Province rolls out new dental program for low-income seniors

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As part of a plan to keep seniors healthy and end hallway healthcare, the Ontario government is investing $90 million annually for the new Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program (OSDCP) that will provide dental services for eligible low-income seniors across the province.

Many low-income seniors are faced with challenges when it comes to accessing regular dental care, says Andrea Reist, the Region of Waterloo’s director of child and family health.

“By making this dental care available through this program to eligible seniors that should help to reduce unnecessary trips to the hospital, prevent chronic disease, and increase quality of life for seniors.”

When seniors are able to access these preventative services there is a chance to increase overall oral health, she notes, while avoiding going to the emergency room due to the lack of affordability of dental services. 

Those who are eligible for the program must be residents of Ontario, be 65 years of age or older and meet the net income bracket, explains Reist. A single senior must have an annual net income of $19,300 or less, or if there is a senior couple they must have a combined annual net income of $32,300 of less to be considered for the new OSDCP.

Many of these seniors often end up getting treated in hospitals which can cause pressure, said Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris.

“Seniors dental care is something that can definitely help alleviate some of that stress on hospitals and of course a great by product of that is being able to help seniors in the communities.”

Some of the services that will be covered under the OSDCP will be things like; checkups, fluoride polishing, repairing broken teeth or cavities, doing x-rays, minor oral surgery like removing teeth, and treating gum infections.  The program will also cover a portion of those who need new dentures which can often be one of the more costly dental services that affects seniors, said Reist.

In Waterloo Region, there are many people who would benefit from the program and this is a good opportunity to help those in need, said Harris.

“Anytime you can have those preventative and corrective measures put in place before things get too out of hand it benefits the community immensely.”

While the initiative is fairly new it is in its first phase where the province is currently taking applications and looking to build capacity in the system.

“The province will respond and tell people whether they’re eligible or not. If they’re eligible they will receive a dental card in the mail and a package,” said Reist of how the process currently works.

In the second phase, the ministry of health is working on a capital plan proposal that will look into expanding the capacity for the OSDCP program in all three of the community health centres sites here in the Waterloo Region. Currently, there are just two locations that will be offering the dental services – Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre and Langs Community Health Centre in Cambridge.

Those who are interested in the program must go through an application process, Reist explained, which can be done online or through any community health centre or public heath dental clinic.  Seniors are also offered assistance in completing the applications when they book an appointment with any of the following;  Woolwich Community Health Centre, Kitchener Downtown Health Centre, Langs Community Health Centre, or at the public health dental clinics in Waterloo or Cambridge. 

Applications can be found online or can be picked up at a local constituency office.

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