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Oral Health


The Alliance champions affordable and accessible oral health care for children and adults living on low income in Ontario.

OHIP does not cover health care for our teeth and gums. About 17% of people in our province – that’s 2.3 million – cannot afford to visit a dentist or dental hygienist. They experience pain and infection, and often have nowhere to turn but the emergency room, where they can get only painkillers and no treatment.

Research by the Alliance using MOHLTC data has found that there are almost 61,000 visits to hospital ER each year and 222,000 visits to doctors for dental pain and infection. This costs the healthcare system at least $38 million annually.

Since 2010, Ontario has been offering free public dental programs for children from low-income families, but they are not reaching enough kids. In 2014, the Ontario government promised to extend programs to adults on low incomes – but not until 2025.

The Alliance wants the Ontario government to keep improving the Healthy Smiles Ontario program so more children from low income families have access, and to move much faster on the promise to extend programs to adults and seniors on low incomes. Alliance members are well positioned to provide these services as we already work with people facing barriers to good health. Twenty-six CHCs and two AHACs provide dental services, with even more interested in adding dental care to their list of programs.

Follow this issue on Twitter at #ONdental.

Take Action

Ontario Election 2018 – Needed: A public dental program for low income adults and seniors

The Ontario Oral Health Alliance is asking all political parties to commit in their election platforms to action on dental care. It’s not fair that only people who can afford private dentists can have healthy mouths and teeth.

  • Read and share the proposal
  • Ask your candidates: “1 in 5 people in Ontario can’t afford private dental care. Many end up in Emergency Rooms. There are no public dental programs for adults who can’t afford a dentist. What steps would your party take to address this oral healthcare problem?”

Dental Forum at Queens Park

On March 21, 2018 over 80 community members from across Ontario, including many from CHCs, met at Queens Park to get MPPs talking about expanding access to dental care - a gaping hole in our healthcare system. We talked about the problems and the solutions as we heard from people with lived experience, an ER physician, public health staff from NW Ontario and Windsor, and the Gateway CHC dental clinic that provides care to low income kids and adults.

MPPs at the event credited the Ontario Oral Health Alliance and the Alliance with getting this issue on the political agenda. Since then dental issues dominated the spring Question Period at Queens Park.

Share this educational video – Gap in our healthcare system

To help people spread the word on social media about the gap in oral health care for low-income adults and seniors, the Ontario Oral Health Alliance produced a whiteboard video that spotlights the connection between chronic disease and poor oral health care, as well as the social effects of not having access to dental care. It's a great overview of the current state of oral health care in the province, and the pressure that continuing to ignore the problem puts on emergency departments and family doctors.

In the news

Previous news

Needed: A Tommy Douglas for Dental Care

On April 17, 2015, the Ontario Oral Health Alliance (OOHA), Wellesley Institute, Ontario Association of Public Health Dentistry and the Alliance presented "Needed: A Tommy Douglas for Dental Care."

View highlights and presentations here.


Lack of access to dental care: Facts and figures on visits to emergency rooms and physicians for dental problems in Ontario (2017)
Improving Access to Oral Health Care for Vulnerable People Living in Canada. Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (2014) 
Review of Oral Health Services in OntarioCollege of Dental Hygienists of Ontario. Prepared by Optimus/SBR (2014) 
Low Wages, No Benefits Expanding Access To Health Benefits For Low Income Ontarians. Wellesley Institute (2015) 
Oral Health ‐ More Than Just Cavities. Report of Ontario’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Arlene King (2012)
Staying Ahead of the Curve: A unified public oral health program for Ontario?. Dental Public Health, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto (2012)
Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is: The Future of Dental Care in Canada. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (2011)


Ontario Oral Health Alliance

Ontario Association of Public Health Dentistry