This past November, a new policy was introduced by the Canadian government.
A dental plan.
Called the Canada Dental Benefit, it is a policy that is offering hundreds of dollars per year to families with children under 12 so that they can visit the dentist.
For the people who created the bill (this is first major policy made since the NDP and Liberals joined forces in the federal government) it is a big step toward what they hope will eventually become a national dental plan that covers every Canadian who is uninsured.
But what does that mean? Let's break it down.
Free health care
For decades, Canada has been famous for its free universal health care system. For the most part, this means that if you're sick or injured, you can walk into any hospital or doctor's office and get free treatment.
(There are exceptions to this, but for the most part this is true.)
However, two exceptions to this are eye care and teeth care. Whether you have vision problems or your teeth need cleaning or cavities need filling, you have to pay for these services.
Canada is far from the only country with a type of universal health care. But it gets a lot of press for it in North America because of how different its system is to that of its nearest neighbour, the United States.
In the United States, people use private insurance plans to help pay for health care. These are often included as a part of a person's job, or a person can buy a plan for themselves and their family. When a person uses a service, they tell the insurance company and receive money back to help them pay for that service.
In Canada, these types of plans are often used for dental care, especially regular checkups. Ideally, we should all see the dentist for a checkup and cleaning two times a year.
Brushing it off
But what do you do if you don't have a dental insurance plan? Before the new Canada Dental Benefit, you had two choices.
Pay for the service or skip the treatment.
For the 6.5 million Canadians who don't have dental insurance, many of them were choosing the second option. And that can have really tragic consequences, especially for young people.
Kids' mouths are changing all the time! New teeth, coming in ... and then there's learning how to keep those teeth clean. Let's be honest. We maybe aren't always as good at brushing our teeth as we could be.
That's what makes a cleaning from a professional so important. They have the skills to keep our teeth as healthy as possible and to spot problems.
Avoiding bigger problems
The big issue is that over time, skipping the dentist can lead to bigger problems. Problems that can end up costing a lot of money.
That type of issue is what this national dental plan is trying to avoid. By allowing Canadians to visit the dentist often, the idea is that this will keep more mouths healthy and stop the need for expensive procedures in the future. Sounds good, right?
Of course, this type of plan costs the government money. The current stage of the plan will cost about $1 billion. And in the future, the idea is that the benefit will expand to cover people under 18, and, eventually, all Canadians who are uninsured.
It could be a game changer for Canadians who need help paying for dental care.