Frequently Asked Questions About Oral Health Care

Dental Health Programs

Canada dental benefit (CDB)

Families need to meet all of the following conditions for each child they apply for:

  • Have a child under 12 years of age with no access to private dental care coverage (employer-based or purchased through the applicant or other family member);
  • Have an adjusted family net income under $90,000 per year;
  • Have filed last year’s income tax and benefit return (for the taxation year 2021, to be eligible in 2022—for more information on how to file a return, visit Canada.ca/doing-your-taxes);
  • Be the parent (or legal guardian) who receives the Canada Child Benefit for that child;
  • Have incurred—or will incur—out-of-pocket costs for eligible child’s dental care and have not been fully reimbursed under another federal, provincial or territorial government program; and
  • Provide information on the recent or planned oral health care visit that the benefit would pay for, along with information about the oral health care provider.

Use it for any oral health care provided by a regulated oral health professional licensed to practise in the place where care is provided.

The interim Canada Dental Benefit provides up to $650 per child under 12, per year for two years, for families with an adjusted net income under $90,000 per year.

  • $650 is provided for each eligible child, per year, if the family’s adjusted net income is under $70,000.
  • $390 is provided if the family’s adjusted net income is between $70,000 and $79,999.
  • $260 is provided if the family’s adjusted net income is between $80,000 and $89,999.

Your child was born on or after July 2, 2011 (under 12 years old as of July 1, 2023).

The Canada Dental Benefit (CDB) provides direct, up-front, tax-free payments to help cover out-of-pocket dental care expenses for children under 12 years of age who do not have access to private dental insurance and whose family income is less than $90,000 a year. The CDB provides payments of up to $650 for each eligible under 12 years of age, each year for two years.

The CRA My Account is the quickest, easiest and most secure way to apply for the CDB. Go to Canada.ca/dental for more information. If you’re unable to apply online, call the CRA at 1-800-715-8836.

Yes. We know that provincial and territorial programs do not cover dental care needs for children under 12 equally across Canada, and that in some cases, the programs focus only on emergency needs.

Children under 12 who are currently covered by provincial or territorial programs are still eligible for the interim Canada Dental Benefit so long as they have out-of-pocket costs for dental care services—costs which are not reimbursed under another federal, provincial or territorial government program—and if their family meets all of the criteria to qualify for the benefit.

Families should apply to their provincial or territorial program first (if applicable), and then, if there are remaining out-of-pocket costs that were not reimbursed by their province or territory, they can apply to the Canada Dental Benefit.

However, families whose needs are met by their provincial or territorial programs and do not have out-of-pocket costs are not eligible for the benefit and should not apply.

Canadian Dental Care Plan (Cdcp)

The Alberta Dental Association does not run or manage the CDCP. We are not involved in any decisions about patient eligibility or enrolment.

The federal government has opened application for the CDCP in phases starting in December 2023. Seniors who are eligible will receive letters inviting them to apply, with instructions on how to validate their eligibility and apply by telephone. Letters from the government will be sent according to the following age groups:

  • December 2023: Ages 87 and above
  • January 2024: Ages 77 to 86
  • February 2024: Ages 72 to 76
  • March 2024: Ages 70 to 71

In May 2024, an online application portal will be open for seniors 65 and older. If you have a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate or have a child under the age of 18, you will be able to apply online as of June 2024. All remaining eligible Canadians will be able to apply online in 2025. For more information on eligibility, visit canada.ca/dental.

Examples of services that could be covered under the CDCP when recommended by your dentist include:

  • Preventive services, including scaling (cleaning), polishing, sealants, and fluoride;
  • Diagnostic services, including examinations and X-rays;
  • Restorative services, including fillings;
  • Endodontic services, including root canal treatments;
  • Prosthodontic services, including complete and partial removable dentures;
  • Periodontal services, including deep scaling; and
  • Oral surgery services, including extractions.

Some services will require preauthorization, which means prior approval is needed. This will be based on a dentist’s recommendations. Before the treatment begins, your dentist will check to see it will be covered under the CDCP.  Services requiring preauthorization will become available in November 2024. 

For more information on services covered, go to the CDCP Dental Benefits Guide.

No. It’s better to continue getting regular dental checkups now to catch problems before they become painful and expensive to treat, and apply for the plan when you are eligible to do so.

We don’t know and this should concern us all. Two-thirds of Canadians have great dental benefits from their work, school, or other group plan. These plans give them a choice of dentist, and the right to choose what dental care they get.

Dentists believe that the CDCP should improve access to care for people who don’t have benefits. It shouldn’t take away the benefits that people already have.

Your Oral Health

Fluoride

Your dentist can assess your child’s risk of developing tooth decay and advise you of an appropriate level of fluoride protection.

The Canadian Dental Association advises that the use of fluoridated toothpaste is determined by the level of risk of tooth decay for children up to three years old. Consult a health professional to determine whether your child who is under three years of age is at risk of developing tooth decay. If such a risk exists, the child’s teeth should be brushed by an adult using a minimal amount (a portion the size of a grain of rice) of fluoridated toothpaste. If your child is not considered to be at risk, the teeth should be brushed by an adult using a toothbrush moistened only with water.

For children from three to six years of age, use only a small amount of fluoridated toothpaste (a portion the size of a green pea). Children in this age group need an adult’s help brushing their teeth.

An optimal level of water fluoridation is achieved by adjusting the level of fluoride in the water to achieve the right balance between the benefit of preventing tooth decay and the risk of developing dental fluorosis.

Dental fluorosis is an esthetic change in the appearance of teeth. It is caused when higher than optimal amounts of fluoride are ingested in early childhood. In its mildest and most common form, it affects the look of the tooth, with small white specks appearing.

The Canadian Health Measures Survey 2007-2009 found that dental fluorosis is not an issue of concern for the vast majority of children (84%). Some children (16%) have mild forms of fluorosis that often go unnoticed by both the children and their parents.

Water fluoridation is the process of adjusting the level of naturally occurring fluoride in a public drinking water supply to optimize the dental benefits of preventing tooth decay.

Municipal water treatment facilities monitor the level of fluoride. These municipalities rely on the Federal-Provincial Territorial Committee on Drinking Water, which makes recommendations about the optimal level of fluoride in public drinking water to prevent tooth decay.

With the exception of dental fluorosis, an esthetic condition, scientific studies have not found any credible link between water fluoridation and adverse health effects.

Fluoride has a positive effect on oral health by making teeth more resistant to decay. Fluoride can also prevent or even reverse tooth decay.

For many Albertans, fluoride is in public drinking water, which provides protection to the entire community. Fluoride toothpastes and rinses are available for purchase, and your dentist can provide professional fluoride products, such as gels and varnish.

Fluoride is a mineral found in soil, water (both fresh and salt), and various foods.

Kids & Teens

Wisdom teeth usually appear between the ages of 17 and 21, although they can begin causing problems as early as age 13. 

Only your dentist can tell whether wisdom teeth have enough space or if they should be removed. 

The following dental health risks are associated with tongue and lip piercings: 

  • Tongue piercings can result in severe swelling and pain due to the numerous nerve endings. This can make eating and talking very difficult. A severely swollen tongue may actually block a person’s airway. 
  • Infection is a real danger with oral piercings. Allergic reactions may occur if the stud is not pure metal. Blood poisoning and blood clots are other potential concerns. 
  • Tongue and lip piercings also affect teeth and gums. Teeth can become cracked or chipped from the barbell moving in the mouth. Gum tissue may also be damaged by continuous contact with the metal barbell. 

Talk to your dentist first about the safest choices and proper care and cleaning. 

Grills, also called “grillz” or “fronts,” are decorative covers often made of gold, silver, or jewel-encrusted precious metals that snap over one or more teeth and are generally removable. 

Tooth jewels are glass crystals or gold, and are secured to teeth using dental composite. They remain attached for up to a year or longer. 

Both can result in inflammation of the gums and increase your teen’s risk of cavities. Talk to your dentist first about the safest choices and proper care and cleaning. 

Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia may cause tooth decay. Binging and vomiting cause a double wash of sugars and acids over the teeth. Violent vomiting can even result in chipped teeth. 

Your dentist can treat your child’s teeth, but if your child has — or you think they have — an eating disorder, talk to your doctor. 

Permanent teeth will not be replaced, so have your child: 

  • Brush at least twice per day and floss once per day. 
  • Reduce sugar intake. Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that feed on sugar. 
  • Limit snacking. 
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. 
  • Use a mouthguard to protect teeth when playing sports. 

This is a good time in your child’s life to build habits that will protect the teeth and lay the foundation for future health. Tender gums are associated with each stage of tooth emergence, which can make your child irritable. It helps to rub the gums with your finger, a small cool spoon, or a cold teething ring that has been placed in the fridge.

From a young age:

  • Limit sugary foods or drinks.
  • Brush your child’s teeth, rinse the mouth with water, or serve juicy fruits/vegetables to clean the teeth after they’ve eaten sugary or sticky foods like raisins.
  • Don’t let your child constantly sip on sugary liquids, including milk and juice, from sippy cups. Offer these liquids only at mealtimes.
  • For children under three, brush their teeth twice a day using a toothbrush moistened only with water. Talk to your dentist to determine whether your child under age three is at risk of developing tooth decay before using fluoridated toothpaste. If a risk of tooth decay exists, use a minimal amount (the size of a grain of rice) of fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Help your child aged three to six years brush their teeth. Only a small amount (the size of a green pea) of fluoridated toothpaste should be used. Encourage your child to spit out the toothpaste rather than swallow it.
  • Begin flossing when your child’s teeth are touching each other.
  • Change your child’s toothbrush every one to three months or immediately after an illness. Never share toothbrushes in your household.
  • Let your child watch you brushing your teeth as often as possible. Children are wonderful imitators, and will learn from your habits.

Alberta Health Services fluoride protection for eligible toddlers Alberta Health offers free fluoride applications for eligible children aged 12 to 35 months to protect their teeth from cavities. Children only need to have a few teeth to start getting fluoride. Click here for eligibility information or contact Health Link at 811.

For additional information see the My Health Alberta website or call Health Link at 811.

Make an appointment for your child to see the dentist around the age of one or when the first teeth appear. Having your child see the dentist early will ensure you receive important information on their dental health, and will help stop any disease that may be forming before it becomes a major problem.

To prepare for the first visit:

  • Try playing “dentist.” Make this role-playing exercise fun and explain that this is what the dentist will do.
  • Explain other things that may happen at the dentist’s office, using non-technical language. For example, don’t try to explain x-rays — talk about x-rays as pictures. Try to avoid words like hurt, shot, drill, needle, yank, pull, or pinch. Always take a positive approach.
  • Take your child along with an older sibling or friend when they go for a routine checkup or cleaning. This will help introduce your little one to the dentist’s office.
  • Treat the appointment as routine.
  • Tell your dentist about any special needs or medical problems your child has, such as allergies or bleeding disorders.

Yes, so it’s important to take care of your baby’s teeth and gums. Infections of any sort, including gum disease or an abscessed tooth, can cause fever, rashes, and other symptoms, as well as leave the immune system compromised. Cavities in babies and small children even have the potential to lead to major surgery under general anesthetic.

Here are some effective ways to take care of your infant/toddler’s dental health:

  • Wipe the gums with a washcloth after each feeding to get rid of milk residue or pureed food. At around six months of age, the teeth start to appear. You need to remove the dental plaque (bacteria, food, cells) from all five surfaces of each tooth. If the teeth have no space between them and are touching, they need to be flossed.
  • Only let your baby sleep with water. Sugar is very harmful to young teeth and can cause a lot of damage. At night, put only clear water in the bottle.
  • Avoid letting your baby sleep at the breast or with a bottle of juice, formula, or milk. Milk contains a sugar called lactose, which will remain on your child’s teeth throughout their sleep and can damage the enamel and cause tooth decay.

Hormonal fluctuations throughout life can affect many tissues, including gum tissue. Here’s what women may experience during various stages: 

  • Puberty and menstruation: The increase in estrogen can increase blood flow to the gums and may cause gum sensitivity, leading to a greater reaction to any irritation, including food particles and plaque. During this time, the gums may become swollen, turn red, and feel tender. 
  • Pregnancy: Hormone levels change considerably during pregnancy. Gingival inflammation during pregnancy affects 60-75% of pregnant women, even if they practice good dental care. Pregnancy changes the tissues in all areas of the body, including the mouth, and breaks down the natural barriers that prevent infection. Hormonal and vascular changes exaggerate the inflammation — sometimes it becomes localized and presents as a sore known as a pregnancy tumour. If the sore is very large, it must be removed. More frequent professional cleanings during the second or early third trimester help prevent gingivitis. 
  • Menopause and post-menopause: A woman who is menopausal or post-menopausal may notice discomfort in the mouth, including dry mouth, pain and burning sensations in the gum tissue, altered taste, and greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages. 
  • Fertility: Since oral contraceptives contain estrogen and progesterone, they imitate pregnancy. Because the body believes it is pregnant, women taking birth control pills may experience gingivitis. 

Young children tend to swallow toothpaste when they are brushing, which may increase their exposure to fluoride and contribute to dental fluorosis. For this reason, they need to be assisted or supervised with tooth brushing. An adult must ensure that an appropriate amount of toothpaste is used, that the child spits out the toothpaste rather than swallows it, and that the teeth are cleaned effectively.

Seniors

Yes. It is possible that you may experience the following conditions: 

  • Darker teeth: You may notice that it harder to keep your teeth white. Plaque builds faster and in greater amounts as we age and dentin naturally changes and causes your teeth to look darker. 
  • Loss of taste: Losing your sense of taste is common with age. Contributing factors to a decrease in sense of taste could be diseases, medications, and possibly dentures. 
  • Dry mouth: When the saliva glands do not work properly, dry mouth may develop. Also, many medications cause a dry mouth. Saliva is essential to good dental health as it keeps your mouth moist, washes away food, and neutralizes the acids produced by plaque. Dry mouth can damage your teeth and make it difficult to eat, swallow, taste, and even speak. Talk to your dentist about methods to restore moisture. 

Daily mouth care improves overall health and decreases dental disease. This assists in reducing the risk of serious health problems, such as aspiration pneumonia and cardiovascular disease, and may assist with controlling diabetes. Seniors facing challenges with physical and cognitive deterioration may require support with basic daily care. If you have an aging parent or are a caregiver, consider the following: 

  • A senior should use a toothbrush with soft bristles for their natural teeth. 
  • When brushing, rather than supervising, stand behind the senior to ensure they are comfortable. 
  • With the information provided by your dentist, conduct periodic checks between dental visits. 
  • Dentures need to be cleaned each day with denture cleaner, not toothpaste. Also examine the inside of the mouth for problems. 
  • Regular dental visits will spot trouble signs or sources of pain. Go to the dentist with the elder in your care and provide as much information as possible on medical history and medications. 

If you are starting to lose or are missing some of your natural teeth, you may want to think about dentures. Dentures support your cheeks and lips, helping with your appearance, and aid in speaking, chewing, and swallowing. 

Dentures require special attention. If dentures loosen over time, gums can become irritated, making the dentures uncomfortable, which affects nutrition. 

Taking care of your dentures is vital to your overall oral health. Keep them in good condition by: 

  • Cleaning dentures over a water-filled sink to prevent damage if they are dropped 
  • Placing a small amount of liquid hand soap on the denture brush and brushing all surfaces, including the clasps on a partial denture 
  • Storing them in clear water in a denture cup 
  • Wetting dentures with water when inserting to prevent discomfort 

It is important to visit your dentist regularly, even if you no longer have your natural teeth. Your dentist will examine your mouth to screen for disease and check for any difficulties, including problems with the tongue and the joints of the jaws. 

While the need for dental care is important for everyone, seniors in particular may neglect their dental health. Poor dental health can affect a senior’s ability to eat and maintain proper nutrition, and can impact their overall health. 

Many health conditions that affect seniors can stem from poor dental health. Tooth decay and gum disease have been linked to serious conditions, such as diabetes, aspiration pneumonia, and heart disease. Bacteria from the mouth can enter the blood stream when tooth decay and gum disease are present, resulting in weakened immune systems and more health problems.  

Many older adults grew up without fluoride in their drinking water, which means they are more likely to have decay. Decay of the tooth root is also common in older adults because the gums recede, exposing the root surface, which decays easier than harder tooth enamel. 

Preventative maintenance includes: 

  • Brushing and flossing teeth twice daily 
  • Using toothpaste containing fluoride 
  • Eating a healthy diet and limiting sweets 
  • Avoiding risk factors like alcohol and tobacco 
  • Visiting a dentist at least every six months 

By incorporating these dental health practices into your daily routine you can help protect teeth and gums from dental disease.

Hormonal fluctuations throughout life can affect many tissues, including gum tissue. Here’s what women may experience during various stages: 

  • Puberty and menstruation: The increase in estrogen can increase blood flow to the gums and may cause gum sensitivity, leading to a greater reaction to any irritation, including food particles and plaque. During this time, the gums may become swollen, turn red, and feel tender. 
  • Pregnancy: Hormone levels change considerably during pregnancy. Gingival inflammation during pregnancy affects 60-75% of pregnant women, even if they practice good dental care. Pregnancy changes the tissues in all areas of the body, including the mouth, and breaks down the natural barriers that prevent infection. Hormonal and vascular changes exaggerate the inflammation — sometimes it becomes localized and presents as a sore known as a pregnancy tumour. If the sore is very large, it must be removed. More frequent professional cleanings during the second or early third trimester help prevent gingivitis. 
  • Menopause and post-menopause: A woman who is menopausal or post-menopausal may notice discomfort in the mouth, including dry mouth, pain and burning sensations in the gum tissue, altered taste, and greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages. 
  • Fertility: Since oral contraceptives contain estrogen and progesterone, they imitate pregnancy. Because the body believes it is pregnant, women taking birth control pills may experience gingivitis.