More kids now qualify under provincial dental plan

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TC MEDIA

HALIFAX - Up to 40,000 more young Nova Scotians will have help keeping their teeth healthier with expanded dental care coverage by the province.

Children 13 or younger will soon qualify for MSI coverage for basic treatment, including yearly checkups, cleanings and fillings. The province had provided this coverage until 1997, when the government at the time cut it to cover children aged nine or younger.

The province is reinstating the coverage through the better care for children funding in the 2013-14 budget.

"I know this change will help parents provide the kind of care and support we all want for our children," said Premier Darrell Dexter. "Good dental care can help ensure good overall health throughout life. Extending dental coverage to more young Nova Scotians is the right thing to do for hard-working families."

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 other serious health conditions later in life, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

"This is good news for us, as my 12-year-old daughter will now get coverage longer," said Colleen Sharpe, whose daughter Lucy is a patient at the Dalhousie Dentistry Clinic. "My family is excited that we will be able to save money on her future dental care, as we cannot afford dental insurance."

The province is making a regulatory change and will work with the Nova Scotia Dental Association to implement it as soon as possible.

Association president Dr. Heather Carr, a family dentist in Halifax, said changes that give more people access to care are always good for oral health.

"Expanding the age of eligibility for the children's program should enable more children to get the dental care they need," said Carr. "Children aged 10 to 13 are at an important age in their dental development as more of their permanent teeth are coming in."

The investment brings funding for the Children's Oral Health Program to $6.3 million per year. Government also continues to provide $3 million per year for other special dental services.

Organizations: Dalhousie Dentistry Clinic, Nova Scotia Dental Association

Geographic location: HALIFAX

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