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Middlesex-London Health Unit is getting out of the cavity-filling and crown business, and plunging into prevention services instead.
The public health agency will stop offering dental treatments for people on social assistance at its 50 King St. clinic in London over the next few months, shifting those patients to private dentists — a move brought on by an Ontario government initiative.
“There’s been a big change in the landscape for dental services in Ontario,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, chief medical officer of health. “It makes it a lot better, and a lot easier for low-income people, particularly children, to access private dental care.”
The Healthy Smiles Ontario program, rolled out last year, gives those 17 and under easier access to dental services in their community.
Mackie said the agency is working with Western University’s dental school and the London and District Dental Society to connect its adult patients with other resources.
And given that the Middlesex-London region has more dentists than any other place in Ontario outside Toronto, according to the health unit, Mackie said it was time to move out of the treatment.
Closing the unit’s dental treatment program will affect as many as three positions, but have no impact on the unit’s in-school screening programs or community outreach dental work. The agency still will offer such services as teeth cleaning and fluoride treatments, especially for kids and vulnerable populations.
“It promotes the idea of the public going out and accessing a dental office and establishing a relationship with the dentist,” said LouAnn Visconti, a Timmins dentist who is president of the Ontario Dental Association. “It’s really important that the relationship is one of trust. That can only be established when you’ve got someone going on a regular basis.”
However, the patient-dentist bond, especially for low-income individuals, can’t be forged without proper funding, said Visconti. She wants to see the government commit more dollars to dental care, especially for young Ontarians.
— with files from Pat Maloney, The London Free Press
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