New Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program—free dental care for low-income seniors
April 2020 Blog Post written by Sarah Seewald, BAH, RDH
As health care providers, we are aware of the unique health needs and challenges among older adults, especially low-income seniors, and dental needs are no exception. The most common dental complications observed in older adults are root caries (cavities), periodontal disease, tooth loss, xerostomia (dry mouth), candidiasis, angular cheilitis, and oral cancer. Living with these conditions can have a significant negative impact on ones quality of life, and most of these conditions can be prevented, managed or minimized with regular professional dental interventions.
In November 2019, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care launched a government-funded dental program for eligible, low-income seniors in an effort to reduce the impact of acute dental needs on hospital emergency rooms, as well as to prevent chronic oral-systemic diseases and improve overall quality of life for seniors in Ontario. In 2014, the MOHLTC reported almost 61,000 visits to hospital Emergency Rooms (ER) for oral health problems .This new program has eliminated financial barriers to access quality dental care for this vulnerable population.
Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program (OSDCP) eligibility criteria:
- 65 years of age or older;
- Resident of Ontario;
- Financial eligibility based on net income—Line 236 from income tax return
- Single senior with annual net income ≤ $19,300
- Senior couples (one or both people aged 65 or older) with a combined net income ≤ $32,300
- Have no access to any other form of dental benefits including government programs such as Ontario Disability Support Program, Ontario Works, or the Non-Insured Health Benefits.
Dental services covered under the OSDCP
A full range of dental services are covered by the program including preventive care and treatment such as fillings and extractions. The OSDCP also includes partial coverage for denture services for eligible clients. Visit Ontario.ca/SeniorsDental for a list of dental services covered. In the case of an emergency dental need, OSDCP-eligible clients may be able to access limited services without a dental card, and are encouraged to contact KFL&A Public Health for more information.
How to apply
Seniors can apply online, by mail, or copies of the application form are available from KFL&A Public Health directly. Please note, that if applying online, applicants will need access to a printer as a hard copy of the consent form with applicant signature needs to be mailed.
Where seniors can access dental care with an OSDCP card
Eligible seniors will be able to access dental services through their local public health units, community health centres, and aboriginal health access centres. It is important to note that under the current legislation, coverage cannot be used at private dental practices—a barrier that has been identified with this program for those who have an established and trusted dental home or geography and transportation is an issue. Seniors with an OSDCP card can access dental treatment from any of the above-mentioned centres in Ontario; they are not limited to accessing services within their health region. Therefore, if it is closer for a senior to access dental services in a neighboring health region outside of KFL&A, they can do so. When the new program launched, not all health units and community health centres had the infrastructure in place to provide these services, and as such, the level of dental services available varies from health region to health region.
OSDCP Services in Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington
Seniors with an OSDCP dental card can book an appointment by calling Kingston Community Health Centres (KCHC) at 613-507-6064. Seniors must be enrolled in the program and bring their dental card to the appointment in order to access services through the OSDCP. Due to COVID-19, routine and emergency dental treatment may impact availability of these services.
If transportation is needed to and from an OSDCP dental appointment, we will try our best to help. Call the KFL&A Public Health Dental Health Program for transportation assistance.
KFL&A Public Health can:
- Answer questions about the program.
- Assist you to get the application form and help you apply.
- Help you find local OSDCP providers and other available services.
Oral health is inextricably linked to overall health. When people have healthy mouths, they’re also more likely to have healthy bodies and minds. And when we have healthier people, we have a healthier society. Universal dental coverage for the entire population would be most favourable and impactful, and this new dental program is a big step to increase access to dental care for the vulnerable low-income senior population. Please continue to promote the importance of good oral health among your older adult patients and promote the dental program to those who directly or indirectly have contact with low-income seniors.
About the Author
Sarah is a Registered Dental Hygienist at Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addingston (KFL&A) Public Health in Kingston, Ontario.