April 1, 2014 - New Eligibility Criteria for Healthy Smiles Ontario Take Effect Today
The Peterborough County-City Health Unit hopes more local children and youth will get the dental care they need thanks to expanded eligibility criteria for the Healthy Smiles Ontario program that take effect today.
“We know that there are many people locally who can’t afford dental services, and this is a real problem,” said Sarah Tanner, Oral Health Supervisor at the Health Unit. “The expansion of Healthy Smiles Ontario for children and youth is a start to address this issue. Many more people require financial assistance and we will continue to work to increase access to oral health care for all. Ms. Tanner noted that having dental insurance is an important factor that can influence whether or not an individual visits a dentist. In 2009/10, only 64.8% of Peterborough residents and 63.6% of Ontarians reported having insurance for dental expenses.
In December 2013, Health Minister Deb Matthews announced that the Ontario Government would increase access to oral health services by expanding eligibility for the Healthy Smiles Ontario (HSO) program, starting April 1, 2014. Healthy Smiles Ontario is delivered through public health clinics and private dental offices to eligible low-income children and youth aged 17 and under in need of preventive and treatment dental services including check-ups, cleanings, fillings and X-rays. In 2013, there were 527 children and youth signed up to the program across Peterborough City and the County. “We hope that this number of participants will grow as we continue to promote Healthy Smiles Ontario to eligible children and youth,” said Ms. Tanner.
Today’s change will expand eligibility for free dental care for eligible children and youth in low-income families. To qualify for the program, families now need to have an Adjusted Family Net Income (AFNI) of $21,513 or less for one child, increasing by approximately $1,500 for each additional child. Previously there was no adjustment for additional children in the same family. The other eligibility criteria for children remain the same:
- They must be 17 years old or younger;
- They must be residents of Ontario;
- They do not have access to any form of dental coverage (including other government-funded programs).
The changes in eligibility will only impact new enrolment. Existing clients will not have to be re-enrolled.
Families are encouraged to contact the Health Unit if they want to know more or find out if they are eligible via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 705-743-1003, ext. 265.
Based on the data in the Oral Health in Peterborough Report published in December 2013, the Health Unit has identified the following priority populations in need of oral health programs and services:
- low-income families and individuals;
- those without dental insurance;
- older adults, young children and young adults.
Oral diseases are mostly preventable. However, once such conditions develop, they impose significant direct and indirect costs on individuals as well as the society. For instance, it has been estimated that in 2009 approximately 40 million hours of school and work were lost due to dental conditions in Canada.
For further information, please contact:
Oral Health Supervisor
(705) 743-1000, ext. 207