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Dentists hesitant about province's expanded free dental program

Healthy Smiles expected to reach 70,000 more children, but dentists say it doesn't fully cover their costs

THE DONOVAN — The province says around 70,000 more children and young people from low-income families will have access to regular dental care thanks to the new Healthy Smiles program.

Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault made the announcement about the program's expansion at Lansdowne Public School on Wednesday.

The program integrates six separate, publicly funded dental programs under a single umbrella. In 2015, more than 323,000 children and youths received free dental care thanks to the program.

“We've actually streamlined it and made it easier for dentists to get compensated,” Thibeault said.

But Dr. Roch St-Aubin, a dentist with Sudbury Dental Group, said that while his office supports the program, many dentists are hesitant to participate because it does not fully cover their costs. 

“We really want this care to be provided to the kids, but we also have our bills to pay as well,” St-Aubin said.

Aubin, who sits on the board of the Ontario Dental Association, said Ontario dentists are negotiating with the province to secure more favourable rates from the Healthy Smiles program. 

He added it was a positive step for the province to remove “red tape” and combine six previous programs under a single funding envelope.

Families can find out if they qualify for the program online here, by calling the Sudbury and District Health Unit at 705-522-9200, or by calling Thibeault's office at 705-675-1914.

In terms of income eligibility requirements, a family with one child must have a household net income of $22,070 or less to qualify for the program.

A family with four children must have a household net income of $27,080 or less to qualify. 


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Jonathan Migneault

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