Check out Grandpa’s smile!
MPP Steve Clark and fellow MPP, Randy Hillier joined Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit staff at the Rideau Community Services site in Smiths Falls to launch the Ontario Senior Dental Care Program.
“The Ontario government is investing $90 million annually into the new Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program to provide free, routine dental services for low-income seniors,” said a media release from the health unit.
Each year in Ontario, preventable dental issues like gum disease, infections and chronic pain lead to more than 60,000 emergency department visits by patients and a significant portion of them are seniors.
Many low-income seniors face challenges accessing regular dental care because they can’t afford it, affecting their overall well-being. According to the health unit, 55.5 per cent of the population, age 65 or over in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark, reported having no access to dental insurance in 2017.
“When you look at the fact that two-thirds of low-income seniors don’t even have access to dental insurance, you realize the focus of what we’re talking about,” said Clark, MPP of Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.
Residents age 65 or over with an income of $19,300 or less, or couples with a combined annual income of $32,000 or less and don’t have dental benefits, will qualify for the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program.
“As a representative for 13 years, one of the things that has always been a task over those years is hearing from low-income seniors who are in despite need of dentistry,” said Hillier, MPP of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston.
“It’s a great partnership with our local health unit and a number of other community health partners that will provide low cost dental care to low-income seniors and low-income couples that don’t have access to dental insurance,” said Clark. “Oral health is such a very important part of the health care field and it’s a promise that we certainly made as a government during the election.”
Clark added, “We followed it up in the 2019 budget and now we’re just able to celebrate it locally.”
Clark said 19 low-income seniors have been helped since the program launched.
Hillier said this has been a huge problem for many years.
“My office and myself have tried to asset a lot of people over the years,” said Hillier. “A number of providers have been providing some level of assistance for low-income people and we’ve made it work. We’ve done the best we can putting pieces together to help people over the years, this will really set the bar much higher.”
Hillier added, “Often what we’ve had to do in the past is rely on service clubs and dentists and hygienists and this will allow them to do more. I think it’s exceptionally important.”
Eligible seniors can apply to the program online or by picking up an application form at any of the health unit offices or service sites across Leeds, Grenville and Lanark counties. For more information about the program, eligibility or enrolment, visit the website https://www.ontario.ca/page/dental-care-low-income-seniors.