Expanded Public Dental Programs for Ontario Children Welcomed
Toronto – The Association of Ontario Health Centres is very pleased that the Ontario government is improving and expanding access to public dental programs for low income children.
“We commend the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care for moving forward to fix children’s public dental programs. By combining the current patchwork of programs for low income children into one public oral health program and by raising the income eligibility criteria the government is ensuring that tens of thousands more children in need will have access to the dental care that is so vital to overall health and wellbeing,” said Jacquie Maund, Policy and Government Relations Lead from the Association of Ontario Health Centres.
Because the income eligibility criteria for Healthy Smiles Ontario has previously been set so low, staff at Ontario’s Community Health Centres (CHCs) which provide oral health services have had to turn away many low income children in need of treatment
“It’s been extremely frustrating for staff in CHCs to turn away children in need of oral health services. We are happy the government has listened, done the right thing and raised the eligibility criteria. Expanded public investment to prevent and treat oral health diseases for children and youth will lead to improved health outcomes and cost savings for the healthcare system,” said Jacquie Maund.
As a next step, AOHC is calling on the government to extend public dental programs to low income adults. 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.
Poor oral health affects a person’s overall health and is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pneumonia and Alzheimer’s. People suffering from dental pain and missing teeth find it difficult to get and keep a job.
“The Association of Ontario Health Centres calls on the Ontario government to keep moving forward on the Poverty Reduction Strategy and efforts to keep Ontarians healthy by extending public oral health programs to low income adults. Every day health providers in our 108 member centres across the province witness the urgent need for affordable, accessible oral health care by people struggling to make ends meet. They are keen to be part of the solution so they can provide public dental services to low income adults as well as children,” said Jacquie Maund.