THUNDER BAY, ON--(Marketwired - January 20, 2016) - On behalf of the Ontario Dental Association (ODA), Dr. Jerry Smith, a practicing dentist in Thunder Bay, stood in front of the Ontario Legislative Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs earlier today, urging the members to recommend funding increases for publicly funded dental programs in the Wynne government's next provincial budget.

"Government-funded dental programs fall very short when it comes to practical, proven and less costly preventive and early intervention care for low-income children and youth in Ontario," says Dr. Smith, the ODA's past-president. Dr. Smith also serves as chair of an ODA committee dedicated to improving access to care across the province. Dr. Smith told the Standing Committee that "Ontario's dentists are offering solutions to ensure that every single child and youth eligible has the same access to high quality dental care."

Nearly 60 years ago, Ontario's dentists created and funded programs to provide care for society's most vulnerable, later entrusting these essential programs to the Ontario government. For nearly 20 years, the government has underfunded its dental programs while increasing the number of those eligible for publicly funded dental services. In fact, on April 1, 2014, 70,000 more children became eligible for coverage under the province's re-vamped Healthy Smiles Ontario program -- but the programs remain severely underfunded.

"In 2013, dentists were encouraged when the government announced that they were streamlining six children's oral-care programs into one and simplifying the eligibility process to cover more children in need of dental care," says Dr. Smith. "But with more eligible kids and inadequate funding, access to dental services has become limited." The new, integrated Healthy Smiles Ontario program was launched just weeks ago, on January 1, 2016.

Dr. Smith treats many patients covered by government-funded dental plans and says the funding does not come close to covering the actual cost of basic dental procedures. "Government plans fail at fostering an environment where Ontario's most vulnerable people have good access to care proactively, because they are so severely underfunded."

In its Pre-Budget Submission to be delivered to the government, the ODA will emphasize access to care and patient choice in the community-based dental-practice model used by all Ontarians. "Patients should have a dental home, a place where a patient continues to receive care regardless of whether their financial situation changes," says Dr. Smith. "The ODA wants to sit down with the province to work together to develop practical, fair and cost-effective solutions that are mindful of the needs of lower-income Ontarians and Ontario's economic realities."

Dr. Smith concluded his presentation by telling the Standing Committee, "In a province that will have the number one economy in Canada this year -- and led by a premier so focused on social justice -- it's unacceptable that a new program meant to lift these kids up needs serious improvement already."

Contact Information:

To schedule an interview with Dr. Smith, contact:

Bonnie Dean
Ontario Dental Association
416-922-4162 (or toll-free at 866-739-8099), ext. 3314