The province is expanding dental coverage to include Nova Scotians 17 or younger over the next four years, the most extensive coverage in the province’s history.
Beginning April 1, up to 10,000 more young people 14 or younger will qualify for MSI coverage for basic treatment, including yearly checkups, cleanings and fillings.
Each year, the age limit will rise until it hits 17 and younger.
“Good dental care for children and young people can help ensure good overall health throughout life,” said Hammonds Plains-Upper Sackville MLA Mat Whynott, on behalf of Health and Wellness Minister David Wilson. “By gradually expanding dental care to Nova Scotians 17 and under, we’ll help young people establish healthy dental habits as they approach adulthood.”
Studies show that poor oral health can affect children’s sleep, lead to missed school time and make chewing difficult, which can affect nutrition. Gum disease can contribute to serious health conditions later in life, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
“As a mom with small kids, this means that my husband and I can feel comfortable knowing that as our daughters grow up, no matter what, they will get the dental care they need to be healthy,” said Samantha Turner, of Hammonds Plains, and the mother of Charley and Sydney. “Now young families won’t have to worry about their children being left without dental care during childhood and most of their teen years. It’s a big relief.”
Previously, the most extensive children’s dental coverage in Nova Scotia had been 16 and younger in the 1980s. The province will work with the Nova Scotia Dental Association and its claims administrators to progressively make the change to cover children 17 and under.
“Childhood tooth decay is on the rise, and any move government can make to promote prevention is good for Nova Scotia children,” said Bedford dentist Dr. Phil Mintern. “The dental profession is on board with this increase in access to dental care, especially for vulnerable populations. It’s so important to have this care from a child’s first year of life, through their teenage years.”
The province also recently announced more support for the IWK Health Centre’s dental surgery program, and a new chief dental officer position for the province beginning in January.
Once the expansion to age 17 is fully implemented, funding for the Children’s Oral Health Program will be $9.1 million per year. Government also continues to provide $3 million per year for other special dental services.