The government of Ontario has announced that it will provide a $90 million annual investment in publicly funded dental care for low-income seniors, once the program is fully implemented. The program will begin in late summer 2019.
“No senior in Ontario should go without quality dental care,” said Raymond Cho, minister of seniors and accessibility, who appeared at Taibu Community Health Centre in Toronto on April 23 to announce the program.
“Our government continues to put patients at the center of care by providing seniors with the support they need to access high-quality and affordable dental care. We are taking another step in creating a sustainable and connected public healthcare system that is built for people and the future,” said Cho.
Ontarians age 65 and older with an income of $19,300 or less or couples with a combined annual income of $32,300 or less who do not have dental benefits will qualify for the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program. Services will be accessed through public health units, community health centers, and Aboriginal Health Access Centres across the province.
“The health and well-being of seniors across the province is one of our government’s top priorities,” said Cho. “For many lower-income seniors, it is hard for them to access affordable dental care. This program is putting seniors first by providing the essential services they need and deserve.”
Untreated oral health issues can lead to chronic diseases and a reduced quality of life, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility reports, while also creating a reliance on emergency departments already under increased capacity pressures.
According to the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility, there were almost 61,000 hospital emergency visits for dental problems in Ontario in 2015, at a cost of approximately $31 million to the province’s healthcare system. Also, two-thirds of low-income seniors do not have access to dental insurance.
“This is another example of how our government is engaging and listening to patients, caregivers, and frontline healthcare providers on ways to help end hallway healthcare,” said Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of health and long-term care, who also spoke at Taibu Community Health Centre.
“Dental care for seniors will provide them with the right care and avoid preventable emergency department visits,” Elliott said.
Once the program is launched, seniors will be able to get an application from the ministry’s website or public health unit. Applications will be assessed, and eligible clients will be enrolled in the program.
By winter 2019, the program will expand to include new dental services in underserviced areas, including through mobile dental buses and an increased number of dental suites in public health units.