Ontario's Dentists tell Government: We Can Help in the Fight Against Poverty

Improving Oral Health Means Better Education, Job Seeking

TORONTO, April 14, 2015 /CNW/ - Ontario dentists and the Wynne government agree that publicly funded dental services are proven tools in the fight against poverty[i]. As frontline care providers, Ontario's dentists know how important it is that Ontario's low income families receive high-quality dental services. Dental services, including preventive care and treatment, reduce barriers to work and education. To this end, 50 Ontario Dental Association (ODA) member dentists are at Queen's Park this week to make sure all parties know how important it is that the Wynne government deliver on promises to low-income Ontario children and youth.

At a news conference this morning, ODA President Dr. Gerald Smith asked Premier Wynne and Minister of Health and Long-term Care Dr. Eric Hoskins to work with his association to deliver high-quality public dental services to those most in need. Ontario spends the lowest amount per capita in Canada on public dental services – just $5.67 per personii. The next lowest province, New Brunswick, spends more than twice that amount ($13.73 per capita). The Canadian average, at $19.54 per capita, is almost four times Ontario's spending on public dental services.

Over 40 years ago, Ontario's dentists created and funded programs to provide access to care for society's most vulnerable, later entrusting these essential programs to the Ontario government. The government has allowed funding to drop off (iii) while increasing the number of those eligible for publicly funded dental services. In fact, on April 1, 2014, 70,000 more Ontario children became eligible for coverage under the province's re-vamped "Healthy Smiles" program (iv) – but with no new funding to ensure all of these children go to school with a smile.

"Back in 2013, ODA members were encouraged when the government announced that they were streamlining children's oral care programs and simplifying the eligibility process to capture more kids in need of dental care," says Dr. Gerald Smith, President of the ODA. "The ODA has the expertise and solutions to help develop and implement the streamlined 'Healthy Smiles' program, but the implementation date is coming soon. We're asking Minister Hoskins to work with us to make sure this new program is designed to ensure every single eligible child gets the same high quality care as any other child in Ontario."

"Put simply, with the increase in eligible kids and no additional funding, access to dental services is becoming more limited," Dr. Smith says. "In a province that will have the number one economy in Canada this year – and for a premier so focused on social justice – it's unacceptable that a program meant to lift these kids up will be broken from the start."

Over the next two days, ODA members from across Ontario are taking time out of their practices to implore Premier Wynne and Minister Hoskins to keep their promises and put Ontario kids first. "What we are asking for is government to sit down with us and develop a solution that provides appropriate oral health care," says Dr. Smith. "No child deserves to be in pain because of their financial circumstances. Ensuring our kids go to school with a healthy smile would be a great start."

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i Government of Ontario: "Realizing Our Potential: Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy (2014-2019)," p. 14
ii Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), National Health Expenditure Database 2010 (NHEX).
iii Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), National Health Expenditure Database 2010 (NHEX).
iv Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care: "Ontario Providing Free Dental Care to More Kids", December 13, 2013. http://news.ontario.ca/mohltc/en/2013/12/ontario-providing-free-dental-care-to-more-kids.html

SOURCE Ontario Dental Association

For further information: Media Contact: Janiece Walsh, Manager of Public Affairs and Communications, Ontario Dental Association, 416-355-2275, jwalsh@oda.ca

RELATED LINKS
http://www.oda.on.ca

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