Free dental care for low-income seniors

Low-income seniors will soon have access to free dental care under a new program designed to prevent diseases and infections associated with poor dental hygiene.

York Region will receive $3.96 million in funding from the provincial government this year to support the creation and administration of a new dental program that also promises to improve quality of life while reducing burden on the health-care system.

Ontarians aged 65 and over with an income of $19,300 or less or couples with a combined annual income of $32,300 or less who don’t have dental benefits will quality for the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program. Services will be available through public health units, community health centres and Aboriginal Health Centres across the province.

Untreated oral health issues can lead to chronic diseases, with many people relying on already-busy emergency departments. In 2015, 61,000 hospital emergency visits were made for dental problems, costing Ontario’s health-care system about $31 million, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility reports.

Two-thirds of low-income seniors don’t have access to dental insurance, it adds. Once the program is launched, seniors can get an application form from the ministry’s website or public health unit. Applications will be assessed and eligible clients will be enrolled in the program.

The program will begin late this summer and will expand by this winter to include new dental services in underserviced areas, including through mobile dental buses and an increased number of dental suites in public health units. When fully implemented, the provincial government says it will invest $90 million annually in the program.

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