I met 3 year old Daniel* at a Halton Region dental screening clinic. He was very shy and would not smile. He had big dark brown eyes, but would only look up when asked. Then he quickly looked down at the floor again. His mom had brought him to the clinic because she was concerned about his teeth, but could not afford to take him to the dentist. She mentioned that at day care he would not join in on group activities and hardly smiled. She said he didn’t talk much, although he can speak clearly when he needs to.
Daniel had a sippy cup with him. His mom said he drinks a lot of juice because he doesn’t eat very much at meals or snack time. Daniel takes his sippy cup everywhere he goes, and the day I saw him he had apple juice in the cup.
When the Registered Dental Hygienist looked at Daniel’s teeth she realized he had something called Early Childhood Tooth Decay (ECTD). He had all 20 of his primary (baby) teeth but 18 of them had tooth decay (cavities). The family didn’t have any dental insurance nor enough money to take Daniel to the dentist.
Fortunately, Daniel was able to get dental treatment through an urgent dental care program for children and youth — called Children In Need of Treatment (CINOT) — to take care of his immediate needs.
However, many parents don’t know that kids from families who can’t afford dental care can be helped before problems start through a new program called Healthy Smiles Ontario.
What is Healthy Smiles Ontario?
Healthy Smiles Ontario makes regular dental visits possible for kids 17 and under who do not have any form of dental coverage and cannot pay for treatment.
Services included at no cost are:
- Regular visits to a dentist or a registered dental hygienist
- x-rays and more
Who is eligible? Kids 17 and under may be eligible if:
- They live in Ontario;
- They live in a home with an Adjusted Family Net Income of $20,000 per year or below; and
- They do not have access to any form of dental coverage (including other government-funded programs, like Ontario Works).
Oral health problems can cause painful infections and can make talking and eating difficult. In children, this makes it difficult for them to learn how to play with other children and may even lead to poor nutrition and school absenteeism.
If you think your children might be eligible for the Healthy Smiles Ontario program, or if you are looking for more information:
- In Halton: Dial 311 or visit our website
- Outside Halton (but within Ontario): Call the toll-free INFO Line Number, 1-866-532-3161 or visit the provincial website
Also note that financial assistance programs are available for others who can’t afford dental care. Find out more.
* Child’s name has been changed to protect his identity
About this guest blogger:
Lynn Medland is a Dental Health Educator. She has been with the Halton Region Health Department as a Dental Health Educator for over twenty years. During this time, she has gained experience working with and supporting those whose primary responsibility is to care for older adults and children. She provides in-services to groups of all sizes and backgrounds, one-on-one consultation and assists with the creation of health education teaching tools. Lynn has been a Certified Dental Assistant since 1979 and is a Member of the Ontario Dental Assistants Association and the Canadian Dental Assistants Association. Lynn lives in Halton, has two adult children and enjoys time with her four grandchildren.
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