A 2-month wait to fix his 2 front teeth: The problem with the Ontario seniors dental program

A 73-year-old Windsorite is worried he might lose some of his teeth while he waits to be seen by a government-funded dentist.

The Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program (OSDCP) allows low-income seniors to visit a dentist for free, but the paperwork and few approved dentists mean there’s a lengthy wait. The program was announced in June 2019 but only launched the application system at the end of November.

For Rogers Villeford, he’s already spent six months with bleeding gums — and just last week another filling fell out. 

“I’ve had this for about six months … every day I bleed,” said Villeford. “I take mouthwash and keep it in there awhile and swish it … every morning I spit out blood.” 

Villeford’s income is about $18,000 a year. He was accepted into the OSDCP, but the appointment he was given is nearly two months away. 

“What good are [the dentists] if you have to wait?” said Villeford.

Locally the OSDCP is run by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. According to the director of health promotion, dentists under the program started seeing patients two weeks ago. 

“Our first senior seen under the program was January 6,” said Nicole Dupuis. 

Dupuis said so far the program has seen about 15 patients, with another 46 appointments already booked. Appointment bookings are as far away as March.

Nicole Dupuis, director of health promotion with the Windsor Essex County Health Unit says so far the program has seen about 15 patients, with another 46 appointments already booked. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

According to Dupuis it takes about one month between filling out the application to receiving a card that gives you access to the program. After the card comes in, seniors can book an appointment — but the first appointment is typically just a consultation. 

“We’ll have more appointment times going forward,” said Dupuis. “We have had a wait list in our clinics … a month is actually not too bad. We hope it won’t get too much longer beyond that time frame.”

Villeford decided he can’t wait that long, so he made an appointment with a dentist — but he’ll have to pay out of pocket for his treatment. 

“I don’t want to lose my two front teeth,” said Villeford, who expects to spend about $500 on the visit. “It’s a sham.”

Similar to the Healthy Smiles Ontario program, there is an emergency service that might be available for people who need immediate treatment. To get emergency dental care, seniors would have to fill out a form signed by their medical provider that states they need treatment right away. 

Villeford said the WECHU gave him an emergency appointment for Tuesday, but it won’t include any work like fillings. Instead it will be to address what the health unit might consider are more serious problems.

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