OTTAWA - The NDP revealed today what would be a first step towards a universal dental care program to help Canadians who can’t afford to prioritize their oral health.

New Democratic Leader Jagmeet Singh was in Sudbury Ont. on Wednesday morning to announce free, universal dental coverage for uninsured Canadians whose household income falls below $70,000 and who don’t already have a public or private plan.

The party would also implement a sliding co-payment mechanism, shouldering partial dental costs for those with a household income between $70,000 and $90,000. It would start at 100 per cent coverage and move to zero depending on the recipient’s salary.

“It will make people healthier,” said Singh speaking to reporters. “People who are struggling because they can’t afford dental care won’t have to struggle anymore. This will mean so much to so many people.”

According to the party’s proposal, dubbed Denticare, it would extend coverage to 4.3 million Canadians, currently underserved. This figure is based off the number of Canadians who make less than $90,000 and don’t have dental coverage, an NDP spokesperson told CTVNews.ca.

Dental care is a key pillar in the NDP’s campaign platform and follows in line with their overall health care priorities they’ve unveiled over the last week.

"Our Denticare plan is a down payment on Tommy Douglas' vision – comprehensive dental care as part of our healthcare system," said Singh in a press release. "Unlike the Liberals and the Conservatives, New Democrats are going to help people who need it, right now."

The party said services include: examinations, cleanings and fluoride rinses, x-rays, teeth fillings, crowns, root canals, treatment for gum disease, and braces for non-cosmetic purposes.

The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) provided a cost analysis of the plan. The price tag on year one is an estimated $1.9 million and would increase to $856 million by 2028-2029.

The PBO said the assessment has “moderate” uncertainty because among other factors like disease prevalence and procedure costs’ inflation, it’s “possible that dental insurance providers (private or public) reduce or cancel their existing insurance coverage as a result of the proposed federal program.”

In an interview with CTVNews.ca, Kevin Desjardins, the director of public affairs at the Canadian Dental Association, said that while the organization supports any initiative to ensure increased access to oral health for all Canadians, the “devil is in the details.”

“We’re happy to have this sort of discussion but there is a lot that is not necessarily articulated in the initial announcement.”

According to the CDA website, “55 per cent of all private dental care expenditures are from private insurance sources, and 45 per cent come directly from out-of-pocked.”

The Green Party has since responded to the NDP’s pitch, proposing that dental care should be incorporated under a single-payer health care system.

“Our health-care system provides a great model of universal care,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May. “But dental health is an integral part of a person’s overall physical wellbeing. We must move to promote equality in people’s access to dental care.”

More to come…