an individual will share in the cost of their dental services. Individuals earning $70,000 or less will not co-pay while those earning between $71,000 and $90,000 will contribute 40 to 60 per cent of their dental services.

The government is moving ahead on dental care as part of its supply-and-confidence agreement with the New Democrats, signed in March, 2022. Mr. Holland said the NDP has been a good partner and the dental plan is an “enormously complicated program.”

Provincial and territorial dental associations have said they are looking for answers on the plan.

Last October, a letter sent by the Ontario Dental Association asked MPs how the government will protect employer-provided dental plans, protect patient choice, maintain patient-provider relationships and respect the cost of delivering dental care, among other concerns.

Mr. Holland said Wednesday that discussions with dental associations across Canada are under way to provide clarity and ensure fairness under the plan.

“At the core, we want to make sure that dentists are treated fairly, that they’re fairly remunerated for their services, that they have clarity in terms of how that process works,” he said.

The federal government said Service Canada will approve applications for enrolment in the program. Successful applications will have their information shared with Sun Life.

The insurance company is then set to enroll eligible applications and send them information including their coverage details. People who qualify for the program are expected to be able to see a dentist or other provider as early as May.

Mr. Holland encouraged Canadians to wait for letters from Service Canada that will be necessary for their application process.

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