Ontario expands free dental care for eligible children and youth

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More than 323,000 children from low-income families are getting free dental care through the new Healthy Smiles Ontario program. Under the expanded program, Ontario is providing free dental care to help families raise healthier kids. Children from low-income families can access free preventive, routine, emergency and essential care from licensed dental providers.

Ontario has integrated six publicly funded dental programs into one, providing a simplified enrolment process and making it easier for eligible children to get the care they need. These changes also mean that 70,000 more children from low-income families have become eligible for free dental services. Applicants can now sign up for this program online at ontario.ca/healthysmiles. They can also contact their local public health unit for information and support.

Research demonstrates that untreated oral health problems can affect a child’s ability to eat, sleep and concentrate in school, which can impact their growth and development. The new Healthy Smiles Ontario program is part of Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy commitment to build community capacity to deliver oral health prevention and treatment services to children and youth from low-income families in Ontario.

“We are making it easier for children to get the dental care they need because having good oral health and a healthy smile can have positive impacts on a child’s overall health, self-esteem and ability to learn. Families are encouraged to visit ontario.ca/healthysmiles to find out if they’re eligible and to enrol in this program. Tooth decay is one of the most common childhood diseases, but it’s preventable with the proper dental care, and our expanded Healthy Smiles program is helping more kids access these important services.” – Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

Did you know…

  • Tooth decay is one of the most prevalent and preventable chronic diseases, particularly among children. It is the leading cause of day surgeries for children ages one to five and rates are four times higher for children from the least (versus the most) affluent neighbourhoods.
  • Healthy Smiles Ontario covers regular visits to a licensed dental provider, such as a dentist or dental hygienist. It covers dental services including check-ups, cleaning, fillings, X-rays, and urgent/emergency oral health issues.
  • Ontario engaged in significant consultation with community and public health partners as well as dental associations to develop the new Healthy Smiles Ontario program.

 “A healthy smile on a child not only gives a visual idea of a child’s oral health but it also reflects the critical issue of a healthy child free from the pain and health consequences of dental disease, including cavities and gum disease. We’re helping low-income families to raise healthier kids by getting them the dental care they need and the smile they deserve.” – Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario

Healthy Smiles Ontario is a free dental program for children and youth 17 and under from low-income families.

As of January 1, 2016, the following six publicly funded dental programs have been combined into the new Healthy Smiles Ontario program:

  • Dental benefits for children under Ontario Works
  • Dental benefits for children under the Ontario Disability Support Program
  • Dental benefits for children under the Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities Program
  • The Children In Need Of Treatment Program
  • Healthy Smiles Ontario
  • Preventive oral health services provided by local public health units.

Who is eligible?

Children and youth 17 and under may be eligible if:

  • They are residents of Ontario; and
  • They are members of a household that meets the income eligibility requirements.

Note: Children 17 and under are automatically eligible and enrolled in Healthy Smiles Ontario when they or their family receive Ontario Works, Temporary Care assistance, Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities, or the Ontario Disability Support Program. As well, children and youth with other dental insurance coverage are no longer automatically excluded.

How do I enrol?

You can enrol by going to ontario.ca/healthysmiles or by calling ServiceOntario INFOline toll-free at 1-844-296-6306 (TTY toll-free at 1-800-387-5559). Your local public health unit can also help with your enrolment. Go to ontario.ca/healthysmiles to find out which public health unit serves your area.

Once enrolment has been confirmed you will receive a Healthy Smiles Ontario dental card. This card should be presented to your dental provider at each visit to receive dental care under the program.

Where can children access dental care including emergency dental care?

If children have a dentist, parents can contact their office to find out if they participate in Healthy Smiles Ontario. If they do not have a dentist, parents can contact their local public health unit for help. Go to ontario.ca/healthysmiles to find out which public health unit serves your area.

What services are covered?

Healthy Smiles Ontario covers regular visits to a licensed dental provider, such as a dentist or dental hygienist. It covers dental services including check-ups, cleaning, fillings, X-rays and scaling. Urgent or emergency oral health issues are also covered by Healthy Smiles Ontario.

Why is oral health important?

Cavities and gum disease can be painful and can lead to serious issues, affecting the growth of adult teeth. Pain can result in loss of sleep, affect a child’s ability to eat and can impact a child’s ability to learn and attend school. But cavities and gum disease can be prevented with good oral health which is important for a child’s self-esteem, sense of well-being and their overall health.

More Information:

Toll-free: 1-844-296-6306

TTY toll-free: 1-800-387-5559

“Ontario’s dentists support and advocate for accessible dental care for all. The ODA was pleased when the government streamlined six children’s oral-care programs into the Healthy Smiles Ontario program. Eliminating duplication and creating a single program means more children and youth can go to school with a healthy smile. We will continue to work with the government to ensure sustainable and equitable funding for dental programs.” – Dr. Victor Kutcher, President, Ontario Dental Association

 

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