How To Access Free Dental Care For Kids 17 And Under

Dental care today is just as expensive if not more costly for families especially those without a benefits from their employer.

Luckily in Ontario there is free dental care for children up to the age of 17 if eligible through the government’s Healthy Smiles Program.

Ontario Healthy Smiles Program

The Healthy Smiles program was introduced in 2010 by the province of Ontario for low-income families in need of financial support to cover their children’s dental costs.

Oral health is so important because it prevents gum disease and other painful infections that could affect the growth of adult teeth as children age.

This is why it’s vital that a child start receiving dental care from the age of 12 months and on a regular basis thereafter.

Imagine having pain in your teeth and how that might affect your daily living, education and ability to eat properly.

It’s imperative that all parents take responsibility to teach their children the importance of oral care by setting an example. 

Free Dental Screenings Elementary Schools In Ontario

Children in Ontario schools from Junior Kindergarten until Grade 2 get regular teeth screenings at the school to ensure all children get a first visit to the dentist.

Not all children in elementary school in these grades have been to a dentist before so this is just a way to provide free dental check-up or screenings for students as a preventative measure.

By grade two the back molar comes in and this free dental screening will ensure there is no tooth decay happening.

The public health unit will let parents know in advance up to two weeks or the school will send a letter home to let them know they will be visiting the school.

If parents want to opt out of the free dental screenings they can also do so by letter or a phone call to the public health unit or school.

You may want to opt out because your child already has regular dental visits or you simply don’t want it for your child.

Personally I can’t see why any parent would say no but the choice is there for all parents of children in these grades.

Dental Education and Parenting

Teaching your children from a young age proper dental care may be a tough task even though it’s as simple as it gets for what kids deem a chore in their lives.

The problem is most children have no interest in brushing their teeth and will avoid it at all costs.

When our son was little he used to watch Mrs. CBB and I both brush our teeth and floss in the bathroom.

We thought it was a great way to introduce him to taking care of his teeth and we could educate him along the way.

He loved it!

By the age of one he was attempting to floss and a pro at brushing his teeth with a bit of Colgate Children’s Watermelon Toothpaste.

He’s almost 5 and that’s the only brand and flavour he likes.

Since I have health benefits at work going to the dentist on a regular basis is something we don’t put off.

Picking the right Dentist for your family

Whenever we would go we’d book our appointments back to back so our son could watch us get our teeth cleaned or any dental work needed.

Our dentist is amazing with us and our child and allows us to sit in the dental office to watch her work on each other.

This has helped us to continue educating our son on the importance of visiting the dentist and dental care after each meal.

He had his first check-up at age 1 where our dentist noticed he had a chipped front tooth unknown to us. His second check-up was at age 2  where we managed a stand-up teeth cleaning session.

It was going to take baby steps to get him to lay in a dental chair and plenty of patience by the dental staff.

Finally at age 3 they had our son laying back in the dental chair, sunglasses on and learning the equipment names the dentist will use on him.

They took the time to teach him how each tool worked and why it’s important to brush his teeth pointing to a poster on the wall that compared healthy teeth vs, unhealthy teeth.

He even got to play with the giant toothbrush and teeth mold to practice proper teeth care which he adores since it’s not every day you get a learning tool so realistic.

Obviously the coolest part of the dentist visit is picking a toy out of the treasure chest!

Dental Costs Ontario

Who would have thought that you could get free dental for children especially at the alarming costs for a regular teeth cleaning.

The costs for a tooth extraction in Ontario follow the Ontario Dental Fee schedule which means a simple extraction can cost you anywhere from $75 to $200.

If you need to get any fillings in your teeth you can guarantee to see a bill between $150- $200 in Ontario depending on what materials the dentist uses for the procedure.

Keep in mind that every dentist is different when it comes to costs but do follow a set fee schedule for Ontario.

I’ve even heard of some people taking advantage of visiting a dental school to get procedures done at a discounted cost since it’s a teaching school.

The only downfall is that you have to spend more time for your visit because you may have students working on you and learning from the hands on experience.

I think it’s a fair-trade off especially if you are so much pain that it interferes with your quality of life.

Children Visiting The Dentist Chair

Getting help with dental costs in Ontario is not only beneficial it’s imperative for all children because teeth are vital to our everyday existence as humans.

Both of his teeth cleaning sessions lasted about 20 -30 minutes and was a simple process for the 20 teeth that he has.

It was the dental bill at the end that was pricey.

A dental check-up and cleaning bill comes to just over $120 Canadian dollars which my works benefits covers 100% up to $2500 a year. 

The same teeth cleaning costs with fluoride for adults runs around the same costs and we get this done about 3 times a year.

Imagine the costs if you didn’t have dental benefits? This is likely why so many people avoid the dentist because they simply can’t afford it. 

Last month Mrs. CBB had her third Crown put in over the past 20 years and each one costs a whopping $1000.

Most dental plans will cover only 50% of the costs up to x amount of dollars each year.

Luckily, I have only had one cavity, needed 1 crown and had my wisdom teeth pulled a year after moving to Canada and that’s about it for dental work.

Employee Dental Benefits

When I wasn’t working Mrs. CBB had work benefits that covered 100% of the costs but without any dental coverage I likely wouldn’t have went back then.

Now that we have a son dental care is even more important for us as a family especially that we could lose our benefits at any time.

Nothing is guaranteed including a career or our health which means if you have no benefits the money is coming out of pocket for your dental visits.

When I stumbled upon the Healthy Smiles Program in Ontario it was only after hearing about a local dentist in our area offering free dental care to low-income families.

This included children and adults and it has become a big thing in our community where people waste no time in getting in to see a dentist and dental hygienist for a cleaning and checkup.

The window of opportunity is only open for so many hours but just giving back to the community says lots about many health care professionals across Canada.

They do care and it’s not always about the money, it’s about compassion for the people and using their skills to help others.

How Healthy Smiles Ontario Works

The idea behind the Healthy Smiles Ontario program is that it provides preventive, routine and emergency services for children and youth under the age of 17 years old that come from low-income families.

If your children qualify for this program treatments such as teeth whitening or other procedures such as braces are not covered.

Did you know the cost of braces can run a family into the thousands for one child or adult?

Mrs. CBB got a quote for Invisalign braces near $6500 and our benefits cover up to $2500 once in a lifetime.

That means we still have to fork out thousands from our savings for braces and the same for our son if he ever needs them one day.

If you are fortunate to have two benefits programs for your family you may see an even greater portion of the costs of the braces covered based on your dental benefits.

This means both you and your spouse have work benefits with dental care coverage where both can be billed by your dentist for the costs.

Not all benefits allow coverage for the cost of braces.

That being said if you have no benefits then you have to pay the full cost for braces out of pocket and for low-income families this may be unreachable.

Free Dental Care Healthy Smiles Ontario

Healthy Smiles Ontario Program

The free dental care procedures that are covered under the Healthy Smiles Ontario program cover regular visits to a licensed dentist in Ontario which covers dental procedures such as;

  • Dental Check-ups
  • Teeth Cleaning
  • Fillings (for a cavity)
  • Teeth x-rays
  • Teeth Scaling
  • Tooth extraction
  • Urgent or emergency dental care (including treatment of a child’s toothache or tooth pain)

Keep in mind that not all dentists in Ontario participate in the Healthy Smiles Program so it’s important to ask your dental provider first.

If they are not accepting patients with the program you will have to call around other dentist offices or contact your public health unit for a complete list.

Services Covered By Healthy Smiles Ontario

For a full list of free dental care services provided by Healthy Smiles Ontario and what are not covered visit here.

An examination or assessment by a qualified dental provider will determine the type and frequency of services a child or youth may need.

Free Dental Care Covered services include (for example):

  • Examinations/assessments
  • Radiographs (X-rays)
  • Preventive Services
  • Restorative Services
  • Endodontic Services
  • Periodontal Services
  • Prosthodontic Services
  • Oral Surgery Services
  • Anaesthesia

Healthy Smiles Program Eligibility

If you live in Ontario and are under the age of 17 and come from a low-income family you may be eligible to apply for the Healthy Smiles Program.

Below is the chart of dated as of July 2018 of eligibility requirements for the Healthy Smiles Program in Ontario.

Number of dependent children in your household Family net income
1 child $23,170 or lower
2 children $24,924 or lower
3 children $26, 677 or lower
4 children $28, 431 or lower
5 children $30,185 or lower
6 children $31,939 or lower
7 children $33,692 or lower
8 children $35,446 or lower
9 children $37,200 or lower
10 or more children $38,954 or lower. Add $1,754 for each additional dependent child to determine the income level at which your family would qualify for Healthy Smiles Ontario.

Once your child is enrolled for the free dental treatment the benefit year runs from August 1 to July 31st the following year up until their 18th birthday.

If their 18th birthday falls mid-way through the year the benefits will end by that point.

Your child will receive a Healthy Smiles Ontario Card in the mail which you must present to the dentist each time you visit for a procedure under the program.

Applying for the Healthy Smiles Program

You need help with dental costs you can apply for the program online or by mail but online will always be the fastest process in my opinion.

Before starting the enrollment process you will need a few things to fill out the application.

  • Social insurance number (SIN) or temporary taxation number (TTN)
  • Child’s date of birth
  • Valid Ontario address
  • Must have filed your income tax return in the past year

If you do not have a SIN or have not filed your income tax return in the past year you can still apply although you will need a Guarantor.

A Guarantor may be a nurse, pharmacist, doctor, dentist, mid-wife, teacher and so on that will verify your identity, age and Ontario residency.

You can mail the completed application to the address below but if you apply online you will have to print and mail a consent form with-in 30 days.

Applications are available at local Public Health Units or at Service Ontario locations or you can apply online.

Healthy Smiles Ontario
33 King Street West
PO Box 645
Oshawa ON L1H  8X1

You can find all the information including the application and a full list of guarantors at the Ontario Health and Wellness Website.

If you feel that you may qualify for this program please apply since you would be giving your child the gift of free dental care at the dentist as often as it’s covered.

Any information provided in this article was taken from Provincial government pages linked int his post.

Discussion: What are some of the ways you teach your children dental care at home?

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