Introduction: Understanding the structure of a health care system is essential in improving public health policies and health outcomes. Objectives: To describe and compare the health care systems of Canada and Saudi Arabia; to discuss possible lessons that could be learned from both for policy-making purposes. Methods: A comprehensive method was used to describe the national health care systems of both countries. For each country, the system is described by: context, ownership, delivery, financing, organisational structure, target groups, and comprehensiveness of services. Results: In Canada, the Medicare system provides comprehensive medical services except for dental, optometric, chiropractic, pharmacologic and home care services. The dental care system is financed privately (94%) and is owned and delivered by private for-profit dental practitioners. In Saudi Arabia, the government sector is owned, delivered, and financed by the government and provides free comprehensive medical and dental services. The same services are provided by the private sector, but under governmental supervision. Among the relevant lessons: access to care, accountability, quality assurance, mix and reimbursement of providers. Conclusions: Canada can learn about different approaches to socialising the dental care system. Saudi Arabia can improve the implementation of quality assurance practices and management.