Ontario's underprivileged children should receive better access to dental care in 2009, Health Minister David Caplan said yesterday.
Complications from tooth decay, a disease affecting 6 to 10 per cent of all pre-schoolers, are an urgent problem that requires immediate preventive action, according to a new report from the Ontario Dental Association, the group representing 7,000 dentists.
Those most at risk for suffering from rotting teeth are low-income children who do not have access to dental care. For 10 years, the association has pressed the government to improve the Children in Need of Treatment program, which they say addresses only catastrophic dental needs for kids. Coverage kicks in only when the damage is already done, they say.
The government is aware of the program's limitations and is working to "expand the eligibility," Caplan told reporters.
"Although I haven't read the report from the (dental association) ... I do understand they make the case it is not just treatment but prevention that does need to be taken into account and we certainly agree. We do want to extend treatment and support for prevention."
In addition, the Liberal government's anti-poverty strategy, to be unveiled in December, will include a $135 million dental package promised earlier in the budget.
The dental association's report pointed out that tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease.
Dr. Larry Levin, president of the association, said there has been talk of increasing to 18 the age limit of kids covered under the Children in Need of Treatment program but that needs to be done in conjunction with improving preventive care."The preventative piece we feel is a key element to improve the lives of kids in Ontario," he said. "We can't keep repairing."