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Don’t miss the bus on oral health, Health Unit urges Free, emergency dental care for low-income children

SIMCOE, ON, SEPT. 10, 2009 – With the new school year underway, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit will be back in elementary schools screening students’ teeth and making people aware of a free, emergency dental care program available to children of low-income families.

“For many years the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s “Children In Need of Treatment” (CINOT) program has provided free, emergency dental care to low-income children from birth to age 13,” said Health Unit Dental Hygienist Kim Casier. “As of January 2009, as part of Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, the program has been expanded to include students up to the age of 17.”

Any child/youth of a low-income family, regardless of whether he or she is in school, can access the program, Casier pointed out.

To be eligible for the dental program, the person must be under age 18, have no dental coverage, be unable to pay for dental treatment and have an urgent dental need such as pain, infection, bleeding gums, a mouth injury or large, visible cavities in their teeth. Children must be seen by a dental staff member from the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit before treatment is started. The program provides coverage including exams, x-rays, fillings, extractions and some root canal treatments. Orthodontics or “braces” is not a covered service.

Typically, young people access the program in one of four ways: by calling the Health Unit directly, by receiving a referral from their dentist, by being identified by Health Unit dental staff during the elementary school screenings or by contacting the Public Health Nurse assigned to their respective high school.

“We hold monthly dental health clinics at the Health Unit offices in Dunnville and Caledonia, as well as the Help Centre in Fairground,” Casier noted. “People can call and book at appointment at those locations.”

Ongoing oral health care practices, including annual visits to the dentist, are crucial in protecting children’s teeth, Casier pointed out.

“Tooth decay is now the number one chronic illness in children and toothaches are a leading cause of school absenteeism. Dental disease in children is preventable and treatable and can be caught early. Postponing annual dental visits can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of needed dental treatment in the long run.”

Unlike other medical care, basic dental care is not funded provincially, Casier noted. “Some families may have to delay treatment when they are not part of an employer-funded benefit program. It is important that parents who may never have expected to find themselves without dental benefits are aware that their children’s essential oral health needs can still be met.”

The Health Unit recommends the following five steps for good oral health:
1. Brush your teeth and tongue twice a day using fluoride toothpaste and floss once every day.
2. Eat a well-balanced diet.
3. Check your mouth regularly for signs of gum disease and oral cancer.
4. Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
5. Visit your oral health care provider regularly.
For more information about the low-income dental health program, contact the Health Unit at 519-426-6170 Ext. 3249 or 905-318-6623 Ext. 3249.

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Media contact:
Kim Casier, Dental Hygienist
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3249 or 905-318-6623 Ext. 3249