Ontario providing free dental care to more kids

On December 16th the Ontario government announced plans to expand eligibility for free dental care to 70,000 more children and youth in low-income families, through the Healthy Smiles Ontario program.

Because the income eligibility criteria for Healthy Smiles Ontario has previously been set so low, oral health service providers have had to turn away many low income children in need of treatment.

Starting April 2014, the province will increase access to oral health services such as cleanings, diagnostic services and basic treatment by expanding eligibility for the Healthy Smiles Ontario program. The province will also streamline six existing dental programs into one starting in August of 2015, making it easier for families of eligible children and youth to access timely dental care.

The Association of Ontario Health Centres is calling on the government to extend public dental programs to low income adults as part of next steps. Statistics show that one in every five people in Ontario do not visit a dentist because they cannot afford it, and last year there were almost 58,000 visits to costly hospital emergency rooms for dental reasons.  But hospitals can provide only pain killers, not dental treatment so people return. This costly use of emergency rooms amounts to at least $30 million a year.

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