Ontario to expand kids oral care program

Deb Matthews, minister of health and long-term care for Ontario, Canada, announced this week that Ontario's Healthy Smiles program will be expanded to include preventive care such as check-ups, cleanings, x-rays, and fillings, according to a Torstar News Service report.

The Healthy Smiles program, which is designed to provide free dental services to 130,000 kids ages 17 and younger and costs taxpayers $45 million annually, has come under fire for previously providing only emergency dental care, Torstar noted.

The free services, which will be provided by dentists at health units, community health centers, and some dentists in private practice, will be available immediately through Ontario's 36 public health units, Torstar reported. Participating families must meet certain eligibility requirements, including having a net income less than $20,000 and no access to other dental coverage.

One-third of Canadians do not have dental insurance, according to Health Canada.

Families on welfare already get dental coverage, Matthews noted.

Despite the new program, the government has not kept its 2007 election promise to provide free dental care for adults who are among the working poor, according to Torstar.

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