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Important changes to publicly funded oral health care

Monday, April 18, 2016

Visiting a dentist regularly is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your overall health. The mouth is the gateway to the body – poor oral health, including cavities, tooth loss and periodontitis (gum disease) can have a profound impact on chewing, swallowing and nutrition. It can cause pain; affect quality of life and contribute to chronic diseases and poor overall health outcomes. Fortunately, poor oral health is both potentially treatable and preventable.

Many people cannot afford the dental care they need to prevent serious dental problems. For those living in low income, dental insurance may be beyond their reach. In Simcoe Muskoka, twice as many people in the lowest income brackets have lost teeth to decay or gum disease as those with high income.

The good news is,there will be more healthy smiles in our area, due to changes in publicly funded oral health programs for children and youth. As of January 1, 2016, the following 6 publicly funded programs were combined into the new Healthy Smiles Ontario (HSO) program.

  • Dental benefits for children under Ontario Works (OW)
  • Dental benefits for children under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
  • Dental benefits for children under the Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD) program
  • The Children In Need Of Treatment (CINOT) program
  • The former HSO program
  • Preventive oral health services provided by local public health units.

All children previously eligible for these programs continue to be eligible for the new HSO program.

The new HSO program provides free preventive, routine and emergency dental services for children and youth 17 years old and under from low-income households. The program includes regular visits to a licensed dental provider and covers check-ups, cleaning, fillings, x-rays, scaling, as well as urgent or emergency dental care.

Having dental insurance is no longer a barrier to the program—even if your child already has dental insurance coverage, they may still be eligible for the program.

If you or your child receives benefits through Ontario Works, Temporary Care Assistance, the Ontario Disability Support Program, or Assistance for Children with Severe disabilities, your children are automatically enrolled in the program. If you do not receive these benefits but live in low income, you can apply.

The health unit continues to provide school and clinic screening and preventive services, as well as providing full dental treatment services to children and adults on all publicly-funded dental programs. These services are available in a clinic at 80 Bradford Street in Barrie and on the HSO mobile clinic, which travels across Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka.

For more information on oral health support available from the health unit, to find out if your child qualifies for the Healthy Smiles Ontario program, or to schedule an appointment in our Barrie or mobile clinic, visit or call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Dr. Simon is an associate medical officer of health with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

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