Getting the Care You Need to Keep Your Oral Health in Great Shape

Maintaining regular visits to the dentist is incredibly important as you get older, as our dental needs change and often worsen with age. Certain health conditions and medications that affect oral health, combined with the normal wear and tear that comes with aging, mean that our mouths and teeth will require a little more TLC as we get older.

However, for low-income seniors, the reality is that many simply cannot afford dental care. This is a serious problem that affects two-thirds of Ontario’s seniors and is also a major contributor to overcrowded emergency rooms and hospital wards. Unnecessary trips to the emergency room can be risky in the midst of a global pandemic – especially for seniors.

Fortunately, there is a solution – the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program. This article will explain everything there is to know about the program, including how it works, who is eligible, what services are included and more.

What is the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program?

The Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program (OSDCP) is a provincially run program that provides free dental care to low-income seniors who cannot afford it through other avenues. The program was announced in the Ontario government’s 2019 budget in order to help address the added medical needs for seniors and minimize overcrowded emergency rooms and hospitals.

Dental services covered under this program include routine examinations, check-ups and assessments, x-rays, some prosthodontic services (including dentures and implants), basic oral surgeries such as tooth removals, x-rays, anesthesia and periodontal services to treat gum disease and other conditions.

The program also covers preventative and restorative services such as cleanings, fillings, root canals and tooth repair. For dentures and implants, the patient will need to pay a small fee. Cosmetic dentistry services such as teeth whitening are not covered.

Do I Qualify?

In order to qualify for OSDCP, you must be over 65 years of age with an income of less than $19,300 per year. For senior couples, your combined annual income must be less than $32,300. This is based on your net income, which can be found on line 236 of your income tax forms. You must also have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN) or Temporary Taxation Number (TTN); when you apply for the program, this is how your income will be verified.

You must also not receive any other form of dental benefits, from either private insurance or any other government program in order to qualify for OSDCP.

How to Sign Up

Seniors can apply for the program online via the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s website, or by picking up a paper copy of the application form at a local public health unit’s office. To find out what information you’ll require to complete the application in-person, contact your local public health unit, Community Health Centre or Aboriginal Health Access Centre. If you and your spouse are applying together, you must submit two separate applications.

To apply online, you’ll need the following information:

  • A valid Ontario address;
  • Your SIN or Temporary Taxation Number (TTN);
  • your date of birth; and
  • to have filed your taxes last year.

If you did not file taxes last year, you can apply for the program through a guarantor.

What Happens After I Am Approved?

When your OSDCP application is approved, you will receive a welcome package and benefits card in the mail. This card must be presented at the time of your appointment in order to receive services. If you lose your card, there is a small fee to have it replaced.

Generally, you will not have to renew your application to continue receiving benefits every year. You will be notified by mail on an annual basis of your eligibility for continued participation in the program. At this time, you will also receive a new benefits card, as they expire at the end of the year. If for some reason you need to renew your application, you will receive all the information you need to re-apply.

The Takeaway

Many seniors in Ontario put off their trips to the dentist because it can simply be too expensive. However, oral health is important and as your teeth degrade, things like infections and even tooth pain can begin to have a negative effect on your overall health. This is why it’s so important for seniors, in particular, to keep up with their dental appointments, and with the help of the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program, now you can!